Oscar countdown begins in Hollywood

Mon Feb 18, 2008 9:04am EST
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By Bob Tourtellotte

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - It is Oscar week in Hollywood, and after three months in the dark winter of a bitter labor strike, the movie industry finally has something to celebrate -- itself.

This Sunday, the world's top film awards get under way with a full array of stars such as George Clooney and Cate Blanchett parading up the red carpet outside the Kodak Theatre where Academy Award nominees hope to be named best actor or actress.

Some 5,800 voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will anoint one film as their favorite among nominees that include crime drama "No Country for Old Men" and teen pregnancy comedy "Juno."

With a fresh crew of writers, Oscar host Jon Stewart hopes to keep audiences laughing through the three-hour live telecast.

"Here we are. After a long winter, comes the spring and now the summer," said Oscar producer Gil Cates. "It's been a terrible three months."

Some 10,500 members of the Writers Guild of America walked off the job on November 5, throwing into disarray the awards season that runs from December through the February 24 Oscars.

Gala dinners and ceremonies honoring films and their makers were canceled or changed drastically. January's glitzy Golden Globe Awards turned into a news conference watched by about a quarter of the typical audience of 20 million viewers.

But the strike ended one week ago, and Oscar organizers are promising a traditional ceremony for a global TV audience with big stars, dazzling fashion and, hopefully, memorable winners.   Continued...

<p>A large Oscar statue is carried along the red carpet outside the Kodak Theater in Hollywood, February 25, 2005. REUTERS/Sam Mircovich SSM</p>