Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Oscar ratings up, but not excellent

As I discussed in a post Thursday, Oscar ceremony ratings hit an all-time low last year. So this year, getting above 32 million viewers didn't seem like a huge challenge.

The challenge I hoped the new producers, along with a Hugh Jackman-hosted ceremony, would meet was the 46.2 million threshold, putting the ceremony in the Top 10 for best rated telecasts. Alas, it was an uphill battle. With no "Dark Knight" Best Picture nominations, viewers and film goers were not happy with the snub.

And the results are...

"Ratings for this year's Academy Awards improved substantially over last year and are the highest for any TV show (sports excluded) in two years," according to Zap2It.com.

ABC says an average of 36.3 million people watched the 81st annual Oscars on Sunday, making it the most-watched entertainment program of the season and bigger than any other entertainment program since the 2007 Oscars' 40.17 million viewers.

The adults 18-49 rating was up, too, rising from 10.7 in 2008 to 12.1 this year. All the other key demos improved too -- even men under 35.

The artilce reminds us that the numbers are based on "time zone-adjusted" fast national ratings that take into account the live nationwide broadcast. What they don't take into account is the last 25 to 30 minutes of the broadcast.

The situation: Nielsen marks the end time of a program as the time of the last national commercial break. For the Oscar telecast, that came at 11:25 p.m. ET Sunday. Unfortunately, the show ended a couple minutes before midnight ET. That last half-hour featured the big awards, where we assume more people watched (I know someone for example who started watched at this point). During this time, Kate Winslet in "The Reader" won the award for best actress, Sean Penn in "Milk" for best actor and "Slumdog Millionaire" for best picture.

"It's not unreasonable to expect there might have been an uptick in viewers," says writer Rick Porter in the article. "We just don't know if that happened based on the figures we have now."

Even if there was an "uptick," the ratings would not have beat my dream of Top 10 ceremonies. This is ratings-wise of course. Sunday's awards were also only the fourth since 1988 to fall short of 40 million viewers (last year, 2006 and 2003 are the others).

The ceremony itself, however, was one of the best I've seen in a long time. Oprah Winfrey agrees with me.

"I've been watching since I was 10 years old, and I think that was the best Academy Awards I have ever seen," Oprah said yesterday on a special edition of her show from the Kodak. "So classy, so respectful."

I'm going through all of the photos and will post some good ones tomorrow.

Ceremony Photo: ©A.M.P.A.S.®

Sunday, February 22, 2009

My official predictions and winners (updated!)

As the show starts, here are my predictions (and winners):
I got 19/24 correct. Tied for the lead in my pool.

Best Picture
“Slumdog Millionaire”

Best Director
Danny Boyle

Best Actor
Sean Penn

Best actress
Kate Winslet

Best Supporting Actor
Heath Ledger

Best Supporting Actress
Taraji P. Henson X Penélope Cruz

Best Original Screenplay

Best Adapted Screenplay
Simon Beaufoy for “Slumdog Millionaire”

Best Foreign-Language Film
“Waltz With Bashir” X "Departures"

Best Animated Feature

Best Original Song
“Jai Ho”

Best Musical Score
“Slumdog Millionaire”

Best Art Direction
Donald Burft, Victor Zolfo for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”

Best Cinematography
Anthony Dod Mantle for “Slumdog Millionaire”

Best Costume Design
“The Duchess”

Best Film Editing
“Slumdog Millionaire”

Best Makeup
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”

Best Sound Editing
“The Dark Knight”

Best Sound Mixing
“The Dark Knight” X "Slumdog Millionaire"

Best Visual Effects
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”

Best Animated Short Film
“Presto” X "La Maison en Petits Cubes"

Best Documentary Short Subject
“The Witness” X "Smiles Pinki"

Best Live Action Short Film

Best Documentary Feature
“Man on Wire”

Saturday, February 21, 2009

View all the Best Picture nominees

On Saturday, I will not be blogging too much. Why? I will be at the movie for - wait for it - 14 HOURS! Yes, tomorrow, as I've done in the past, will be devoted to seeing all five Best Picture nominees - “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (Paramount and Warner Bros.), “Frost/Nixon” (Universal), “Milk” (Focus Features), “The Reader” (The Weinstein Company) and “Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight).

