Oscar ballots due at 5 p.m. today

Academy machine running smoothly

A suspect pleaded innocent, Robin Williams will be acting innocent, and Oscar frenzy — and joking — have reached a fever pitch.

In all, things seem right on schedule: 5 p.m. today is the deadline to turn in ballots to the PricewaterhouseCoopers offices. The deadline had been extended two days, after new final ballots were mailed out earlier this month to replace wayward ones.

Tuesday, Laurence Edward Ledent, one of two Roadway Express truck drivers arrested on suspicion of stealing 55 Oscar statuettes, pleaded innocent at his Los Angeles Superior Court arraignment. A preliminary hearing is set for April 18. Ledent, 38, is being held in lieu of $20,000 bail for the alleged crime, a single count of grand theft.

The second suspect taken into custody, 38-year-old Anthony Keith Hart, was not charged because of spotty evidence, but the investigation is continuing. Of the 55 statuettes, three are still missing.

The Academy confirmed that Williams will croon “Blame Canada,” a best song nominee from “South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut.” The tune’s raunchy lyrics have caused some consternation, as its lyrics seem certain to give the show’s producers and/or censors a workout.

Without giving specifics, producers Richard and Lili Fini Zanuck have given assurances that audiences will be OK with the presentation.

At Wednesday’s Publicists Guild luncheon (see story below), honoree Chris Carter looked at his award and deadpanned, “This did not come out of no dumpster,” a reference to last week’s heist.

Also Wednesday, Antonio Banderas, Ethan Hawke, Erykah Badu and Penelope Cruz were announced as presenters.

It was also announced Wednesday that “Today” and “Good Morning America” will air live from Los Angeles on Monday with reports of Sunday night’s awards ceremony at the Shrine Auditorium. ABC will broadcasting the awards show.

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