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February 20, 2009

Heath Ledger's Oscar by proxy


Oscar is a little touchy about proxies -- he doesn't want just anyone grabbing onto his smooth, bare haunches. Not on live TV, anyway.

As a rule, but apparently a bendable one, a winner is supposed to show up to accept his or her Little Gold Man and if he/she doesn't, the presenters just do the anticlimactic honors and slink off stage.

This leads us to today's Academy Arcana.

The unofficial no-stand-in rule came about in the early '70s after Marlon Brando sent "Sacheen Littlefeather" in his stead to turn down his Oscar for best actor in "The Godfather." (See some background on that historic, trouble-making kiss-off here). 

But, as GoldDerby tells us, the guideline has often been overlooked when a winner was ailing (Jane Fonda emotionally accepting for her father, Henry, when he took the best acting trophy for "On Golden Pond") or dead (screenwriter Paddy Chaefsky and Peter Finch's widow on behalf of the "Network" star just weeks after he'd passed away).

84450452 This is all topical, of course, because there's probably no award as pre-determined as the Heath Ledger win for supporting actor in "The Dark Knight." So who picks it up? The late Ledger, who died just over a year ago, has already won a slew of trophies this season and the heartfelt acceptance speeches have come from director Christopher Nolan, co-star Gary Oldman (at the SAG Awards, pictured) and Ledger's family members.

Which of those should we expect to see Sunday?

Apparently Kim Ledger, Heath's father, and other members of the Ledger clan, because it wouldn't be right (nor would it serve the ratings) if this incredible run ended with a truncated, unsatisfying "accepting on his behalf." "We all want closure," says Bruce Vilanch, one of the main writers of the kudocast. See what Kim Ledger said on touching down in L.A. yesterday.

Now, what happens to Oscar after it's handed over seems to be another hot mess all together. It's supposed to be destined for Ledger's heir and legal next-of-kin, his 3-year-old daughter, Matilda, but not until she's 18. In the meantime? His family? Actress Michelle Williams, Matilda's mother, who was never married to Ledger and had split with him before his death?

It's a sticky wicket, and one that's not likely to be resolved any time soon. Certainly not before this weekend.


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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.

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  • 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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