AMC Theatres offers this quite amazing opportunity to see all the nominees back-to-back in a special package. It's $30 - or $25 for rewards members - and includes all five movies, large popcorn, unlimited pop and a cool collectible pass so you can leave the theater between showings and walk around. Here is the schedule:
# Milk 10:30 a.m.
# The Reader 1:05 p.m.
# The Curious Case of Benjamin Button 3:45 p.m.
# Slumdog Millionaire 7:15 p.m.
# Frost/Nixon 9:45 p.m.
Entertainment Weekly named the Best Picture Showcase No. 1 on its "Must List" for this week.

So with that, I need to catch some sleep and get ready to sit all day and watch movies. Sounds like heaven, right?

Friday, February 20, 2009

mtvU names Red Carpet Correspondent

And the award goes to...

Faheem Ahmed and Anish Patel from Rice University. The team has been selected as the Grand Prize winners for the first-ever “Oscar Correspondent Contest,” a joint promotion by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and mtvU. Their coverage will be posted on www.Oscars.mtvU.com the week of February 23.

Congrats! I'll try to get an interview with them and post it this weekend.

Photo: Faheem Ahmed (left) and Anish Patel from Rice University have earned a spot on the red carpet and will also have access to the backstage press rooms and the Governors Ball. Photo: Darren Decker / ©A.M.P.A.S.

Oscar logo for Sunday

If you are like me, you stay up late at night and wonder what this year's Oscar ceremony graphics would look like. Well, even if you are even close to that description, I've found a picture, thanks to the Academy, of what looks like this year's logo and artwork.

I mentioned in a post earlier this week that the theme for this year's show was going to be "a rich, deep blue."

Other notes:
  • The Academy and mtvU will be announcing the Red Carpet correspondent at noon PST / 3 p.m. EST. So I'll keep you posted on the lucky team of students chosen to stand on the red carpet and interview celebs.

    The finalists will be on ET tonight, according to one of the teams.

    Also, I interviewed a very happy finalist, Megan Telles, Wednesday night and am playing to chat with the other two teams. Those interviews will be posted here this weekend.

  • I am currently editing my OSCAR® SPECIAL for my talk show and will let everyone know when it's online.

  • More prep work is being made outside the Kodak. Here are two photos:
LEFT: The red carpet is unrolled outside the Kodak Theatre Wednesday. By Matt Petit / ©A.M.P.A.S. RIGHT: Just outside the Kodak, an Oscar waits to greet the stars come Sunday. By Darren Decker / ©A.M.P.A.S.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Can this Sunday's show reverse a downward trend?

Recent ratings for the Academy Awards have been - to say the least - abysmal, a downward trend of bad to worse.

Ratings for last year's ceremony were the lowest ever, according to Nielsen figures, and down nearly 20 percent from the year before. ABC’s showing of the 80th Annual Academy Awards attracted 32 million viewers. The broadcast lasted from 8:30 to 11:38 p.m. ET (Source). The 2003 ceremony was Oscar's previous low, with 33 million viewers (Source).

An average of 39.9 million people watched the 79th annual Academy Awards two years ago, an improvement of one million viewers from the year before but still down from the '04 and '05 shows. "The Departed" took home the Best Picture Oscar. Ellen DeGeneres hosted; the show ran about three hours and 50 minutes -- the longest Oscarcast since the 2002 show, which stretched to more than four hours (Source).

According to a study by Nielsen Preview, Academy Awards viewership correlates directly with the box office draw of the best picture nominees and the popularity of the host:
During the 2004 Academy Awards (hosted by Billy Crystal), there was a 28% increase in households tuning in. This was the year that “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” was nominated (and won) best picture. A blockbuster hit, generating over $350M in revenues, the movie’s broad appeal translated to a strong ratings boost to nearly all demographics. ... The highest rating for women 18-24 was in 2007 - the year Ellen Degeneres hosted. Ellen’s appeal with women also buoyed ratings (which had fallen in prior years) among women 35-55+.

