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Oscars Get a New Look, and a New Host

Hollywood’s most prestigious night will have a new look this year and a new host. In a departure from the tradition of picking American comedians, The Academy announced on Friday that Australian actor Hugh Jackman will be the host of this year’s Oscar ceremony. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that the 40 year old Australian actor would be hosting the event for the first time.

Jackman is no stranger to hosting prestigious awards ceremonies; he has hosted Broadway’s Tony awards three times. The hunky actor from “down under” currently stars in the romantic film “Australia”, and also stared in all three of the wildly popular “X-Men” movies. Last month, he was named People Magazine’s “sexiest man alive” for 2008. The producers of the Oscars, Laurence Mark and Bill Condon, said “Hugh Jackman is a consummate entertainer and an internationally renowned movie star,” and indicated that he was perfect to host this year’s show.

The producer’s choice of Jackman as the host of the event also begins a new direction for the prestigious 81 year-old ceremony. In recent years ratings for the Oscars have fallen off dramatically, prompting this year’s new direction for the show.

Oscar nominations for best movie performances of 2008 will be announced in January and the awards will be handed out by the Academy at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, California on February 22, 2009. The entire event will be televised here in the United States by ABC, and carried world-wide by no less than 50 affiliate networks.

In the past several years the Oscar’s has been hosted by a variety of stars ranging from Ellen DeGeneres, to Jon Stewart, to Chris Rock. All did an excellent job of hosting and are big stars in their own right; but the producers have expressed a desire to bring the awards out of the late-night talk show format and adopt a more spontaneous party-like atmosphere, including more music and dancing than in previous shows.

In February of 2008 the Oscars hit an all time low. The three-hour broadcast that was hosted for the second time by comedian Jon Stewart was the least-watched Oscar broadcast of all time. The ceremony received only 32 million viewers. But even though those are low numbers for an Oscar Ceremony broadcast, it still turned out to be one of the most watched U.S. television shows of the year.

The producers of the show are hoping to keep the telecast under three hours this year, while retaining the live presentations and acceptance speeches that have long been traditional at Oscar Awards Ceremonies.

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