Oscars Promise Big Changes For This Year’s Show

From a thank-you cam to reality-show dancers, the 2010 Academy Awards will break from tradition.

The Academy Awards have been around for 82 years. During that time, the show has given the world hundreds of thank-you speeches, musical numbers and uncomfortable on-camera loser reactions. This year, however, things are shaping up to be quite different.

Boasting the tagline “You’ve never seen Oscar like this,” producers Adam Shankman (“Hairspray” director, choreographer) and Bill Mechanic (former Fox honcho, “Coraline” producer) are hard at work tweaking tradition. We already know the biggest change: 10 Best Picture nominees instead of five. Now, with only 19 days until the year’s biggest awards show takes center stage, here are a few more key tweaks hoping to shake the cobwebs off a Hollywood institution:

No Thank You
If you’re an Oscar winner’s spouse, mother, dog or lawyer, the awards show can mean a special night of sitting on the edge of your seat, wondering if a famous person will mention you in their moment of triumph; if you’re not, however, all those name-checking thank-yous are about as interesting as Ben Stein reading the phonebook. This week, Shankman and Mechanic greeted the stars at the annual Oscar nominees luncheon with an unusual request to address the conflict: write two speeches. They are now encouraged to “share your passion on what the Oscar means to you” while onstage and save the thank-yous (Mechanic called them “the single most-hated thing on the show”) for a backstage webcam. If the winners play ball, it’s a move that seems certain to make Oscar watchers happy — and tick off a whole bunch of lawyers. So basically, it’s a win-win.

Get Your Name Out There
Sorry to shatter your illusion, but in years past, those Oscar statues the winners receive onstage weren’t the real deal; the Academy would have nameplates engraved and affixed weeks later, and then the stars would get their Oscar. This year, however, producers will have engravers waiting at the gala Governor’s Ball immediately following the telecast. Stars can hand over their statue, mingle with Hollywood’s elite and then, like the world’s greatest Things Remembered store, pick up their Oscar when it’s ready. The reason for the switch is to get stars to hang out at the Governor’s Ball longer before they head off to the big post-Oscar parties.

So You Think You Can Change Best Song?
In a true jaw-dropper, Shankman and Mechanic have told the artists nominated for Best Original Song that they won’t be performing their music in the typical elaborate production-number format; the music will instead play over footage from the films during montage tributes. To make things even more interesting, Deadline Hollywood is reporting that Shankman — a judge on “So You Think You Can Dance” — is contemplating using some of the reality show’s stars for dance numbers during the awards show.

The Hosts With the Most?
For the first time since the 1950s, Oscar will employ two hosts this year: Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin. What makes things even more peculiar is that the latter has proven himself to be a fine host in 2001 and 2003, but this year will share duties with first-timer Baldwin. At best, we can expect some added gravitas from Baldwin, who would be much more suited to intro the “In Memoriam” video; Martin, meanwhile, could provide some fun back-and-forth banter and maybe a banjo number.

At worst, it could be a replay of the 2008 Emmys where Ryan Seacrest, Howie Mandell, Tom Bergeron and others all co-hosted while employing radically different approaches that collided like bumper cars and proved to be equally nauseating. Will Martin and Baldwin be a better match? Tune in March 7 to find out.

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