News Nuggets: Behind the scenes of tonight’s Academy Awards

Entertainment Weekly goes behind the scenes of tonight’s Oscar rehearsals: “In the shadows beside a great velvet curtain, the stand-in for best actress comes face to face with none other than the real Tom Cruise, who has an envelope clasped in his hands and is waiting for his cue to walk out and practice presenting the next award. The ‘Mission: Impossible’ star tips a slight bow and raises his eyebrows with a wry, mega-watt smile. ‘Congratulations!’ he declares, like he really, really, means it. Really. He chuckles, and – after a beat – so does the stunned stand-in … That’s the great thing about being backstage in the final few days before the Academy Awards — guards are down, and a guy like Cruise can just kid around. Though the crew is working hard, the stars are literally going through the motions.” EW.COM

Have the Oscars stumbled into irrelevance? “This is not the result of Oscar voters being out of touch with popular tastes or their tradition of honoring the wrong movies — the two most common complaints leveled at the awards … No, the staleness that has crept into the Academy Awards over the past few years is a result of a stodgy institution reacting to a rapidly changing world in all the wrong ways. Instead of rethinking the entire Oscar process from the inside out, the Academy has resorted to cosmetic changes and superficial embellishments that have resulted in disaster.” MIAMI HERALD

Will an Oscars led by “The Artist” hurt the telecast’s ratings? “The Grammys lured an audience of 39.9 million to TV earlier this month, one day after Whitney Houston died. That was the Grammys biggest audience since 1984 and well over the 26 million who tuned in to the music industry’s top honors last year. If the Oscars can’t beat 40 million, they will drop to No. 3. Only twice since 2002 have the Oscars, which are given out by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, drawn an audience over 40 million, and that happened in years when two major blockbusters, ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King’ and ‘Avatar,’ competed for best film.” REUTERS

Oscar saves the day for grown-up movies: “Of all the endangered species in Hollywood, perhaps the most overlooked might be the adult drama — the kind of mid-budget, modestly scaled, smartly written movie that seemed to be so common in the 1970s. Back then, the genre was typified by taut, no-nonsense films like ‘Chinatown’ and ‘All the President’s Men.’ Their present-day analogs are ‘Michael Clayton’ or ‘The Social Network’ — smart, stylish movies geared toward grown-ups that, were it not for the Oscars, would be less likely to find purchase in Hollywood’s current business model.” WASHINGTON POST

Sacha Baron Cohen will be allowed to walk the red carpet as “The Dictator”: “The Academy seems to have recognized that it’s better off with Sacha Baron Cohen at the Oscars than without him. Days after informing the ribald comic actor that his plans for roaming the red carpet as his character from ‘The Dictator’ would not be a good idea, a producer of the show is saying Cohen is now welcome to use Hollywood’s biggest night to plug his movie, to be released May 11.” HOLLYWOOD REPORTER

How to improve the overwhelmingly white, male Academy’s diversy: “However, officials say, it’s a slow process to alter the membership, which is drawn from the entertainment industry itself. If the industry isn’t diversifying its ranks, they ask, how can the Academy? It can start on two fronts. Let’s not forget that the Academy’s members are among the industry’s most influential producers, directors, writers, performers, composers and designers. The executive branch — which at 98% white is the Academy’s least integrated group, beating out the writers branch by a smidgen — includes the studio heads and production executives who actually get movies made. They don’t have to wait for the industry to change. It’s in their hands to change it.” LOS ANGELES TIMES

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