What changes are actually planned for this year's Oscars?

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Hugh Jackman is a showman, not a comedian. Can he keep the Oscars from flagging this year? (AP file)

At yesterday's annual Oscar nominees luncheon, Academy president Sid Ganis seemed to actually be warning the entertainers gathered for the photo op that this year's Oscars ceremony will be "truly different" and "a show that takes some risks." "Stay alert," he said, adding: "You're in for a big surprise."

Like what changes, exactly? Well, on that point he's been positively coy. We hear this every year, of course, particularly in recent ones as viewership of the telecast has dropped like, well, a gold-plated Oscar (last year's TV audience was a record low: 32 million). But this year -- for good or ill -- there might actually be some serious changes.

Here's what we can piece together as to how the show might actually take a left turn ...

New blood
The producers of this year's show are newbies: Laurence Mark and Bill Condon. They've never produced the show before. They're best known for producing musicals, like 2006's "Dreamgirls," which launched the career of Chicago's Jennifer Hudson when she won the Oscar for her role in the movie.

Stands to reason that new blood would think and do differently. But in a recent interview, the pair was similarly vague about the coming changes, promising only that they're "tossing aside tradition in favor of surprise" and offering no concrete details. The interviewer, though (as recapped here), noted that "there also won't be the same old opening monologue, endless movie clips, an abundance of canned segments, silly prefab presenter banter and embarrassing interruptions of impassioned speeches." Mark added: "The only thing you must do is give all the awards out live onstage. You have to respect that. But there are many ways to do that, mind you."

No red carpet?!
Relax -- of course, there will be a red carpet. The trick is: You might not see everyone on it. Since the producers announced a while back that viewers will not know who the awards presenters are until showtime, they thus plan to keep a few of them secret -- which means they'll have to hustle them in a back door and not parade them down the crimson wave.

Maybe the show will be not only funnier but more creative this year. Bruce Vilanch, a longtime writer for the show, will not just be penning gags for the celebrities. This year he's been elevated to a "serious creative contributor," according to the New York Times.

Song and dance man
Instead of comedians warming up the crowd and keeping the show going, this year's host is Hugh Jackman. And, no, there's no opening Billy Crystal-esque medley planned. In fact, there's no opening monologue at all.

Looking ahead, not just back
The Times also reports that the producers "are even trying to liven up the proceedings by asking studios and others to provide scenes from future films." The plan: as the credits roll at the end of the show, scenes from upcoming movies of 2009 will be shown on a split screen.

Hmmm. Mark has said before that he and Condon want the telecast "to be more of a party and a celebration." Indeed, if the Oscars are more like the Golden Globes, we're there.

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