Boycotts and thank yous: 5 changes to watch for on Oscar night

With accusations of race- and age-based discrimination swirling around the Academy Awards this year, there are a number of changes in store for Sunday's big Oscar night.

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Here are five things to watch for at the 88th annual Academy Awards.

1. Thank God for shorter speeches

There should be no long-winded rants from actors thanking their agents, their producers, their parents or their god of choice on Sunday. The Academy has tightened up rules for Oscar acceptance speeches, nixing spoken thank yous and replacing them with a simple credit scroll.

Nominees have been asked to write up a list of people to thank ahead of time, which will run as text along the bottom of the broadcast if they win. The acknowledgements will also appear on screens displayed at the Academy Awards venue.

Winners will still have an opportunity to speak, but they'll be encouraged to stick to one quick "thank you" before moving on to other comments.

The change is designed to cut down on one of the more tedious elements of the awards show, while possibly reducing the need for music to interrupt a winner's speech.

Many winners have gone well over their allotted speech time in the past, to rattle off lists of names that are irrelevant to the television audience. Halle Berry, for instance, delivered one of the longest Oscar speeches in history after she won the Best Actress award for 2002's "Monster's Ball." Among those she thanked were her mom, her husband, her agents, her producers, her lawyers, the first director she ever worked with, and Oprah. Anne Hathaway also rambled on following her Best Supporting Actress win in 2013, for "Les Miserables." Hathaway thanked more than 20 people, and thanked her agent twice, "just to be safe."

2. #OscarsSoWhite boycotts

Will Smith, Jada Pinkett

Will Smith and his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, will be among a number of high-profile names boycotting this year's Oscars, due to a lack of diversity among the nominees. Spike Lee, Tyrese Gibson and white director Michael Moore have also come out in favour of the boycott.

The boycott comes after a second straight year in which the Academy did not nominate a single actor of colour for an award. The perceived lack of diversity has also sparked renewed protests on social media, using the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite.

"Creed" director Ryan Coogler and "Selma" director Ava DuVernay are also expected to skip the Oscars this year. They'll be in Flint, Mich. on Oscar night, for a benefit to help the city deal with its water crisis.

Neither director has said they are specifically skipping the awards show as an act of protest.

3. Chris Rock as host

Chris Rock

It's not unusual for the Oscars to change hosts from year to year, but the selection of Chris Rock could cause waves on Oscar night. Rock is expected to call attention to the lack of diversity among Oscar nominees, with no actors of colour up for any awards this year.

The last black Oscar host was Rock himself, back in 2005. That year, Jamie Foxx and Morgan Freeman took home Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor awards for their roles in "Ray" and "Million Dollar Baby," respectively.

Rock hasn't made any promises about the content of his opening monologue, but did label the Oscars "the white BET Awards" in a tweet last month. The comedian has pinned the tweet to the top of his Twitter timeline.

The #Oscars. The White BET Awards.

— Chris Rock (@chrisrock) January 15, 2016

4. Academy member shakeups

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recently adjusted some of its membership rules, which are set to take effect this month. Among the changes are rules to make the Academy's board more inclusive of women and minorities, and an adjustment to Oscar voting requirements. Under the new rules, Academy members who are not active in the industry could be shifted to emeritus status, meaning they would lose their voting rights.

The Academy says the changes are not meant to discrimiante based on age, and are aimed at revoking voting privileges from members who had brief careers and later left the movie business. "We want the Oscars to be voted on by people who are currently working in motion pictures, or who have been active for a long time," the Academy wrote in an FAQ on its site. "We want to strengthen, uphold, and maintain the credibility of the Oscars with these new criteria."

The changes will not affect this year's Oscar vote, but they could generate some uncomfortable moments at the awards show. A number of older Academy members stand to lose their voting status as a result of the changes.

5. Retro Oscar statues

Oscar statuette

Oscar himself will be getting a bit of a change this year, although the award-winners will probably be the only ones who notice the subtle differences.

This year's Oscar statuettes have been given a subtle redesign, based on the original statuettes handed out at the first Academy Awards, in 1929. The Academy recently inked a new deal to have the trophies produced at a gold foundry in New York, based on a 3-D scan of one of the first Oscars.

In a news release, the Academy says the new Oscars will restore the "subtle features" of designer George Stanley's original sculpture, without changing the award's traditional height or weight.

The Oscars will be made of hand-cast bronze finished in 24-karat gold.


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