"You've never seen Oscar like this!" trumpet the ads, and truly, ceremony producers Bill Mechanic and Adam Shankman have slaved to make sure that when you flip to ABC at 8 p.m. EST Sunday for the 82nd Academy Awards, you're entering a realm of surprises and shocks. It's part of a series of tweaks to make the awards show more relevant and to trim the running time so we fans aren't hanging around at midnight to see who wins Best Picture.
Among the changes is a two-host assault. This year Steve Martin shares emcee duties with "It's Complicated" co-star Alec Baldwin in something of a comic tag-team. (Is it legal for Jack Donaghy to appear on a rival network?) Also, the Best Picture field has been expanded to ten nominees for spine-tingling, watch-checking suspense.
Alas, where you add, you must also subtract. That means this year the Best Original Song nominees won't be performed live. Instead, they'll be represented in montage. So we won't get to see the grizzled Jeff Bridges meander through "Crazy Heart's" "The Weary Kind" or Randy Newman tap out yet another piano-fueled Disney theme.
Some people think it's an acceptable sacrifice. But as a music fan, I think it stinks. What would have happened had this rule been instituted in '72, when Isaac Hayes made the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion thrum with the funk of the "Theme from 'Shaft'"? In 2007 we would have missed Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova aching down the cobblestone of "Once's" "Falling Slowly." Unconscionable. Music enhances the soiree beyond scripted antics and fashion-plate dishing. Let's hope it's only a temporary loss.
Until then, at least we have our memories. The envelope, please…
This sweet song was featured in the 1972 film of the same name, which was a sequel to the 1971 horror chestnut "Willard," about a young man who preferred the company of rats. So, in an Academy first, 14-year-old Michael Jackson appeared on the telecast to deliver a heartfelt, chart-topping, Golden Globe-winning ballad to, of all things, a rodent.
DID IT WIN? The Academy preferred Maureen McGovern's sunny "The Morning After," from the topsy-turvy disaster epic, "The Poseidon Adventure." It was a big-budget affair soaked in Hollywood royalty and set on an ocean liner Ben would have been only too happy to desert.
The words belonged to Stephen Sondheim, but Madonna made them her own, first on film (1990's "Dick Tracy," directed by and starring then-squeeze Warren Beatty), then on the Oscars. There wasn't a dry lapel or clean thought left after the Material Girl's sultry sashay.
DID IT WIN? Like the lady said, she always gets her man.
WATCH: Madonna perform "Sooner or Later" during the 1991 broadcast.
Now, THIS was the way to start the New Millennium. Williams led a marching, singing cast through perhaps the most profane number ever nominated: "Blame Canada," from "South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut." The vulgarities had been cleverly excised, but "And that bitch Anne Murray, too" would have been more delicious from the pipes of the target herself. And apparently, it almost happened. Anne had been approached, but she declined, even though she found the song hilarious. Gosh, those Canadians are so darn nice.