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Cates promises Oscar surprises

New presentation formats aim to boost 'emotional' show

Oscarcast producer Gil Cates said Friday that some of Sunday’s awards will presented in a “very new and unconventional way,” but the changes were not done to grab ratings: “They were made to make a better show.”

At the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ annual pre-show press confab, Cates and the show’s director, Louis J. Horvitz, addressed the crowd, followed by Academy prexy Frank Pierson.

Cates reiterated his plan, unveiled a few weeks ago, to vary the presentation by bringing the contenders onstage for some categories, and having other awards presented in the aisles. Acting categories will be presented in the traditional way.

On Friday, Pierson acknowledged “A lot of members were concerned” that the new formats would be segregating winners, but that he likes the idea of stirring things up: “Gil has high hopes for it and so do I.”

Cates said that there was a rehearsal Thursday evening with the nominees, and everyone seemed comfortable with the innovations.

Cates said the changes were made to give all the nominees, not just the stars, more face time on television and “to make it more of an emotional show.”

As for the seven-second delay, and heavy media speculation about host Chris Rock, Cates laughed, “We have the Bleep Machine ready. Bleeps will be used as needed.” However, he added more seriously, “One of the prices you pay for democracy is that somebody says or does something spontaneous” that will offend some people. He doesn’t think censorship is the solution. “I think the time delay is a terrible idea … but it’s ABC’s network.”

A reporter said that ABC has already rated the show TV14-L, meaning only appropriate for anyone over 14, due to language. Pierson expressed surprise, saying he hadn’t heard that. “In 77 years, I don’t know that anybody’s had to take offense at anything that’s been said on the show.”

Pierson was queried about the stuntmen’s movement to get a stunt Oscar. He said, “It’s a little strange that SAG should be coming to us” about the matter, since stuntmen are SAG members and the SAG Awards haven’t recognized the category, yet is asking the Academy to do so. But Pierson saluted stuntpersons and said, “We certainly will be listening to them very seriously” when the groups confab.

Asked what the Acad officials would do if the Pope dies before Sunday’s show, Cates said it would be inappropriate to speculate, adding “I hope the pope is with us for a very, very long time.”

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