What to expect on Hollywood’s holiest night

With Slumdog Millionaire seemingly a lock for best picture,much of the suspense for the evening may have to derive from the broadcast itself.

Written by New York Times | Published:February 22, 2009 10:32 pm

With Slumdog Millionaire seemingly a lock for best picture,much of the suspense for the evening may have to derive from the broadcast itself.

All eyes,millions of them,will be on High Jackman,Bill Condon and Laurence Mark—two moviemaking showmen with Dreamgirls to their credit—are betting that his song-and-dance skills will help viewers shuffle through the marathon with more ease than in previous years. There’s been talk of threading the whole show with a theme or story,which seems like a pretty big gamble,presuming a level of attentiveness that most garden-variety viewers don’t usually bring to the show.

Traditionalists are horrified at reports that the historically solemn “in memoriam”—in which the industry says goodbye to some of its departed colleagues—will get live accompaniment from Queen Latifah. Bennett Miller,the director of Capote,has been commissioned to make a short segment of filmmakers talking shop with plain old movie lovers,which could be cool. The show will end this year with forward-looking clips of next year’s hopefuls.

Why all the fuss,you may well ask. Well,the producers are grabbing a corner of the Oscars show and giving it a good tug because ossification is hazardous,especially on television.

A few potential moments to look forward to: Sean Penn or Mickey Rourke at the podium—both are unpredictable,and either will be a treat. And wouldn’t it be nice to see Rubina Ali or one of the other young stars of Slumdog show up in the audience or on camera,which might lift some of the lingering clouds left by charges that they were used and then discarded in making the film? Kate Winslet melted when she ended up with two Globes,but managed to keep the upper lip stiff at the Baftas. What might happen if she finally gets a long-overdue Oscar?

This season has been one long tribute to Heath Ledger,a rolling memorial that will come to a close—especially if he wins best supporting actor—at this year’s Oscars. After that it will no longer make sense to speak of Ledger in the present tense.

And finally,given that many will be watching through less than rose-coloured glasses,can Hollywood find a way to acknowledge the times we are living in without giving in to the gloom?

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