Nielsen, on its Web site, listed the most-watched Oscar broadcasts since 1974. I've posted five here, all of which aired on ABC. Look at the site for the Top 10.

1 3/23/98 Titanic 55.2
2 4/11/83 Gandhi 53.2
3 4/14/80 Kramer vs. Kramer 49.0
4 4/3/78 Annie Hall 48.5
5 4/3/78 Forrest Gump 48.3
The ceremony would need more than 46.2 million viewers to break into the Top 10. The most recent year to do that was March 26, 2000. We'll have to wait and see what the number will be. Let's hope for more than 32 millon at this point.

A preview of my talk show

Tomorrow evening, my talk show's annual Oscar® Special airs on my Web site, http://jmolnar.net/chat. We filmed the episode on Valentine's Day and our panelists had some great commentary to share.

Here is the preview:

Side note: Voting ends tomorrow evening for mtvU's Red Carpet Correspondent contest. Vote here.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

New details on set; hi-res images obtained

Poking around the Web this morning, I stumbled across the official press release (and even high resolution images!) by the Rockwell Group about the set for Sunday's ceremony, which I discussed yesterday in a post (see here).

Some more details I learned:
  • David Rockwell is the first architect to design an Oscar set

  • Designed to "create an atmosphere of an elegant party rather than a formal gathering"

  • Twelve "transforming sets" depicted throughout the night

  • Peninsula part of stage ("thrust stage") will have four steps between the sage and seating level in order to bring presenters closer to audience

  • Stage floor will be "an abstract floral pattern referencing the curve of the thrust stage"

Here are the images I found (click for larger view):
Above and to the right is the picture used on the cover of Sunday's New York Times Arts&Leisure cover. 

Above is a picture I have not seen anywhere else; it depicts eight different settings for the stage, including semi-schematics for how screens, curtains, etc. fly in from the wings and rafters. Looks a little bland to me, but we'll see the real thing come Sunday.

Any thoughts on the set, or any other Oscar news? Leave me a comment.

An observation: Kodak sign change

I was looking at Sunday and Monday's preparation photos and noticed a slight modification in the Kodak Theatre's iconic archway façade, where the stars head into the Academy Awards presentation from the red carpet.

If you look at the above photo, you'll notice "theatre" no longer in all caps and a slight modification of the word "Kodak." The logo is now in keeping with the changed Kodak logo, which was revealing at the beginning of 2006. Since the theatre opened in November 2001, the logo would need to be changed. The company paid an estimated $75 million to have its name associated with the theatre - and consequently the Oscars. (The 3,332-seat cost $94 million to build.) Thus, why wouldn't Kodak want its refreshed logo updated on the arch.

Interesting observation is all. Now you know.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Oscar set revealed in NYT article

I opened my Sunday New York Times with much surprise. Were my eyes seeing what I thought...? It was not a dream. There was the set for Sunday's 81st Annual Academy Awards ceremony, pictured grandly on the Arts&Leisure cover. Here are the details extracted from the 1,900-word article, which can be read if full here:

This year's set is designed by none other than the architect of the Kodak Theatre itself - the very place designed for the ceremony: David Rockwell. (Note NYT, its theatre, not theater.) Rockwell said he is out to "redefine the show's DNA," trying to tame the beast - "a show on television celebrating the movies in a theater," as writer Patricia Leigh Brown describes it. "It's about celebration," said Rockwell, 52. "We want to make it less a big, pre-taped package and more a live show."

Rockwell designed the set with all this in mind. The set includes a 92,000-Swarovski-crystal curtain, fluted crystal chandeliers, shifting patterns of light on the stage floor, the orchestra out of the pit and onto the stage and a "new, curvaceous thrust" (think small peninsula jutting into the audience). Presenters will have LED screen behind them creating a "visual sensation," as the write describes it:
Screens will also appear in unlikely places. In the presentation on film editing, for example, LED screens will be deployed in a kinetic, architectural way. Nineteen of them, each with a different film image, will “fly dimensionally in space,” Mr. Rockwell said, an experience meant to suggest “being in the mind of someone editing.”
This year's mantra: "More intimacy. Less multiple layers of lamé." Look for a rich, deep blue color scheme.

