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January 30, 2009

Taking Oscar down to the studs

Annex - Leigh, Vivien (Gone With the Wind)_01 

And the music swells, and the flustered Oscar winner starts speed-talking and sputtering and generally embarrassing him or herself against a progressively louder orchestra until he or she is played off stage.

Yeah, that's not going to happen this year.

At least that's a goal, say first-time Oscar producers Larry Mark and Bill Condon, who are promising to strip down the bloated but iconic ceremony to its skivvies and re-dress it. Elegantly, of course. (Couldn't come at a better time -- last year's telecast was the lowest-rated in history.)

This time around, no "Gone With the Wind" clips (more current blockbusters!), no awkward clapping during the "in memoriam" montage (at least, not that the home audience will hear) and no traditional opening monologue. While it might seem like a show with a life of its own, steeped in things that must be done, apparently Oscar is flexi.

In fact, the marching order from Sid Ganis and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was fairly bare bones, Mark said:

"The only thing you must do is give all the awards out live onstage. You have to respect that. But there are many ways to do that, mind you."

About those acceptance speeches? They'll still be limited to 45 seconds, in theory, and the actors will be given a stern talking-to about that, says Mark.

"Don't thank your laundress."

For more Oscar night plans -- it'll come in under three hours, they promise! -- go here for USA Today's detailed scoop.


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Oscar Contenders

  • So "The Dark Knight" didn't make it into the final five after all, never mind that critical and popular support. Let's just call the comic-inspired mega-hit "The Biggest Snubee."

    Here are the best picture contenders in a race that, two weeks away from the Oscars, seems to be a foregone conclusion ("Slumdog") unless there's a come-from-behind possibility ("The Reader" anyone?)

    "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," with Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett; the politically timely "Milk;" rags-to-riches fairy tale, "Slumdog Millionaire," Holocaust best-seller-based drama "The Reader," and Watergate-era biopic "Frost/Nixon."

    Could "Button" and "Slumdog" split the vote, allowing another film to take the prize? Doesn't seem likely. After having clung to "Button" for months as what we thought would be the Academy voters' top vhoice, our money's now on "Slumdog." Momentum can't be ignored.

    Watch this blog for updates, ephemera and all manner of postulating.

Picture this

  • Mmmmm, chocolate Oscar. Not every star will walk away from the 81st annual Academy Awards with a trophy, but if they hit the high-profile Governor's Ball they can have pastry chef Sherry Yard's gold-dusted candy version. Also on the menu from celeb chef Wolfgang Puck is tuna tartare in sesame miso cones, chopped Chino Farms vegetable salad with ginger soy vinaigrette, Maine lobster and caviar. Serve it up! (Getty Images)

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