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Yay! Jon Stewart’s hosting the Oscars! Yay!

I’m sorry Chris Rock won’t be back, but I’m thrilled to see the Daily Show host getting the gig. Still, I may be in the minority, judging by the comments at the Los Angeles Times‘ awards-show coverage website The Envelope, where the story first broke. Commenters there think Stewart will be too political (read: liberal) and that his selection only confirms that the Oscars have become a leftist lovefest doomed to irrelevance and low ratings.

Granted, this year’s Oscar hopefuls included a number of overtly political movies (Good Night, and Good Luck, Syriana, Munich, Crash, The Constant Gardener) and some whose gay content has confused critics into thinking their filmmakers are making political points (Brokeback Mountain, Capote). On Jan. 4, the Producers Guild of America — the most reliable bellwether of Oscar’s Best Picture nominees — announced nominations for Brokeback, Capote, Crash, Good Night, and Walk the Line. The Writers Guild of America also released its nominations list, citing Cinderella Man, Crash, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Good Night, and Good Luck, and The Squid and the Whale for Original Screenplay and Brokeback, Capote, Constant Gardener, A History of Violence, and Syriana for Adapted Screenplay. And the ensemble casts from Brokeback Mountain, Capote, Crash, Good Night, and Good Luck and Hustle & Flow received nods from the Screen Actors Guild.

What’s noteworthy to me about these nominations isn’t that the movies are largely political but that they’re largely independent or quasi-independent (made by the studios’ art-house divisions). Aside from Virgin, which has no chance at the Oscars, and Syriana, Cinderella Man, and Walk the Line, there are no major studio films on the guilds’ lists; no Munich or King Kong, for instance. That means that the Oscar show is likely to focus on movies that relatively few people have seen, which means fewer viewers will watch the ceremony. Jon Stewart shouldn’t have to worry about being too political (c’mon, the guy hosted the Grammys twice without undermining the nation), and the Academy no doubt figures he’ll help draw younger viewers (as Rock did last year), but not even Stewart can drum up viewer interest in a race between art-house movies.

addCredit(“Jon Stewart: Tina Fineberg/AP”)

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