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"Hosting the Oscars is a tough gig, even for industry veterans like Billy Crystal, Jon Stewart, and Steve Martin."
"James Franco and Anne Hathaway personify the next generation of Hollywood icons - fresh, exciting, and multi-talented."
"'Toy Story 3' was by far, the biggest success story of 2010."
"For the first time in the history of the Best Actor category, an entire Spanish speaking performance has been nominated."
"The most shocking omission at this year's Oscars is Christopher Nolan."
"Bridges' portrayal is so raspy and gruff, a grizzly bear might be easier to interpret."
"Will the king's ransom go to 'The King's Speech?'"
2011 Academy Award Preview  

GIVE HIM TO THE GEEK

Hosting the Oscars is a tough gig, even for industry veterans like Billy Crystal, Jon Stewart, and Steve Martin. So tough, that Whoopi Goldberg, who emceed the event on four different occasions through the 90's and 00's was once quoted as saying: "Hosting the Oscars is a no-win" situation. Just ask David Letterman, who took the reigns in 1994, and can never seem to escape the moment his Uma-Oprah banter went south.

To take some of the pressure off, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences opted for a co-hosted ceremony last year, featuring the antics of Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin. The gamble paid off, as the comedic tag team turned tired routines into mildly amusing punch lines. Joked Martin, "Hosting is like making love to a beautiful woman; it's something I only get to do when Billy Crystal is out of town."

As a result of the Martin-Baldwin success, the Academy decided to keep the co-hosting format for its 83rd Annual Award Ceremony. But this time, in an attempt to connect with a more youthful audience, has turned to recognizable actors, James Franco and Anne Hathaway.

Franco's credits include Milk, Spider-Man, Pineapple Express, and most recently, 127 Hours, which earned him a Best Actor nomination this year. Equally impressive, Hathaway is probably best known for The Princess Diaries, The Devil Wears Prada, and Love and Other Drugs. However, she's no stranger to Oscar either, having earned a nod for Best Actress in 2008 for her lead in Rachel Getting Married.

Said Oscar telecast producers Bruce Cohen and Don Mischer, "James Franco and Anne Hathaway personify the next generation of Hollywood icons - fresh, exciting, and multi-talented. We hope to create an Oscar broadcast that will both showcase their incredible talents and entertain the world."

Unlike Ricky Gervais' hosting debacle at this year's Golden Globes' ceremony, which ruffled one too many Hollywood feathers, the Academy is going the conservative route - a production that will feature fewer jokes and more music/dance numbers, a la the Billy Crystal inspired sketches that placed him in each of the Best Picture nominees.

There won't be a tedious opening monologue. Nor will there be any montages, like last year's unnecessary tribute to horror movies. And award winners might just have enough time to finish their acceptance speeches before the orchestra drowns them out.

Most importantly, the event will try and make people feel as if they're "invited" to the Oscars, capturing and streaming the event directly through the eyes, ears, and tweets of Franco and Hathaway - a tip of the hat to this thing we call The Social Network.

TOYS ARE US

Coming off the record breaking box office tally of Avatar, 2010 was set up perfectly for an industry-wide let down. And here in the states, that's exactly what happened. Despite a return to Toy Story, Harry Potter, Iron Man, Shrek, and the Twilight Saga, the number of movie tickets sold in North America dropped 5% to the same level as 2008. Meanwhile, the global box office soared, as a result of the rapid deployment of digital projection and 3D. Overall, reporting an 8% increase from 2009 or an all time high of $31.8 billion.

With 5 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Animated Feature, Toy Story 3 was the biggest success story of 2010, raking in over $415 million. The only other Best Picture nominees remotely close were Inception ($293), The Social Network ($96.6) and True Grit ($165).

However, the most nominations (12) went to The King's Speech, a surprisingly, charming period piece that examines the relationship between a stammering young prince and an Australian speech therapist hired to cure him. In much the same vane as Mrs. Brown or The Queen, The King's Speech is a British production featuring meticulous historic detail, outstanding ensemble performances, and inventive staging and visuals. Along with Best Picture, nominations include an almost guaranteed Best Actor Oscar for Colin Firth, supporting nods to Helena Bonham Carter and Geoffrey Rush, an original screenplay by David Seidler, and Tom Hooper for Best Direction.

