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Viewer-savvy Delhi steals a march over Oscars
- Academy Awards' long walk to be cut short, but Republic Day parade did it first

Feb. 8: The Oscar parade is doing in February what the Republic Day parade did in January.

Starting this year, the long walk down the Oscar aisle will be a lot shorter for some Academy Awards winners ' in fact, some will not make it to the stage at all.

When Italy's Roberto Benigni was named best actor for Life is Beautiful at the 1998 Oscars, he had made an elaborate display of climbing over seats and people to get to the stage.

This time, only a chosen few will be half as lucky.

Oscars telecast producer Gil Cates today told the annual luncheon of nominees that he had major changes planned for the awards, including not inviting the victors in some categories to the stage.

Instead, Cates said they would receive their awards from a presenter parked in the audience. In other cases, all the nominees in a single category will be invited up on stage and the winner then announced.

And, finally, some nominees will get their Oscars the old-fashioned way, walking down the aisle to the stage after the envelope is opened and the name announced.

Cates said the changes for the 77th annual Academy Awards at Beverly Hills, to be broadcast on February 27, were aimed both at saving time and making sure that every nominee is seen by a worldwide television audience estimated to run into hundreds of millions.

The race to trim the Oscars to pocketsize is not much different from what happened at the Indian Republic Day celebrations a few days ago. This year, the customary two-hour parade on January 26 was cut short by 30 minutes in an effort to sustain spectator interest.

But the beginnings of the trend to cut it short had first shown up after the President's hour-long opening speech to Parliament's budget session in 2003. That year, after A.P.J. Abdul Kalam had read out his speech, deputy Bhairon Singh Shekhawat had taken the stage to plod through the Hindi translation.

Midway through the exercise, the Vice-President got cramps, broke out in a sweat and began to stagger, forcing Kalam to cut short his agony and declare the speech 'taken as read'.

Although many treasured Oscar moments have involved the trek to the stage, as in Benigni's case, the idea behind keeping it short seems somewhat similar.

Cates, who this year, as in years past, made an impassioned plea for Oscar winners to keep their acceptance speeches short, said the main reason for the change was to'get more of the nominees seen on television.'

As in earlier years, today's luncheon drew a Who's Who in Hollywood to the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

A total of 115 nominees posed for a group photo that featured Leonardo DiCaprio standing in the last row near Clint Eastwood, also up for best actor, and Morgan Freeman, up for best supporting actor. In front of them, stood Jamie Foxx nominated for best actor in Ray and that film's director, Taylor Hackford.

In the front row in front of Australian actress Cate Blanchett was diminutive British actress Imelda Staunton, up for a best actress nomination in Vera Drake, a role that is giving her international recognition for the first time.

Asked how the nomination had changed her life, Staunton dead-panned: 'I am totally changed. I won't do any domestic duties at all.'

And then when asked if the nomination had led to her being offered more roles, the 49-year-old actress said: 'I bloody well hope it does. I'd like to think I am an actress in mid-career, not at the end of one.'

Written with agency reports

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