Oscars Chiefs Promise ‘Bold, Risky’ Show

BEVERLY HILLS ~ Oscars organizers promised a bold new approach to this month’s Academy Awards, at a star-studded luncheon to salute this year’s crop of nominees.

After years of declining viewing figures that culminated in last year’s 80th Oscars recording an all-time ratings low, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have moved to revamp Hollywood’s annual extravaganza.

The co-producers of the February 22 show, Bill Condon and Laurence Mark, have so far kept full details of their planned changes to the Oscars’ tried-and-tested formula tightly under wraps.

However Academy president Sid Ganis told nominees at the Beverly Hilton hotel on Monday to expect some daring tweaks to the telecast.

“It’s going to be a show that takes some bold risks,” said Ganis.

Oscars organizers have already confirmed one change by announcing Australian actor Hugh Jackman as the host of the show, a departure from the recent tradition of popular comedians acting as compere.

Among the changes reported to be contemplated by Mark and Condon are decisions to dispense with the ceremony’s opening monologue and to keep “canned” segments to a minimum.

The identities of the presenters on the awards night have been kept a secret when in previous years the Academy revealed presenters in the weeks building up to the ceremony.

The New York Times reported that the producers are seeking to boost the appeal of the show by asking studios to provide scenes from future films.

Under the initiative, 10-second clips of around two dozen new movies would be shown as the show’s credits roll.

Meanwhile, Ganis urged nominees to give some thought to making their acceptance speeches memorable – and short.

“As for the acceptance speeches – you know what’s required,” Ganis said. “Be brief, be personal and be heartfelt. You have a grand total of 45 seconds.”

Ganis was speaking before an audience that included 15 of the 20 actors and actresses who are nominated for Oscars this year, notable absentees including Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and Meryl Streep.

This year’s Oscars are expected to be a shootout between rags-to-riches Mumbai-set romance Slumdog Millionaire, which has 10 nominations, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, with 13.

Although historically the film with the most Oscar nominations has prevailed in the coveted best picture race, Slumdog Millionaire is widely seen as the clear favorite after a virtual clean sweep at key awards shows this year.

The movie’s favorite status solidified at the weekend after British director Danny Boyle scooped the top prize at the prestigious Director’s Guild of America awards, regarded as an important Oscars bellwether.

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