If you were busy following the Greek debt crisis – and of course you were; Kardashian is a Greek name, right? – let the Bagger catch you up as, lo and behold, there has been scandal in awards land already. In descending order of interest to water-cooler watchers, cinephiles and film industry insiders:
• The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences caused a stir by selecting the “Rush Hour” auteur Brett Ratner to produce the Oscars telecast, and as a host Mr. Ratner enlisted Eddie Murphy, who made no secret of the fact that he took the job mainly to promote their film “Tower Heist.” Then Mr. Ratner had a Macaca moment, which he followed up with a few choice Howard Stern moments, and summarily excused himself from having anything to do with Hollywood’s grandest, designed-to-be-gaffe-proof night. Mr. Murphy quickly exited too. (Penance: their movie only did $65 million at the box office. ) Now we are left with veterans at the helm: the producer Brian Grazer and the host Billy Crystal, hailed as a hero and probably working on his medley of Brad Pitt-George Clooney-and-me jokes as we speak.
• The Academy’s documentary branchreleased its shortlist of 15 films — from 124 eligible — for its category, which always rankles with its omissions. This year’s leaves off celebrated directors like Werner Herzog (“Into the Abyss”) and Errol Morris (“Tabloid”), and popular (for a documentary) films like “The Interrupters” and “Senna.” But crowd- and critic-pleasers like “Project Nim,” “Pina,” “Buck” and “Bill Cunningham New York” made the cut. As always, the Bagger will be paying attention to this race, not only because our own Mr. Cunningham is a potential nominee, but because a little gold guy actually makes a big impact on the audience for documentaries.
• The Academy has a fearless new leader, Dawn Hudson, who may be eager to shake things up, as the Bagger’s colleague Michael Cieply reported recently. It’s too soon to tell whether Ms. Hudson will have an impact on this year’s race, but her predecessor, Bruce Davis, sure did: He recommended changes that included a sliding-scale field for best picture nominees, so that anywhere from 5 to 10 films may be chosen, based on a newpercentage voting system. Will family-friendly films like “The Help” and “Hugo” make the cut, or will voters take the opportunity to reward artier fare like “Melancholia,” “Shame” or “Tree of Life”? The Academy will not release the number of nominees until close to the end of the race, “presumably keeping the largest possible number of Oscar campaigners on tenterhooks until the last minute,” Michael Cieply writes. (Tenterhooks: just where we like them.)
Meanwhile, the Academy changed its rules on campaigning slightly, banning negative ads on social media and allowing studios to deliver screeners digitally. It also clamped down on fancy receptions after the nominees are announced, on Jan. 24. But until then, the Bagger’s colleague Brooks Barnes writes, “There are no (or very few) restrictions on screening events, Q&A sessions and panels, and offering food and cocktails at these gatherings, previously a no-no, is now O.K.”
So the Bagger will just have to slog through another endless season of premieres, parties and shoulder-rubbing with the most attractive and celebrated people on Earth. Wish us luck.
4:33 p.m. | Updated Dear commenters, the Bagger will sadly admit that we knew Kardashian was an Armenian, not Greek, name – and even more sadly, that no one got our lame joke. Ah well, it’s our first day back, and tomorrow (and the day after, and the day after that) is another chance for passing pop cultural references. We’ll stick with it if you will.