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Oscar Tries On A Hip, New Suit

The stars begin to align as Hollywood gets ready to roll out the red carpet and host Hollywood's biggest night of the year this Sunday.

Conscious of the ever-changing, media-savvy landscape, organizers of the 82nd Annual Academy Awards are stepping up their game to entice a diminishing audience.

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Last year's Oscars produced the third lowest rating ever for the awards broadcast; now, the show's executives are looking for new ways to boost its viewership and draw in a younger audience.

So how exactly can this be done?

Well for starters, the show was rolled back to avoid becoming a victim of the Winter Olympics, which wrapped up just last weekend. The show has also been heavily advertised with a new tagline: "You've never seen Oscar like this."

Change has also crossed over into the most notable category with the Academy doubling its field of Best Picture nominees to 10.

The modification made a big splash - just what the Academy intended.

The newly extended field highlights some of the more commercially successful films that were a hit at the box office. The move, at least in part, is to help compensate for some of the smaller, independent films that have been picking up gold in recent years. It also brings offerings that might not otherwise normally be considered into the spotlight.

The Showbuzz's Karina Mitchell gave a rundown on who's going for the gold in this category.

James Cameron's "Avatar" and Katherine Bigelow's "The Hurt Locker," are considered the frontrunners. "The Hurt Locker" continues its dominance - recently adding wins at BAFTA and the New York Film Critics Awards to its resume.

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The expanded Best Picture category made room for "The Blind Side" and "District 9," both relatively low-budget films that made over $100 million, giving them the chance to shine.

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Also in the running is "Up in the Air," starring George Clooney and "Inglourious Basterds," a strong contender to pick up a win for Cristoph Walker in the Best Supporting Actor category.

So who's leading the race so far?

"Avatar" and "The Hurt Locker" lead the awards with nine nominations apiece, including nods for Best Director.

It's going to be very interesting to see wheter the buzz swirling around Bigelow will lead her to best her ex-husband Cameron in this category. Talk about redemption.

The multi-talented Jeff Bridges finds himself a leading contender to take home a golden statuette for Best Actor in "Crazy Heart." Fox Seachlight has been pushing him hard. This just might be the year for the four-time nominee.

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Mitchell had the privilege of interviewing Bridges and says he seemed "genuinely thrilled" with all the accolades he has garnered from the film.

Historically, country-crooners have a pretty good run at the Academy Awards. Out of the six past performers playing country singers who have been nominated, three have won including:

• Sissy Spacek for Best Actress as Loretta Lynn in 1980's "Coal Miner's Daughter"

• Robert Duvall for Best Actor as fictional singer Mac Sledge in 1983's "Tender Mercies"

• Reese Witherspoon for Best Actress as June Carter in 2005's "Walk the Line."

A notable exception is "Walk the Line" star Joaquin Phoenix who was nominated for Best Actor for his role as Johnny Cash, but lost.

With a Golden Globe and SAG award already under his belt, Bridges is Mitchell's bet, though he will face stiff competition from Colin Firth for his performance in "A Single Man" and Jeremy Renner in the "Hurt Locker."

Now for the ladies...

In the Best Actress category, Sandra Bullock really shines. The beautiful and comedic actress took her acting to a different level in the "Blind Side." She isdeserving of the accolades she has received thus far.

The "Blind Side" was a big hit with audiences and is just the type of comeback film the Academy loves.

Bullock faces stiff competition, however, from favorites Meryl Streep as Julia Childs in "Julie and Julia" and from 24-year-old Charlie Mulligan who had a breakout performance playing the troubled teen in "An Education."

Will Monique steal Gabourney Sidibe's thunder for her role in "Precious?"

Monique has been generating so much buzz as the one to beat in the Best Supporting Actress category for "Precious" that Gabourney Sidibe has had some of the shine usurped from her Best Actress nod for the same film. Some say it's unlikely Sidibe will be able to pull off a win.

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Others to watch for the in the supporting category include Spainsh beauty Penelope Cruz for "Nine" and the impressionable Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick, both nominated for "Up in the Air."

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The Academy is also believes in the power of numbers. This year, the show will be hosted by a duo for the first time since 1987. Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase were the last pair to do so.

This year's extravaganza will bring together Streep's "It's Complicated" co-stars, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin. Both are hugely popular, with wide followings and the Academy is hoping they will make a killing both in the house and with viewership.

Look for Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin to play off each other's comedic genius.

Oscar contenders won't be the only ones getting a makeover for the big night.

The show is getting a social media facelift this year in an effort to attract a younger demographic.

For the first time ever, the nominations were streamed live online, generating a sizeable audience. Leading up to the big night an all-out online marketing blitz has been launched with behind-the-scenes webisodes, trivia and games available on the award show's official Web site.

Fans will also get the chance to ask the stars questions on Facebook as they walk the red carpet, getting the scoop from on everything from who their dashing dates is to where they scored their outfits - all in real time.

With Oscar's not-so-subtle facelift taking shape, it will be interesting to see whether it can draw in the big numbers and hip young demographic producers are hoping for.

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