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It paid off last year, when the low-budget Iraq War drama “The Hurt Locker” beat sci-fi behemoth “Avatar” for best picture. TV viewers totaled 41.7 million, up 15 percent from the previous year and the biggest Oscar audience in five years.

This time, Oscar planners cast youthful hosts Hathaway and Franco (also a best-actor nominee for “127 Hours”) and promised exotic visuals as backdrops to the ceremony. They also stepped up pressure for winners to keep speeches short and sharp, rather than intone long thank-you lists.

Still, a fair number of winners used much of their time thanking agents, managers and other industry colleagues.

Backstage, Bale fretted that he might have forgotten to thank his co-stars in his acceptance speech. Reporters assured him he had.