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"There's nothing wrong with a facelift, particularly when it comes to Hollywood's landmark event."
"The awards will be presented in a way that tells a story!"
"'The biggest movie event of the year' will not be celebrating the biggest movie of the year."
"Will the dramatic changes to the show, from red carpet to music to presenters and themes, ruin the fun?"
"Is there anyone out there who can beat 'Slumdog Millionaire?'"
2009 Academy Award Preview  

WHO WANTS TO BE AN OSCAR WINNER?

The 81st Academy Awards will be presented live on Sunday, February 22nd at the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles. But not necessarily in the way you think. There will be lots of changes. Lots of secrets and surprises. In what is becoming an annual tradition to "stir the pot" and "speed things up," the Academy is once more pushing the envelope. Said Academy President Sid Ganis at the recent Academy Award nominee luncheon, this year's telecast will be "truly different" and is going to "take some risks."

Certainly, there's nothing wrong with a facelift, particularly when it comes to Hollywood's landmark event. But mess with the tradition and the formula and you've got a disaster on your hands. Just think back to the 2005 ceremony, where Oscars were handed out in the aisles!

Out of the 30 million American viewers and several hundred million viewers from all over the world, the attraction of the Oscars is directly related to the red carpet, the glamour, the formality of the award presentation, and the acceptance speeches. And less about the over-the-top dance numbers, the long-winded tributes, and the overall business of the event, which includes the rote speech by the Academy President himself.

Too much is made out of the length of the program, when in fact, the focus should be about the magic of the movies. I mean, who cares if the program lasts 4 hours instead of 3 1/2? People will be talking about the good and the bad at the water cooler the next day, regardless.

So what changes are we talking about? What good and bad can we expect?

I'm so glad you asked! Here's what we do know:

CHANGES

  •   The Academy has brought on producer Laurence Mark and writer/director Bill Condon to executive produce. Both have limited television experience, but certainly know how to put on a show. See Dreamgirls.
  •   Additional newcomers include Roger Goodman as director and Michael Giacchino as the music director.
  •   Australian native, Hugh Jackman, will host, i.e. be prepared for this former Tony Award host and People Magazine's Sexiest Man Alive to spread some hunky humor.
  •   Presenters are being kept secret and will NOT walk the red carpet.
  •   Original songs will be performed via a 3 minute medley - sixty seconds for each song. On a related note, Peter Gabriel, nominated for his work in "WALL-E," refused to perform due to the presentation change. And will watch from the audience.
  •   Lastly, and my personal favorite, there have been rumors that the awards will be presented in a way that tells a story! Does that mean we should expect a performance like Cirque du Soleil?
  • THE YEAR OF THE BAT

    In a year that saw the return of Indiana Jones, the emergence of Iron Man, a Kung Fu fighting panda, and a lonely robot looking for love, 2008 will best be remembered for the dynamic duel between Batman and the Joker. Racking up over $530 million domestically and almost a billion worldwide, The Dark Knight was a box office juggernaut. The biggest movie of the year. And yet, once more Hollywood appears to be drifting out of touch, preferring to pay homage to the smaller, independent oriented films rather than quality productions overall, regardless of size and budget. Touted as "The biggest movie event of the year," it will not be celebrating the biggest movie of the year.

    The biggest movie in the running for Best Picture, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, also happens to have the most nominations - a whopping 13. But strangely, it doesn't appear to have any momentum. Most of the momentum belongs to "Slumdog Millionaire," an exquisite rags to riches story that takes place in one of the most exotic places in the world - India. With universal themes of love and life, it has enchanted critics and audiences, taking nearly all the top awards at the Golden Globes, BAFTA, the Producer's Guild, Screen Actor's Guild, etc. And looks poised for certain Oscar victory.

    Still, for every "Schindler's List," there's a "Shakespeare in Love." And with the Weinstein's behind The Reader and the buzz steadily growing for Milk, anything is possible.

    Even when you're a few steps away from a million dollars and you've run out of all your lifelines.

    SURPRISING NOTES

  •   It's no surprise that Heath Ledger, who died one year ago on January 22, 2008, would receive a nomination for his stunning role in "The Dark Knight." But it is interesting that with this nomination, he becomes the sixth performer to ever receive a posthumous honor - the others being James Dean, Spencer Tracy, Peter Finch, Ralph Richardson, and Massimo Troisi. Of those, Peter Finch was the only winner, for his role in "Network" (1976).
  •    In the acting categories, there are nine individuals nominated for the first time, including such industry veterans as Richard Jenkins, Mickey Rourke, Melissa Leo, and Frank Langella. And terrific up and comers like Taraji P. Henson, Viola Davis, Anne Hathaway, and Josh Brolin. Not to mention, five previous Oscar winners - Sean Penn, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Meryl Streep, and Marisa Tomei.
  •   Oddly enough, Philip Seymour Hoffman is the only returning performer from last year ("Charlie Wilson's War"). Meanwhile, Meryl Streep continues to get better and better. She returns to the Oscars with her fifteenth nomination, far surpassing Katharine Hepburn and Jack Nicholson, both of whom are tied at twelve.
  •   Lastly, kudos go to Israel's Waltz with Bashir, which becomes the first animated film ever to be nominated in the Best Foreign Language Film category.
  • DISAPPOINTMENTS

  •   In the history of the Academy Awards, there have only been 4 times when Best Original Song consisted of just 3 nominees - 1934, 1935, 1988, and 2005. In 1945, there were actually 14 nominated original songs! But this year marks the fifth. And what's really puzzling is the absence of Golden Globes' winner, "The Wrestler," by Bruce Springsteen, which would have been the odd's on favorite. Additionally absent - "Gran Torino" by Clint Eastwood, "I Thought I Lost You," by Miley Cyrus and Jeffrey Steele, "Once In A Lifetime," by Beyonce Knowles, Amanda Ghost, and others.
  •   "The Dark Knight," one of the year's most exciting and profitable movies, fails to land a Best Picture nod. While earning technical considerations for Visual Effects, Sound Editing/Mixing, Cinematography, etc. and a well-deserved nomination for Heath Ledger, the biggest gaff is that its visionary director, Christopher Nolan, is completely absent in the Best Director field.
  •   In addition to "The Dark Knight," several of the year's best films were ignored in the Best Picture category, including Darren Aronofsky's "The Wrestler," John Patrick Shanley's "Doubt," and Courtney Hunt's "Frozen River." Which also begs the question, what ever happened to Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino?"
  • ROLL OUT THE RED CARPET

    The Academy Awards will be presented on Sunday, February 22nd at the Kodak Theatre and televised live on ABC Television at 5 p.m. PST.

  • How long will it take before Hugh Jackman plugs "Wolverine" and everything down under?
  • Will the dramatic changes to the show, from red carpet to music to presenters and themes, ruin the fun?
  • Will "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," with its 13 nominations, fare better than it did at the Golden Globes?
  • Will Kate Winslet, the youngest performer ever to receive 6 nominations, finally take home Oscar?
  • And is there anyone out there who can beat "Slumdog Millionaire?"

  • These "final" answers and more are waiting for you in my ANNUAL OSCAR PREVIEW!

    2009 Academy Awards Preview (CONTINUED)

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