Previewing and live-blogging the Oscars

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The 84th Annual Academy Awards will be presented … in 24 categories at the Hollywood & Highland Center … hosted by Oscar veteran Billy Crystal and televised live on ABC.

‘The Artist’ remains the best picture, director and actor favorite, followed by ‘The Descendants.’ But ‘Hugo’ may actually win the most Oscars because of its strength in craft categories. The ceremony will be preceded by an ABC arrivals show, beginning at 7 p.m.

Previewing and live-blogging:

Thumbtack – The New Yorker‘s Anthony Lane on “The Artist” (director: Michel Hazanavicius): “[S]ilent black-and-white … is maintained … apart from a couple of dizzying interruptions. … [W]e start in the Hollywood of the late nineteen-twenties.”

Thumbtack – The New Yorker‘s Anthony Lane on “The Descendants” (director: Alexander Payne): “Matt King (George Clooney) informs us … that Hawaii, where he and his family live, is not the paradise that it is rumored to be. … [T]here are plans to sell off a stretch of virgin land that has belonged to the King clan for generations. … Matt’s wife lies critically injured in the hospital, leaving him to cope with their difficult daughters.”

Thumbtack – The New Yorker‘s David Denby on “Hugo” (director: Martin Scorsese): “[I]n [this] 3-D movie, a twelve-year-old orphaned boy, Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield), and his pal Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz) are leafing through a book of early film history when images from the page begin moving and then spring to full motion-picture life on the screen.”

5:11 p.m. – Stephen Galloway showcases the exceptional resilience of the American film industry (for instance, “all of the world’s top 100 grossing films were Hollywood productions”):

There’s a strange paradox at play here: While Hollywood films are losing audiences at home, where they’re increasingly being siphoned away by social media, games, and the Internet, they’re building them abroad. Revenues from American films outside North America constitute more than 60 percent of each year’s take by the Hollywood studios, a number that’s risen from under 40 percent several decades ago. Paramount Pictures, for instance, made $3.21 billion of its total $5.17 billion earnings in movie theaters for 2011 abroad. This is despite the fact that foreign-made films are gaining an increasing share of their own industries: Japanese are seeing more Japanese films than ever; so are Russians, Chinese, and Koreans. Box office is simply growing across the board in those countries.

4:45 p.m. – The Academy Awards venue will be referred to as the Hollywood and Highland Center in promos and on the Oscar telecast in the wake of Kodak bankruptcy. … [A] federal court [ended] annual payments of nearly $4 million for naming rights

4:39 p.m. – Brent Cox spotlights a very special moment in Oscar history, the streaker of 1974.

4:38 p.m. – In a post about the only silent film to ever win Best Picture, Perrin Drumm remembers how simple the show used to be:

It was around this time eighty-three years ago that the first winners of the Academy Award of Merit were notified, via telegraph, even though it would be another three months before the ceremony itself took place—an event that drew an audience of only 270 people, each of whom paid five dollars for a private dinner at the Roosevelt Hotel. While guests dined on filet of sole sauté au buerre and half-broiled chicken on toast, master of ceremonies Douglas Fairbanks dispensed with the awards in a mere fifteen minutes. There were no speeches and no cameras. It was the only untelevised Academy Awards in history.

10:10 a.m. – Adam Sandler may not be in the running for an Oscar this year, but on Saturday he set a new record for another award — the most Razzie nominations for the worst films and performances of 2011.

7:43 a.m. – Frank Bruni reviews tonight’s Academy Awards with an eye towards the presidential campaign.

“Academy officials and Republican leaders are both grappling with a pronounced enthusiasm deficit, and you have to wonder if both groups’ demographic profiles are partly responsible for their failure to connect. Like the G.O.P., the Academy isn’t as heterogeneous as it could be. The Los Angeles Times published a widely discussed story last weekend that estimated that the Academy’s 5,765 voting members are nearly 94 percent white and 77 percent male, with a median age of 62. This easily explains the triumph of “The King’s Speech” over “The Social Network” last year, along with this year’s invitation to Billy Crystal to return — yet again — to host. By the yardstick of Academy membership, he’s wickedly au courant, verging on edgy.

What we have here are two hoary institutions flailing for relevance, failing to find it and responding in ways that merely exhaust the audience.”

7:25 a.m. – David Thompson explains why he’s not watching the Oscars, although I’m sure he will.

“Since first seeing The Artist, I believed it was going to win Best Picture. It’s “different” without being challenging or difficult or worrying. The Artist could have been designed by a computer to appeal to anyone who has a sense of nostalgia for movie history. (And 54 percent of Academy voters are over sixty). It is also a light, entertaining picture in which froth passes for energy, and pat ironies are made to seem intelligent. I enjoyed it, until the moment I guessed how close it was to getting Best Picture. It is not a Best Picture—but the Academy has voted for such polite duds time and again.”

7:19 a.m. – Roger Ebert makes his predictions here.

7:18 a.m. – What do we want in a ‘Best Picture’? Tasha Robinson argues it’s a happy ending:

Essentially, this year’s Best Picture nominees go beyond the message “Things are going to work out fine,” and head well into the realm of “Things will work out no matter what you do.” And this year, at least, any film not toeing that line got shut out. Consider films like ContagionMeek’s Cutoff, Weekend, and Shame—all potentially strong awards contenders that struck a chord with critics, but not the Academy, and all specifically concerned with characters trying to come to terms with past events, then figure out their futures. In particular, the stellar but Oscar-shunned Martha MarcyMay Marlene and Take Shelter directly address characters concerned with their family history and their personal history, and trying to understand and accept the past and keep it from poisoning the present.

But all six of these films have ambiguous, difficult endings that suggest the future is uncertain, or threatening, or exactly what it is: a vast unknown. This year, at least, that idea is entirely unwelcome in the Best Picture category.

6:45 a.m. – Politicos should check out Hollywood Left and Right: How Movie Stars Shaped American Politics.

Saturday – Virginia Postrel proposes reforming the Academy Awards ceremony to drive up ratings:

“American Idol” and sports events share an appeal the Oscars lack: Something is happening that affects the outcome while the viewers are actually watching. Movie performances can’t be live, of course, but the ceremony could include a real-time element of argument and judging. … Give each nominated film’s producers a fixed length of time to make its case with clips and an on-stage advocate.

Skip Olivia counters:

[Postrel] thinks the Oscars need to engage viewers like “Dancing with the Stars” or “American Idol.” But those shows are episodic competitions designed to build momentum over several weeks. Viewers become acquainted with the individual contestants and develop rooting interests. That won’t happen with the Oscars no matter what changes you make to the format. It’s a one-time event designed to honor past accomplishments in film.

Here is a trailer highlighting the nominees for Best Picture:

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.