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War or no war, the show will go on

Los Angeles, March 23 (Reuters): Hollywood forged ahead with final preparations for the 75th annual Academy Awards, the traditional high point of the film year that is fighting not to become a casualty of war with Iraq.

Award organisers said they were proceeding as planned with Sunday’s (early Monday morning in India) ceremony despite the escalating combat and attention turned to such unexpected concerns as what should the stars wear in wartime and what should they say — or as the Los Angeles Times noted, the search was on for what was “appropriate” given the world situation.

Frank Pierson, president of the Academy of Motions Pictures Arts and Sciences, told reporters the answer to the question “will the show go on'” was “yes”.

Organisers said it was now “more important than ever” to honour American culture, but added that they were monitoring the military campaign in Iraq on an hourly basis.

And so, despite the withdrawal of scheduled presenter and former best actor nominee Will Smith, who was reluctant to attend in light of the war, other stars focused on 11th-hour switching to more muted sartorial choices.

Get ready for simple, sober and black to prevail where once ruled red sequins, gold lame and dripping diamonds. White swan dresses will be relegated to next year — or perhaps never.

This year’s hot accessory, apparently, will be the peace sign, with stars such as Dustin Hoffman and double-nominee Julianne Moore expected to don some form of the 1960s-era relic, or even swatches of duct tape.

That bit of anti-fashion is a sly reference to the government’s suggestion several weeks ago that citizens buy duct tape to seal their windows from airborne poisons.

Other changes include the Academy’s decision earlier this week to put its red carpet in mothballs, saying many stars felt uncomfortable with the glitz and glamour of parading before the media while allied soldiers are dying.

Most parties are going ahead, but the media has been barred from covering them in a bid, perhaps, to cover-up the frivolity that has marked them in past years.

The question marks hanging over the ceremony could prove a ratings boon, as viewers tune in to see, for example, whether outspoken star Susan Sarandon will use her moments as an award presenter to blast the Iraq war.

Organisers say she and other presenters will toe the line and, as the good actors they are, stick to the script

Similarly, nominees David Hare and Stephen Daldry (screenwriter and director of The Hours) and Michael Moore (best documentary favourite Bowling for Columbine) have been quite outspoken about their opposition to the war.

The Oscars show has never been cancelled in its 75-year history, but has been thrice postponed, in 1938 because of floods in Los Angeles, in 1968 after the assassination of Dr Martin Luther King Jr, and because of the shooting of President Ronald Reagan in 1981.

Bush blasted

Hollywood launched another strike against the Iraqi war yesterday during a politically charged ceremony that could serve as a prelude for even more fireworks at the Academy Awards.

In a star-studded luncheon at the Independent Spirit Awards, the arthouse movie industry’s version of the Oscars, celebrities blasted US President George W. Bush and the American-led war against Iraq.

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