The King's Speech's biggest competition will come from the Coen Brothers' True Grit (10), with an 11th hour surge, and David Fincher's The Social Network (8), which swept virtually all of the critical awards; however, seems to have lost considerable momentum over the past few weeks.

INTERESTING NOTES

  •    Toy Story 3, with its 5 nominations, becomes the third fully animated feature film nominated for Best Picture. Previous nominees were Beauty and the Beast (1991) and Up (2009).
  •    This year, there are 8 first time nominees in each of the acting categories, four of whom have already won an Oscar - Javier Bardem, Jeff Bridges, Geoffrey Rush, and Nicole Kidman. Additionally, Jeff Bridges, Colin Firth, and Jeremy Renner make their second consecutive appearance.
  •    With his fourteenth nomination in the Original Song category ("I See the Light" from Tangled), Alan Menken continues his streak as the most nominated and recognized Oscar winner alive today. With a total of 8 Oscars and 20 nominations, Menken would move past Sammy Cahn, Johnny Mercer, and James Van Heusen, with a win this year.
  •   And for the first time in the history of the Best Actor category, an entire Spanish speaking performance has been nominated: Javier Bardem in Biutiful. Five performers have won Academy Awards for roles using spoken languages other than English. They are Sophia Loren (1961, Actress in Two Women), Robert De Niro (1974, Supporting Actor in The Godfather Part II), Roberto Benigni (1998, Actor in Life Is Beautiful), Benicio Del Toro (2000, Supporting Actor in Traffic) and Marion Cotillard (2007, Actress in La Vie en Rose).
  • DISAPPOINTMENTS

  •    Director Derek Cianfrance puts forth one of the most honest and devastating films about modern relationships in Blue Valentine and yet, gets snubbed. Featuring two fantastic performances by Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling, Valentine is the real true grit. Were it not for an MPAA ratings debacle and the Academy's love affair with the Coen Brothers, the film would be in the race for Best Picture.
  •    How did Ryan Gosling, Robert Duvall, and Michael Douglas get passed over for Best Actor? In a category that features exemplary performances from Colin Firth, Jesse Eisenberg, James Franco, and Javier Bardem, the Academy also chose to recognize Jeff Bridges again. This time, for his portrayal of Rooster Cogburn in True Grit, a character that earned John Wayne Oscar gold back in 1970. The only problem? Bridges' portrayal is so raspy and gruff, a grizzly bear might be easier to interpret. Way too much love for The Dude.
  •    This year's race for Best Documentary is tightly contested between greedy bankers and energy companies, soldiers in Afghanistan, and the most talented green and graffiti artists in the world. Yet, two of the most fascinating, well made documentaries failed to make the cut: Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work and Waiting for Superman.
  •    And finally, the most shocking omission at this year's Oscars is Christopher Nolan. Sure, he received a nod for Best Original Screenplay, but to say that as a director, he didn't take Inception from script to cinematic wonder is just plain absurd. Nolan was passed over similarly for his work on Memento and The Dark Knight. Just don't get me started on the Coen Brothers again.
  • ROLL OUT THE RED CARPET

    The Academy Awards will be presented on Sunday, February 27th at the Kodak Theatre and televised live on ABC Television at 5 p.m. PST.

  • Will the hosting shift from comedic veterans to young actors turn the whole ceremony into an elongated bore?
  • Will anyone be able to upset Colin Firth or Natalie Portman for the top acting honors?
  • Will the Academy recognize the relevance of social media in modern society? Or align with the past?
  • Will The Illusionist play a trick on Toy Story 3 in Best Animated Feature?
  • And will the king's ransom go to The King's Speech?
  • These "final" answers and more are waiting for you in my ANNUAL OSCAR PREVIEW!

    2011 Academy Awards Preview (CONTINUED)

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