Oscars telecast goes for bold as viewers stray | entertainment | Hindustan Times
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Oscars telecast goes for bold as viewers stray

A veil of secrecy has been thrown over preparations for this year's Oscars, with organizers hoping a sweeping revamp of the ceremony can help the show bounce back from record low ratings.

entertainment Updated: Feb 18, 2009 13:26 IST

A veil of secrecy has been thrown over preparations for this year's Oscars, with organizers hoping a sweeping revamp of the ceremony can help the show bounce back from record low ratings.

One year after the 80th Academy Awards entered the record books as the least-watched Oscars in history, Hollywood is buzzing with speculation over how Sunday's show at the Kodak Theater is set for an overhaul.

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president Sid Ganis said earlier this month that fans could expect some daring tweaks.

"It's going to be a show that takes some bold risks," Ganis said.

Some of the changes to the telecast's tried-and-tested formula are public knowledge. Australian actor Hugh Jackman is to host the event in a break with the recent tradition of having a comedian act as compere.

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

The choice of Jackman as host, and the fact that the telecast will be produced by Bill Condon and Laurence Mark, the team behind 2006 musical "Dreamgirls," hints that the emphasis will be on "show" rather than "business."

Jackman earned rave reviews for his singing and dancing hosting of the Tony Awards from 2003-2005, and hinted that viewers could expect more of the same in a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly magazine.

"It's too early to give details, but it's fair to say there's going to be singing and dancing. The fact that they've hired me is a sign they're taking a different route," Jackman said.

Jackman also hinted the show was likely to be shorter than the usual three-hour extravaganza.

"I love the Oscars but there's no doubt they're too long," he said. "I don't think there's a person on the planet who doesn't feel that way."

The apparent willingness to streamline the show has not found favor with everyone however.

Veteran British singer Peter Gabriel, nominated in the best song category, revealed last week he had scrapped plans to sing at the Oscars after discovering that his performance had been slashed to 65 seconds.

Instead of a full rendition of "Down to Earth" from hit animated movie "Wall-E," Gabriel said he had told that he would only be part of a medley with his two fellow nominees.

"I do think it's a bit unfortunate because songwriters, even though they're a small part of the whole film-making process we still work bloody hard, and I think deserve a place in the ceremony as well," Gabriel said.

In previous years, music nominated in best song nominees has been performed live on Oscars night. The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences was not immediately available for comment.

Whether the revamped ceremony is able to entice more viewers remains to be seen. Lew Harris, a consultant to hollywood.com website, suggested that moves to keep changes to the show secret could backfire.

"They're talking about surprises, the problem is, if this is true, they're keeping it under wraps," Harris told AFP. "This isn't going to bring viewers to their televisions."

"Why should people turn on the television in the first place? They need to think about the length of the telecast, they need to show more clips. They've got a big jump to get people to watch the show."

Robert Thompson, a pop culture expert at Syracuse University in New York, agreed. "In the end, the Academy Awards night is really about reading a bunch of lists on films that have been recognized as superior by people within the film industry," he said. "And then saying which one won."