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January 20, 2009

Oscar's political fallout

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More blockbusters, or at least movies that people outside the cineaste pool have seen, less Jack Nicholson and fewer technical awards.

And for crying out loud, no political speeches!

About 7,000 film fans have spoken, according to a Fandango study, and they have specific opinions about what they do and don't want from the Oscar telecast on Feb. 22. The movie ticket-hawking site has compiled that info into what it's calling "20 Ways to Improve the Oscars."

What might not surprise anyone is that 71% of participants said they'd be more likely to watch the Oscars if "The Dark Knight" is nominated for best picture.

That's what the blogosphere and just about everyone else has been saying all along. Throw in a few populist flicks (with substance) and watch the ratings increase. We'll have word on Thursday morning if that message has resonated with Academy voters.

A whopping 81% said that last year's best pic nominees were out of tune with mainstream movie-goers, and that caused nearly 30% of people to skip the program.

During a time of heightened political awareness -- Happy Inauguration Day! -- it's noteworthy that this research found that people do not, in fact, want to hear political statements from their Oscar-winning stars.

79179362 In fact, that was the most oft-cited burr in the side of viewers -- 51% said that's their biggest pet peeve about the live three-hour kudofest. 

The recent Golden Globes, despite their timing, were practically a politics-free zone, with the possible exceptions of Laura Dern's hope-laced cheer when she won for HBO's presidential election-based "Recount" and Ari Folman's near word-for-word recitation of his Critics' Choice acceptance speech for "Waltz with Bashir" about his hope for a peaceful Middle East. If that's any indication -- even Alec Baldwin remained as neutral as Switzerland -- perhaps the Oscars won't host any Michael Moore-style tirades?

Other things that bug viewers: technical awards (34%), excessive show length (33%), live musical numbers (we're assuming that includes any and all interpretive dance) (27%), and forced celebrity banter (26%). Where's the grating never-ending collection of montages? Maybe that's just our biggest gripe?

One alert respondent said there are too many cut-aways to Nicholson. Is everybody really having that much fun, or does the infamous Oscar winner's permanent grin just make it look that way? At least one guy's suspicious!

So, be warned Sean Penn and your ilk. Keep the political speeches to a minimum or risk the tyranny of the remote at a time when the ratings-challenged Oscars can scarcely afford it. Cue the orchestra!

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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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