How could Hugh Jackman host the Oscars and not be part of a musical number? And if Slumdog Millionaire's A.R. Rahman is nominated for two songs, we'll certainly get an exuberant Bollywood dance, even if Bruce Springsteen was shut out. The NYT ferrets out as much info as possible about the February 22 Oscarcast, which faces the challenge of fanboy boycotts over Dark Knight and low-boxoffice performances from its top nominees.
While Slumdog is humming along to a decent $67 million gross, and at $116.5 million The Curious Case of Benjamin Button looks like a winner (even if it may not win any Oscars or make its money back), the last of the Oscar pack to widen, Gus Van Sant's Milk and Stephen Daldry's The Reader, did not achieve pre-Oscar b.o. liftoff. The Reader broadened to 1,000 screens and has mustered about $12.6 million to date. Milk, on 882 screens, scored about 1.4.4 million for a total of $23.4 million. And Frost/Nixon actually declined 54% and has earned a mere $14.5 million so far.
Don't worry, this year's Oscar show producers Laurence Mark and Bill Condon aren't about to forgo the glamorous ritual of red carpet arrivals. But some stars avoid going to these affairs, not wanting to run the gauntlet--many of them hurry in late so that they can wave at the stands and pass all the press by, ostensibly to run to their seats. Well, this way, the logic goes, they don't have to do all the things they don't like--they just have to show up on the Oscarcast, as surprise bait for the fans who will presumably tune in worldwide.
UPDATE: On the other hand, everybody likes going to the annual celebratory Oscar lunch, where a hundred or so nominees mingle, take a group photo, and get a lecture from Academy president Sid Ganis on making a short acceptance speech. Peter Bart was there.
One of my fave pre-Oscar events comes up next weekend: The BAFTAs, or British Academy Awards. The Brits usually come up with a witty host with a plummy British accent, like Stephen Fry; they tend to get on with it with humor and well-wrought acceptance speeches. Sunday the 8th, 5 PM, BBC America, PST. Order in some cucumber sandwiches.