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Oscars: What to expect from the show

Read about what the stars will eat, where it’s happening and what it will look like

Image Credit: Brian J. Ritchie/Hotsauce / Rex
Mandatory Credit: Photo by Brian J. Ritchie/Hotsauce / Rex Features (1431759an)Adele‘The Jonathan Ross Show’ TV Programme, London, Britain - 03 Sep 2011

The food: more vegan!

Hollywood’s elite will chow down on vegan pizza and kale salad in addition to the traditional smoked salmon Oscars at the annual Governor’s Ball after the Academy Awards ceremony, says celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck.

Unveiling his menu for the year’s biggest movie party, Puck said chicken pot pie with shaved black truffles, mini Kobe burgers, Japanese baby peach salad, steamed red snapper with Thai spice, tuna Nicoise and his signature gold-dusted mini-chocolate Oscars also would be served.

Puck’s menu could be the first chance for many of the 1,500 attendees to eat since breakfast, as nominees and presenters stave off food in order to squeeze in to fitted gowns and tuxedos for the televised red carpet arrivals and ceremony.

“Nobody eats lunch that day, so by nine o’clock, anybody who would be on a diet is no longer on that diet,” Puck said.

Puck, who this year is marking his 19th year catering the ball, and chef Matt Bencivenga will serve over 50 dishes from hors d’oeuvres and entrees that will be served on small plates throughout the evening.

The master chef told Reuters there will also be a strong focus this year on vegan dishes, including pizza, kale salad with grilled artichoke, and a beet salad with spiced walnut among others.

“If they don’t find something to eat, then they are really finicky,” joked Puck.

About 300 of Puck’s staff will be in the kitchen and 650 on the dining room floor, which will be laid out with small tables and booths to create a party atmosphere rather than a black tie dinner, according to Puck.

Puck said food preparation will start a few days before the event, with the making of dishes like smoked salmon and tortellini, but “we cook everything as if we were cooking for an intimate party of 25 — everything at the last moment.”

The set: lights, camera, action!

This year’s Oscar set designer Derek McLane didn’t have to look far for inspiration. McLane, a Tony Award-winning set designer who has crafted the scenery for such Broadway shows as ‘33 Variations’, ‘I Am My Own Wife’, ‘The Heiress’ and the upcoming ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’, stole an idea from his own New York apartment — an installation of 35 industrial lamps on a wall, each in its own cubbyhole, backed by an antique mirror.

“They’re all slightly different and they’re objects you wouldn’t think of as warm or romantic, but in a pattern, they create an almost lush backdrop to the room,” said McLane. “That kind of tension between an ordinary object and the patterns you can create with them is interesting.”

The designer also built multiple movable screens into the sets to incorporate film imagery and relied on materials such as aluminium and light bulbs to create looks for the show’s 12 acts.

“Show producers Neil Meron and Craig Zadan said, ‘We don’t want you to try to make this look like another Oscar show,’” he said. “‘Make this look like your own work.’ And they singled out some of the more abstract, interesting Broadway sets I’d designed. It really freed me up.”

Coming from live theatre and set designing his first Academy Awards, McLane said he was conscious of the show’s twin aims — engaging the 3,400 people in the theatre and entertaining the wider public watching at home.

In terms of set design, that meant thinking of visuals that would be beautiful both in camera close-ups and from the last row of the theatre.

“We really want the show to play well in the house,” McLane said. “This is a TV show watched by millions of people, but it’s also really important that it’s a good show for the people in the theatre. It’s their night. The better job we do for the people in the room, the more I think the people at home will feel it.”

The venue: sounds good!

Dolby is ready for its first date with Oscar. The Academy Awards will be broadcast from the Dolby Theatre for the first time since the audio-visual technology company plastered its name and logo on the awards venue last summer. While the 11-year-old space mostly looks the same as it has in years past, Dolby has diligently worked for the past seven months to ensure it will sound different come Sunday.

The posh 3,400-seat theatre at the Hollywood & Highland Centre has served as the Oscars’ home since 2002 (the Kodak name was dropped from the venue last year after a bankruptcy judge approved the early exit of the Eastman Kodak Co. from the 20-year naming rights deal it signed in 1999).

In preparation for the star-studded ceremony, Dolby outfitted the theatre with all of its audio-visual gizmos and plans to update the space with new technologies as they become available. David Gray, Dolby’s vice president of content services, noted the biggest technical challenge was mounting 187 new speakers in the theatre. One of Dolby’s main goals for the Oscar ceremony is to make sure that the entire show will be broadcast in Dolby Surround 5.1, including every film clip and pre-taped segment.

Dolby updated the theatre’s look too. Beyond scads of new signage, including renaming the ballroom outside the theatre after founder Ray Dolby, the company gave a makeover to the VIP lobby lounge, adding glowing tables and walls accented with the rectangular Dolby logo, as well as a curved ceiling sculpture inspired by the look of a sound wave.

The show: less boring!

The producers of the Academy Awards have good news for those watching at home: They’re trying to cut out the boring parts.

Oscar producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron say they watched 40 years of past ceremonies to finds ways to keep the show moving at a brisk pace. They say they are looking to nip and tuck unnecessary moments that can turn the show into a marathon.

Zadan and Meron said they identified time-consuming segments that might run only 15 or 30 seconds but which collectively can bog down the show. In some years, the Oscars have run to a ponderous four hours or more.

“We’re learning a lot about the things that we don’t need in the show,” Zadan said. “The main goal is to honour the nominees and the winners. And then beside that, there’s a lot of pregnant pauses that you get in the show. ... We’ve scooped out a lot of those pauses and created more time for performance and entertainment.”

They plan to pay tribute to movie musicals in this year’s telecast, which will showcase ‘Les Miserables’, ‘Chicago’ and ‘Dreamgirls’, and include performances by Barbra Streisand and Adele, as well as a tribute to the James Bond franchise.