LOS ANGELES, March 20 (UPI) -- Instead of walking the traditional red carpet, celebrities will be walking a fine line Sunday at the 75th Anniversary Academy Awards in Hollywood.
When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences decided this week to dispense with the glamorous pre-Oscars arrival scene, it was tantamount to a concession that the red carpet would have been covered with eggshells anyway. Even if celebrities could manage to get from the curb to the Kodak Theatre without breaking any shells, no one was going to look good trying.
The arrivals are all about looking good. They're not supposed to be a high-wire act.
Celebrities and their management teams are well aware of the risk attached to exposure in front of the year's largest aggregation of entertainment media.
Movie stars -- even second-tier stars -- are photographed multiple thousands of times every time they have a new release. Experience informs them that somewhere in the phalanx of photographers, an open shutter will catch them presenting an unflattering image whether they mean it or not.
Tabloid photos of glamorous leading ladies looking frumpy -- or worse -- are not uncommon. Imagine someone catching a photo at Sunday's Academy Awards in which a celebrity appears to be celebrating a little too much -- or not displaying a sufficiently serious countenance.
That's all Hollywood needs, considering how many Americans already equate the entertainment business with the anti-war movement.
There is still a question whether the academy should present the Oscars at all on Sunday. Of course it should -- barring catastrophic developments in the Middle East in the interim.
This is, after all, Oscar's diamond jubilee.
It is important to remember that the Academy Awards are not just a big Hollywood party. They are also recognition of achievement -- although the annual selections are always debatable.
Rewarding achievement is a central American value -- one that, presumably, is being defended in Operation Iraqi Liberty.
Some are concerned that Oscar presenters and winners will exploit the opportunity to use the microphone to grind some political ax or another.
Telecast producer Gil Cates has made it plain that presenters are not to deviate from the prepared script, but winners are free to use their 45 seconds any way they want. It is possible that some presenters might actually place anti-war politics above their obligation to stick to the script -- and of course, if any of them do, that would be news.
The show is scheduled to run three-and-a-half hours. Give that much TV time to that many extroverted people, and it's almost inevitable that someone will do or say something to upset a few viewers.
Cates has said more than once that the Oscars always reflect the times in which they are presented and this year is no exception. That probably means viewers will see a balancing act -- with performers searching for the proper blend of muted elation and reverence for the life-and-death circumstances facing combatants and bystanders in Iraq.
They want to provide viewers with some escape from the harsh realities of life, but simultaneously show a proper appreciation of reality. Fortunately for the academy, blending escapism with realism is a specialty of Hollywood's. Unfortunately, it is a difficult trick even under routine circumstances -- which, by the way, explains why there are so many mediocre-to-awful movies.
There is widespread concern in Hollywood that the rest of the world will somehow not appreciate it if the Oscars are seen as a "business-as-usual" deal. Therefore, stars will dress down -- but not too much -- and an appropriately serious tone is likely to dominate the telecast.
Hollywood will do its best -- provided the show actually goes on Sunday -- to entertain its audience with a slightly bowed head.
Given that Sept. 11, 2001, changed everything, one wonders whether the subdued look will become a permanent feature of the Academy Awards. Given that the war on terror promises to endure indefinitely, one wonders what the world will be like -- and what the Academy Awards will look like -- when Oscar reaches 100.