- The Washington Times - Friday, February 22, 2008

Bring on the Oscars

It looked as if this year’s Oscar ceremony might never happen.

About 10,500 members of the Writers Guild of America walked off the job on Nov. 5, throwing into disarray the awards season, which runs from December through Sunday night’s Oscar presentation. Gala dinners and ceremonies honoring films and their makers were canceled or changed drastically.

However, the strike ended one week ago, and Oscar organizers are promising a traditional ceremony for a global TV audience with big stars, dazzling fashion and, hopefully, memorable winners.

Come Sunday, about 5,800 voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will anoint one film as their favorite among nominees, which include the crime drama “No Country for Old Men,” the teen pregnancy comedy “Juno,” the epic morality tale “There Will Be Blood,” the legal drama “MIchael Clayton” and the romantic tragedy “Atonement.”

With a fresh crew of writers, Oscar host Jon Stewart hopes to keep audiences laughing through the three-hour live telecast (airing at 8 on ABC from Hollywood’s Kodak Theatre).

Still, the strike appears to have taken its toll.

Ads touting the ceremony — whose viewing numbers have waned in recent years even before the strike — have been sporadic at best, including those on host network ABC. Moreover, the network’s “The 27th Annual Barbara Walters Oscar Special” (7 p.m.) this year features only one nominee — Ellen Page of “Juno.” Besides Miss Page, Babs’ other guests include Harrison Ford, who recalls his past glories and expresses his thrill at playing Indiana Jones again; “Ugly Betty” star Vanessa Williams, who discusses her role as the conniving Wilhelmina Slater on the ABC hit; and teen sensation Miley Cyrus, who discusses what it’s like to have a hit TV show, the country’s No. 1 film and a best-selling tour at the tender age of 15. (Mr. Ford and young Miley will be presenters during the telecast.)

Then it’s on to the main event, hosted by “The Daily Show’s” Mr. Stewart.

Among the Oscar presenters: last year’s quartet of Oscar-winning actors, Alan Arkin (“Little Miss Sunshine”), Jennifer Hudson (“Dreamgirls”), Helen Mirren (“The Queen”) and Forest Whitaker (“The Last King of Scotland”). Also: Amy Adams, Jessica Alba, Cate Blanchett, Josh Brolin, Steve Carell, George Clooney, Penelope Cruz, Patrick Dempsey, Cameron Diaz, Colin Farrell, Jennifer Garner, Tom Hanks, Anne Hathaway, Katherine Heigl, Jonah Hill, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Nicole Kidman, James McAvoy, Queen Latifah, Seth Rogen, Martin Scorsese, Hilary Swank, John Travolta, Denzel Washington and Renee Zellweger.

In Sunday’s other Oscar-related programming:

• Cable’s Biography channel starts its Oscar salute/countdown earlier in the day, beginning with a 9:30 a.m. telecast of the Oscar-winning film “Monster’s Ball,” followed by hour-long programs on past Oscar winners (Halle Berry at noon, Hillary Swank at 1 p.m. and Denzel Washington at 2 p.m.). The special “Race to the Red Carpet: Oscar Nominations” — a celebration of 2007’s acclaimed films and nominees — airs at 3 p.m.

• ”Live From the Red Carpet,” hosted on E! by Ryan Seacrest and Giuliana Rancic, begins at 6 p.m.

Weekend highlights

Tonight

BET Honors ( 8 p.m.): The BET Honors may not have the hype of the Oscars, but the first-ever event (taped at the Warner Theatre last month) is every bit as glamorous. Cedric the Entertainer hosts the presentation honoring six black notables — supermodel-turned-producer-and-talk-show host Tyra Banks; Grammy winner Alicia Keys; business owner Janice Bryant Howroyd; former Time Warner Chief Executive Officer and current Board Chairman Richard D. Parsons; Rep. Maxine Waters, California Democrat; and scholar Cornel West. Jill Scott, Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight, John Legend and Brian McKnight are among the stellar lineup of performers.

Bill Moyers’ Journal (9 p.m., WETA-Channel 26): The veteran journalist returns to PBS with a weekly public affairs series. The broadcast profiles Seattle Times reporters on the trail of how members of Congress have awarded federal dollars for questionable purposes to companies in local congressional districts — often to companies whose executives, employees or political action committees have made campaign contributions to the legislators.

Tomorrow

Joe Louis: America’s Hero … Betrayed (8 p.m., HBO): The grandson of slaves, Joe Louis became America’s first black sports star to be worshipped by both black and white fans, but he was a great man done wrong, this HBO documentary says. From the Great Depression through World War II and into the 1950s, heavyweight champ Joe Louis was a symbol of America, but after spending four years in the U.S. Army and working for the government to raise money for the war, Mr. Louis found himself in financial distress — and was harassed by the Internal Revenue Service. He looked forward to a quiet, pleasant life after the war, says biographer Christopher Mead, “but the minute he got out of the Army he was done financially.”

Saturday Night Live(11:30 p.m., NBC): Sidelined for four months by the writers strike, the venerable sketch show returns with alumna Tiny Fey as host and Grammy winner Carrie Underwood as the musical guest.

Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse from staff and wire reports.


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