Oscars 2009: The World’s a Stage

At yesterday’s nominees luncheon, Academy honcho Sid Ganis promised “many risks” for this year’s Oscars telecast, and warned would-be winners to “stay alert.” What do he and the show’s new producers, Bill Condon and Laurence Mark, have up their sleeves for the 22nd?

Less banter, more song and dance. Comedians (even last year’s John Stewart) have failed to keep viewers tuned in. Mark and Condon (the team behind Dreamgirls) have axed the opening monologue and cut out a lot of the presenters’ scripted back-and-forth.  They also tapped Hugh Jackman to host: “He can sing, dance and looks great in a tuxedo,” as Condon recently told USA Today, and he’ll be performing a number dreamed up by Baz Luhrmann that’s sure to be over the top. With two songs nominated from Slumdog Millionaire, a pair of Bollywood acts would seem to be in the cards, too. This will be a Broadway-flavored show: Condon (who also wrote the Chicago screenplay) has said his favorite Oscars was 1968, a year in which Barbra Streisand scored a little gold man (“Hello, gorgeous!”) and only one Best Picture nominee (Paul Newman’s Rachel, Rachel) wasn’t adapted from a play or musical.

A Touch of Class.
The organizers are fixing two of the program’s tackiest elements: they’re cutting the audio during the “In Memoriam” montage, during which the most famous recently-deceased entertainers traditionally get the most applause, and cuing the orchestra only if an acceptance speech starts to go way over.  (That means you, Kate Winslet.)

Audience Participation?
A lot of this year’s changes have been made in the name of “spontaneity.” Rather than mock audience members from the stage, as comedian hosts have done in the past, it seems likely Jackman will drag them up-as he did with Sarah Jessica Parker at the 2002 Tonys, where he literally tried to make her sexy-dance her top off. That said, he probably won’t be as cruel as he was with her. And if the organizers take the show into the front rows, it definitely won’t be to stir things up the way Triumph the Insult Comic Dog did that time at the VMAs. It’s the Oscars, after all. Even if they’re funny, pets aren’t allowed.