Los Angeles set for big Oscar night

February 23rd, 2009 - 5:43 am ICT by IANS  

Slumdog MillionaireLos Angeles, Feb 23 (DPA) The police have sealed off the Kodak Theatre Sunday as Los Angeles prepared for a glittering Oscar ceremony to lift the economic gloom hanging over the film industry.
However, the weather did nothing to improve spirits, as California’s famous sunshine was hidden behind a thick layer of clouds that threatened rain.

Stars were scheduled to start arriving an hour or two before the late afternoon ceremony, which will be hosted by Australian actor Hugh Jackman.

Producers have promised to shake up the usual Oscar conventions with a number of surprises - meant to halt the show’s steady slide in ratings and lack of interest among younger viewers who are the lifeblood of the movie industry.

The film sector has also been badly hit by a sharp decline in purchases of DVDs, which in recent years have contributed more to studio revenues than box-office receipts.

Among the changes being introduced to the Oscars is the transformation of the Kodak Theatre to a “dream nightclub” and the exclusion of some of the highest-profile stars from the red carpet entrance to preserve their fashion secrets for the Oscar show itself.

Though the economic downturn is expected to lead to more restrained fashion statements and less lavish parties than usual, the glitz and glamour on show will contrast sharply with the Oscar favourite, “Slumdog Millionaire”, about the rise of a slum-dwelling Mumbai orphan to the final of India’s most popular quiz show.

The movie, directed by Danny Boyle, has ten nominations compared to the leading 13 nominations for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. However, the Brad Pitt star vehicle is not expected to win as many of the major prizes as the India-based movie.

Besides those two films, the other contenders for best picture are “Frost/Nixon”, “Milk” and “The Reader”.

The best actor nominees are Richard Jenkins, “The Visitor”; Frank Langella, “Frost/Nixon”; Sean Penn, “Milk”; Brad Pitt, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”; and Mickey Rourke, “The Wrestler”.

Best actress contenders are Anne Hathaway, “Rachel Getting Married”; Angelina Jolie, “Changeling;” Melissa Leo, “Frozen River”; Meryl Streep, “Doubt”; and Kate Winslet, “The Reader”.

Up for best director are David Fincher, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”; Ron Howard, “Frost/Nixon”; Gus Van Sant, “Milk”; Stephen Daldry, “The Reader”; and Danny Boyle, “Slumdog Millionaire”.

The Foreign Film nominees are “The Baader Meinhof Complex” of Germany; “The Class” of France; Japan’s “Departures”; “Revanche” from Austria and “Waltz With Bashir” from Israel.

The Oscar weekend kicked off Saturday with the Independent Spirit Awards, which saw “The Wrestler” sweep the top awards including a best-actor prize for Mickey Rourke, capping his amazing Hollywood comeback.

Other big winners at the awards for films that cost less than $20 million to make included a documentary prize for “Man on Wire”, the story of the high-wire act of Frenchman Philippe Petit between the twin towers of the then newly-opened World Trade Center, which was later destroyed in the terrorist attacks of 2001.

Woody Allen’s “Vicky Christina Barcelona” picked up two awards, Penelope Cruz for best actress and Allen for script. Gus Van Sant’s “Milk” also collected two awards.

In another staple of Oscar weekend, the Razzie awards for the worst films of the year were handed out, with Canadian comic Mike Myers dominating as his box-office flop “The Love Guru” was named worst picture of 2008, and he was named the year’s worst actor.

Paris Hilton didn’t disappoint her detractors. She was named worst actress for the comedy “The Hottie and the Nottie”, worst supporting actress for the musical Repo: The Genetic Opera, and also nabbed a prize for being part of the worst couple in Hottie.

Germany’s Uwe Boll was named worst director for three movies and received a special lifetime achievement trophy from the Golden Raspberry Award Foundation. Pierce Brosnan won worst supporting actor dishonours for “Mamma Mia!”.

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