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Brevity Is Key To Oscar Show

March 15, 1985|MICHAEL LONDON | Times Staff Writer

Fresh, new, bright, entertaining, sparkling, short .

Those unlikely adjectives are a few of the favorite words chosen by Gregory Peck, Larry Gelbart, Robert Wise and Gene Allen to describe their plans for the 57th Annual Academy Awards March 25.

Speaking at an informal breakfast at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences Thursday, the show's four producers provided the first glimpse of this year's innovative Oscar-by-committee approach. Screenwriter Gelbart ("Tootsie") has script duties (with a waiver from the striking Writers Guild of America). Peck is the celebrity liaison. Director Wise is the artistic overseer. And Academy President Allen is functioning as chairman of the board.

Last year's Oscar show generated disappointing ratings, some harsh reviews from TV critics and an unusual degree of discontent within the academy. Too long, too lackluster and too disorganized, many groused.

Allen discounted those criticisms Thursday, saying that the academy received "thousands of letters to the contrary." Nonetheless, the blueprint for this year's affair is decidedly slicker and more streamlined.

Brevity is the key. Ten celebrity co-hosts will be introduced at the top of the show, saving transition time later on. Nominees will be shown a "warm-up tape" before the show emphasizing the need for short acceptance speeches; long-winded winners will be reined in with a bank of red lights that begin flashing after 30 seconds and hold threatingly at the 45-second mark. "We have means of making people not talk," Gelbart quipped.

Oscars to films with multiple winners will be accepted by a "designated spokesperson" this year, Allen added. The producers hope that the time-saving measures will have East Coast viewers "in bed by the Cinderella hour"--lopping off more than 60 minutes from last year's epic.

The cast of this year's show emphasizes film celebrities over TV personalities and recording artists. "Emcee" Johnny Carson has been replaced with "host" Jack Lemmon. Actress Ann Reinking was chosen to sing best-song nominee "Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)" over composer-singer Phil Collins, who reportedly rearranged his tour schedule under the assumption that he would be invited. Peck explained that the producers wanted to use "as many film people as possible."

Ten co-hosts will each present two awards: Amy Irving, Diana Ross, Tom Selleck, Kathleen Turner, Jeff Bridges, Glenn Close, Gregory Hines, Candice Bergen, William Hurt and Michael Douglas.

Presenting one award each will be Reinking, Steve Martin, Genevieve Bujold, Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Robert Duvall, Lawrence Olivier, Jennifer Beals, Linda Hunt, Steven Spielberg, Shirley MacLaine, Placido Domingo and Kelly LeBrock. Cary Grant will present a special award to James Stewart.

The producers promised an updated visual look for this year's production numbers. Behind-the-scenes personnel include costume designer Theoni Aldredge ("The Great Gatsby"), choreographer Scott Salmon (Broadway's "La Cage aux Folles") and art director Rene Lagler (the Opening and Closing Olympics Ceremonies).

JOCKEY TIME: Spring may be in the air, but studio executives are getting their first peek at many summer releases. Rumors about the good, the bad and the ugly are under way, along with high-stakes jockeying for slots on the summer release schedule.

The buzz is especially loud on "Cocoon," the Ron Howard-directed saga about visitors from a distant galaxy who find allies in an elderly Florida resort community. "Cocoon" was intended for Christmas release until 20th Century Fox's new management team, short of product from their predecessors, moved it to July 19. After a rough-cut screening, "Cocoon" was bumped to June 21, giving it the platform for a summer-long run.

George Lucas' Industrial Light and Magic has accelerated special-effects work to meet the June date, which "Cocoon" shares with "The Bride" and "Return to Oz."

Orion Pictures, encouraged by early previews, recently moved "Secret Admirer" from July 19 to June 14. That pits the modestly budgeted comedy against such May-June attractions as James Bond ("A View to a Kill"), Sylvester Stallone ("Rambo"), Clint Eastwood ("Pale Rider"), John Travolta ("Perfect") and the Steven Spielberg-produced "Goonies."

"Back to the Future," a second Spielberg production, was pushed back from June to late July after a change of lead actors four weeks into shooting.

MORE 'MASK': Peter Bogdanovich's battle to get seven Bruce Spingstreen songs onto the disputed sound track of "Mask" has taken two new twists. CBS Records and Springsteen, according to a Bogdanovich release, have agreed to let Universal Pictures use the songs for free at two paid performances of "Mask" so that audiences can "decide which version is better, ours or theirs." Universal has not responded.

Also, a number of Bogdanvich's prominent colleagues have signed a letter to Universal protesting what they call the studio's "censorship" of the director's cut. Director Henry Jaglom, who initiated the letter, said that the signatures include Woody Allen, Martin Brest, Budd Boetticher, Frank Capra, John Cassavetes, Milos Forman, Sam Fuller, John Huston, Gene Kelly, John Landis, Jack Nicholson, Ivan Passer, Don Siegel, Billy Wilder and Fred Zinnemann.

'PORKY' PR: It's being billed as the grossest publicity stunt in memory: 35 rival UCLA fraternity brothers will compete in a rib-eating contest at Baxter's in Westwood in celebration of "Porky's Revenge," opening next Friday. Preliminaries are Monday. The top seven competitors will chow off on Wednesday. The first two "Porky" films, speaking of gross, took in a total of $140 million.

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