This set sounds and looks very intriguing. Come Sunday we'll see just how intriguing it really is.

My favorite Oscar set in memory is from 2001's ceremony, which took the theme of science-fiction film "2001: A Space Odyssey." The theme music was used and the set appeared to be a cylinder, with a huge Oscar statuette in the center.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Oscar Week begins... Some notes

Hi everyone who is reading my blog or subscribing to the RSS feed. I wanted to take moment to tell you about this upcoming (amazing) week and a little bit about myself.

First, if you're subscribing to my RSS feed, try to visit my actual page at least daily. I will be posting videos and other media onto this page; however, some content might not appear in the RSS feed (or on Facebook, for example) because I will be using the sidebar to the left. So please, come visit the Web page.

Second, I will be posting anything and everything related to the Academy Awards - from the setup and the secrets to the red carpet. If I miss anything, comment and fill me in. Also, follow me on Twitter (jamesamolnar) this weekend for the latest news.

Finally, I want to prove myself to you about why I should be your source for Oscar news:
  • I've been watching, taping and rewatching the ceremonies for nearly a decade;
  • I have bought every ceremony poster (except one) since they were made available to the public in 2000;
  • I vehemently follow all Academy news throughout the year and plan my life around the Academy Awards;
  • Lastly, my friends and I were bleacher seat fans for last year's red carpet;
    AND I was even interviewed by Regis Philbin during the pre-show.

Enough with that, it's time to cover the 81st Annual Academy Awards. I'll post tonight with a sneak peek at this year's set. See you then.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Chicago exhibition opens

Academy President Sid Ganis was in Chicago Friday to open the "Meet the Oscars, Chicago" exhibition. He was at The Shops at North Bridge on Michigan Avenue downtown.

All Chicago people need to see this! My friends and I went to the one adjacent to the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood last year. It was awesome to be able to hold an Oscar statuette - albeit for a limited time. Make sure you get there quick, though. Remember, this is the only exhibit this year so it will probably be packed.

The exhibition closes next Sunday, Feb. 22nd (Oscar Sunday). Hours are Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is free.

The president of the statuette maker, R.S. Owens, Scott Siegel helped cut the ribbon.

Other notes:

  • Some singing drama, as reported by E!: Peter Gabriel announced to Laurence Mark, producer of this year's ceremony, that he will be attending the Oscars, but he won't be performing during the Best Song medley with "Jai Ho" and "O Saya," both from Slumdog Millionaire. Gabriel was asked to cut his almost six-minute song to a measly 65 seconds. (I will agree with him there. It's only three songs, but I guess we'll have to wait and see what Mark has planned.)

    "We completely get where's he's coming from," Mark said of Gabriel to E!. "It wasn't any sort of bad blood going on. It was just a difference of opinion of how he felt things needed to be done."

  • We filmed the Oscar® Special for my talk show, "Chatting up a STORM." The special airs this Friday on http://jmolnar.net/chat. Also, check out a new episode, entitled "Rethink." and inspired by the blog, this Monday evening. Our special guest tells Sarah and me some ways to rethink how to live a life.

That's all for now. Check back for more news and notes as the ceremony gets closer. I'll post behind-the-scene photos and news on preparations in Hollywood.


Photo of Chicago exhibition: Richard Harbaugh / ©A.M.P.A.S.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Preshow hosts named

Tim Gunn, Robin Roberts and Jess Cagle with host the 30-minute red carpet show, the Academy announced Wednesday.

Executive producer Robert Morton announced the first-time hosts for show, which airs on ABC beginning at 8 p.m. EST., prior to the 81st Academy Awards® presentation.

Gunn, as the press release stated, is chief creative officer at Liz Claiborne Inc. and well known for his co-hosting of the Emmy®-nominated program “Project Runway."

Roberts is a “Good Morning America” anchor and has traveled from the Mississippi Gulf Coast to the Persian Gulf covering a wide array of topics. She was a commentator and contributor to ESPN before joining ABC News.

