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February 18, 2009

Jackman's head in the game


There's a lot to love about Hugh Jackman in general and right now, a few days before he hosts the "81st Annual Academy Awards," two particular things stand out. (No, not his pecs).

1) He understands, or he's been made to understand, that the Oscar ceremony is not about him. It's about the show itself, the nominees, the winners, the frocks, the tears, etc., etc., etc. In years past, with comedians at the helm -- David Letterman, specifically -- the show has been about that person. It became his/her forum, his/her show. We can watch their late night chat fests or standup routines for that, but it's not why we watch the Academy Awards.

84007254-1 If there's anything we were able to learn from Bill Condon a few months back, shortly after he and Larry Mark had been knighted to overhaul and produce the show, it was that they wanted a host who would get out of the way of the action. Not a hollow suit, by any means, but a facilitator rather than A Star. It was one of their first mandates for rebuilding a program that has become bloated, stiff and unappealing (a record low 32 million people watched last year).

They might've really hit on something with Sexy Man Jackman, who hopefully will charm everyone, sing and dance a bit, and make it all flow. Tall order, of course, but he seems to be up for the task. At least he's wrapped his head around the concept and embraced it, judging from the interviews he's given these past several days. It's not "me, me, me," but "you, you, you!"

And how important is it this year that the show be a spectacle all on its own? Very, very important, since we already know (or think we know) what's going to happen in most of the big categories in this derby.

2) The "Australia"/"X-Men" star says he's thrilled -- thrilled! -- to be hosting a new-and-potentially-improved Oscarcast but there's something he'll miss by not watching the show at home like he usually does.

He tells The Envelope: "Our Aussie drinking games. You pick either lawyer, agent, mom, dad or God and whatever one of those names are thanked you take a shot. You get the most drunk with 'agent,' followed by 'God'."

See what we mean? Break a leg, mate.


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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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