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It seems the campaigning never ceases.

As the presidential race nears the end, the glitz and glamour will transition from John McCain and Barack Obama back to those who specialize in it: Hollywood.

We’re not talking about ad campaigns intended to get you to the Cine Capri. Major production studios are now pandering to voters of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences instead.

Every year, the entertainment elite gathers to see who the Academy believes deserve an Oscar. After last year’s ratings struggled from a writers’ strike hangover, organizers once again want to make this the prime event in the entertainment industry.

In an effort to do this, studios are pandering to Academy voters in an effort to get their film the coveted title of Best Picture.

According to the New York Times, the rallying began this week. Walt Disney is first out of the gates, trying to earn an animated feature (“Wall-E”) an unprecedented Best Picture trophy. “The Dark Knight” was rife with Oscar buzz from the beginning, and both Paramount and DreamWorks are pushing Robert Downey Jr.’s performances in “Iron Man” and “Tropic Thunder.”

Wait … what? “Tropic Thunder” might be up for an Oscar?

Yeah, that’s what I said. With ticket sales projections for 2008 dropping for the third consecutive year, some major production companies have downsized or even eliminated their art-house sectors, leaving fewer well-financed alternatives to the blockbuster arena.

While one could argue that big hits do offer more than just staid and complacent cinema — “Memento” director Christopher Nolan, after all, has brought a remarkable reinvention of the Batman franchise — but do any of these really fall into the category of potential Oscar winners?

With the loss of large-scale art-house production, we’ve lost a bit of cinematic originality. Original screenplays seem only to exist if they are based on a comic book series or pre-existing TV show. In other words, the characters and storylines are simply updated versions of the familiar.

An example: On August 2, 2007, Harkins Theatres at Scottsdale Road and Loop 101 was showing twelve movies. Of these, three were sequels, three were based on TV shows, one was based on a Broadway play and one was an American remake of a foreign film. A paltry four movies were not repackaged versions of other theatre pieces.

No wonder ticket sales keep dropping — America has already seen two-thirds of the movies.

With the active pontification of this year’s biggest titles aimed at Academy members, expect more mainstream films in the lists of candidates. This may not necessarily mean they will win, as such a quick transition away from tradition is illogical at this point, but a lack of quality independents have made their presence known.

Let’s just hope that hunger for a ratings increase won’t lead to an abandonment of healthy artistic principles.

Prove Ryan wrong. E-mail him at

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