Cagle is the managing editor of Entertainment Weekly and the former executive editor of People. He contributes to CBS News and has appeared on “Today” and “20/20.”

That's all we know for now.


Monday, February 09, 2009

Top three announced for mtvU contest

My predictions last night were correct. mtvU announced the finalists for its red carpet correspondent contest, in association with the Academy. They are as follows: Megan Telles, sophomore - San Diego State University; Justin Shackil, senior - Fordham University; and Faheem Ahmed, senior - Rice University.

The latter in the list was no. 9 on my list, but hey, he got the votes. The person that's missing is my no. 1 pick - David Distenfeld, junior- Duke University. He would have been great, but alas, the people decided.

Voting begins here today and ends around 5 p.m. EST on Friday, February 20, 2009. That's a long voting period.

I will try to interview Telles for sure, maybe Shackil and Ahmed.

Good luck finalists! Get out the vote!

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Scientific and Technical Awards given out last night

Last night, Jessica Biel, pictured, hosted the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Scientific and Technical Achievement Awards in Beverly Hills. Set was nice. Congrats to all those honored last night.

Other notes:
  • Tomorrow we find out the three finalists for mtvU's Oscar® Correspondent Contest, and consequently voting opens for them. So far, this is what I know: Don't look for Nick Maslow, but look for one of my favs Megan Telles. (Can't tell you how I know...) Here's hoping good news was given to David Distenfeld, but he removed his entry video from YouTube so I'm not thinking that's a good sign... Good luck to my other top five picks, Justin Shackil and Dylan Steinberg.
  • Academy Award-winner Jennifer Hudson performed on the Grammys this evening. She brought down the house! You could see the emotion on her face.
  • The Orange British Academy Film Awards took place tonight at the Royal Opera House in London. Award winners included "Slumdog Millionaire" for Best Film (note: the nominees were exactly the same was Oscar's Best Picture noms); Danny Boyle won for directing "Slumdog"; interesting - Martin McDonagh won for his original screenplay of "In Bruges"; "Slumdog" for adapted screenplay; and for actors: Mickey Rourke, Kate Winslet, Heath Ledger and Penélope Cruz. See full winners here. Here is a recap, thanks to itn:

That's all for now. Check back tomorrow for more news and notes.

Photo of Jessica Biel: Todd Wawrychuk / ©A.M.P.A.S.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Oscar Sunday: 15 Days to go

Here is a video I saw on OSCAR.com that is getting me pumped for the big night.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Oscar® Notes - Feb. 4th

With 18 days until the 81st Annual Academy Awards (on Feb. 22nd) and just about three days left until voting closes for the mtvU Oscars Correspondont Contest (this Friday around 5 p.m. ET), I thought it would be appropriate to discuss odds and ends...

Event news
  • In a New York Times article published Monday ("Oscars Suspense: Will People Watch?"), writer Michael Cieply discusses the secrets behind this year's ceremony and building pressure on the Academy to get more viewers to watch. Worth the read.
  • Jessica Biel will host the Academy’s Scientific and Technical Awards on Saturday, February 7, at the Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills.
  • The "Oscars Live Challenge" on OSCAR.COM went live earlier this week. Here, you can predict the winners and the during the ceremony answers questions for more points. There have not been any prizes announced for a possible nationwide winner, but maybe the Academy might not be offer a cool incentive this year.
  • Nominees for this year's Oscars got together at Beverly Hilton Monday for a luncheon, where Academy President Sid Ganis handed each nominee an official certificate of nomination.

Correspondent Semi-Finalists
After publishing a comprehensive post about the 10 semi-finalists last week, I contacted my top five and asked them their thoughts on being chosen and what they thought about my commentary.

I'll start, appropriately, with my no. 5 pick, Nick Maslow, senior - University of Miami. He commented on my blog post and discussed why he should be a correspondent despite the great interviews he showcased in his videos.

