Oscars today,Slumdog counting on its dream run

After three months of movie critics awards,audience awards and industry awards,Hollywood on Monday gets down to the business of giving out its Academy Awards....

Written by Reuters | Los Angeles | Published: February 23, 2009 1:10:14 am

After three months of movie critics awards,audience awards and industry awards,Hollywood on Monday gets down to the business of giving out its Academy Awards,the world’s top film honours.

But with rags-to-riches romance Slumdog Millionaire widely expected to collect the Oscar for best movie,suspense surrounding the glamorous affair has shifted to whether host Hugh Jackman’s can dazzle audiences and stop the slide in television viewership.

Oscar producers Bill Condon and Laurence Mark “are proven showmen who know how to package entertainment and Hugh Jackman knows how to sell it,” said Tom O’Neil,columnist for awards website TheEnvelope.com.

That would be no small feat as the Oscars,which are given out by the Beverly Hills-based Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences,raise the curtain on their 81st ceremony.

Expected inside Hollywood’s Kodak Theatre and outside on the fashionable red carpet are the likes of Brad Pitt,Angelina Jolie,Sean Penn,Meryl Streep and scores of other stars.

In recent years,comedians such as Jon Stewart and Chris Rock have hosted,warming up the crowd before awards are handed out in more than 20 categories. But viewership hit a record low of 32 million in 2008,down from 40 million in 2007. So,the academy hired movie musical producers Condon and Mark (Dreamgirls) to shake up the show,and they hired actor and song-and-dance man Jackman,who thrilled audiences as the host of Broadway’s Tony Awards.

The most-watched telecast ever was the 1998 telecast when No. 1 smash hit Titanic sailed away with 11 Academy Awards. This year,Slumdog,which tells of a poor,young Indian man competing for love and money on a TV game show,has earned hit status with roughly $150 million in global ticket sales. Slumdog is widely picked to win best film over Milk and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

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