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New video puts spotlight on Oscar

Oscar's Greatest Moments is something of a misnomer for the video that went on sale this week, as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the nominees for its 1991 awards.

The one hour, 50-minute program is actually producer-director Jeff Margolis' favorite moments from the past 21 years of Academy Award telecasts, including the most recent three, which he also directed.

"Each show ran somewhere between three and four hours, so I probably looked at 75 hours' worth of material _ and I looked at everything at least twice, sometimes three times," Margolis said. "I've lived with this for more than a year."

As might be imagined, deciding what to put in and what to leave out was no easy proposition. "Some of the greatest moments in television have happened on the Oscar telecasts, and if I had selected everything I wanted to share and everyone wanted to see, we'd have an eight-hour tape here."

The tape would have been even longer if it had encompassed every Oscar telecast (Margolis is preparing to direct the 40th this year). The academy's game plan calls for two more videos covering the previous 40-plus years of Oscar history to be released in the next two years, but Margolis said no start date has been set for volume two.

"I think we'll wait and see what the reaction to this first one is," he said.

RCA/Columbia Pictures Home Video, which is distributing the tape, has shipped 800,000 copies to retailers around the country. Suggested price is $19.95. The academy's proceeds are going to the endowment fund for the Center for Motion Picture Study.

As with many motion picture videos, Oscar's Greatest Moments is being promoted in tie-in campaigns with candy bars and videotape.

Academy executive administrator Ric Robertson said the tie-ins "offered the opportunity to get considerably more marketing mileage in promoting the cassette."

"It lets us let a lot of people know about (the Oscars)," Robertson said, adding that the tape will be promoted on 100-million Kit Kat candy bars and 2-million Sony blank tapes.

Except for relatively short sections naming the Best Actress, Best Actor and Best Picture winners from 1970 through 1990 (shows are identified by the movie year being honored, not the Oscar telecast year), the video is not in any chronological order.

Rather, the clips are organized thematically, with academy president and narrator Karl Malden introducing segments on moving thank-you speeches, funny presenters, newsmakers, fashion statements and so forth.

In assembling the tape, Margolis had to observe a few ground rules set by the academy. He could not use outtakes ("I just got what the TV audiences got.") and he could not re-edit within a segment.