"I must say that for every good interview I showed, there were a handful of times when I spent hours preparing for an interview or event and left empty handed," he wrote in his comment, which can viewed in full here.
I was one of those kids in high school that no one thought would ever do anything with his life. I want to win this competition to inspire teens to not take 'no' for an answer and to challenge themselves. I want to show them that they can start off small by writing for their local newspapers and hopefully gain enough experience to someday report from the red carpet at the Oscars.
Link: Facebook Group

At no. 4 is cool hair Dylan Steinberg, senior - Drexel University, who seems very down-to-earth. Reacting to what I said about "a smug look on his face," he replied: "I totally agree about the smug faces haha. We did the whole thing pretty much improv, so it was fun to just be goofy the whole time."

This is what happened when he learned he was semi-finalist:
When I got the call I freaked out. Everything was amazing in that moment. I threw my bag on the couch, screamed my head off, "Unbelievable....AHHHHH." And then I jumped on my organ I got for free on Craigslist and played improvisational tunes about getting top 10. It was a feeling I haven't felt since I was cast in an AOL commercial back when I was 11.

I am really excited to find out who's going to LA. I've gotten some really supportive feedback and people seem really proud so far. I just hope to be on the red carpet or even just LA, enjoying the opportunity of a lifetime!

Next on my list is Justin Shackil, senior - Fordham University. While his opening was a little weird for me, the interviews that followed were well-done and the editing helped create what I called "a cohesive package."

Here is what Justin thought of the other videos and who he would like to see the final three:
Ok my thoughts on the semi-final round: I don't get why some kids ranted off their resume in the video. With all due respect, I as the viewer could care less. The whole point of the video is to SHOW what you can do. I understand thats hard in 2 minutes, but thats where creativity comes in. Some of the videos I thought were cheezy, and some others were boring. I did like Megan's video and I did like Dylan's. Other than those, I didn't think the others were all that special.

If I was to decide, I would select myself, Megan and Dylan (in no particular order).
Link: Facebook Group

The no. 2 spot belongs to Megan Telles, sophomore - San Diego State University; Justin seems to agree with this. This spunky candidate had some great moments in her video, including a part where she discusses going on a "Road Trip!" with her partner Andrew, who it used a Sony CineAlta EX1 camera to record the submitted video, according to YouTube - that's a $6,000 camera! That's why the video looked so nice...

Here are Megan's thoughts:
WOW - thank you so much for ranking me as #2 and having great things to say about mine and Andrews piece. We were notified about the competition the night before and we seriously pulled through and made it to the top 10. We finished editing at 2:00pm on the 23rd, when it was due at 3:00 pm - so you can only imagine how excited we are to have made it this far. I read through your entire blog and I am very impressed by your input with all the contestants who made it through. I must say - I agree with most everything you have to say.

As you mentioned, I am VERY passionate about getting the hands on experience that I feel a college kid who has NOT been able to get opportunities thus far deserves. I only wish I had some of the interviews, internships and celebrity interactions that some of the contestants have had - which is why I feel that this is a great opportunity for a girl who has not yet fulfilled her dreams of making it to LA! I have had lots of support from family, friends, professors, colleagues and even the media here in San Diego.

I imagine SDSU is proud to hear a student has plugged a positive spotlight on SDSU, simply because we have had some negative media in the past. I am proud to prove that students attending SDSU are not completely submerged in the party scene - some of us can have fun and work hard in the direction of our dreams too :]

Well thank you so much again for the blog reviews - to be #2 on your list means alot - simply because you come off as a passionate student yourself. I encourage you to vote until Friday. Let me know if you need anything else - ok. THANK YOU!!
Links: Facebook Group, with more than 600 members | On the news | FishbowlLA Blog post | Local paper brief

Video, via YouTube:

And my no. 1 choice is David Distenfeld, junior- Duke University. As mentioned in my last post, he contacted me first and that inspired me to reach out to my others on my list. He was something he wrote about my last entry:
Wow, just read your ridiculously detailed blog entry. Glad to know you liked the snark and Slumdog reference.

By the way, I created a facebook to get out the vote (Obama-style)

Feel free to invite everyone you know and again thanks for the support.
Link: School paper story

Video, via YouTube:

Alrighty then! Those are my top 5. Go vote here. Good luck to all of the semi-finalists. I will write another post next week about the final three and try get video/audio interviews with each of them before they head out to Hollywood.