By Anthony Breznican
January 11, 2011 at 08:14 PM EST

Image Credit: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty ImagesI say good thing.

If you don’t dig the Academy Awards, well, sorry, buddy. But if you’re one of tens of millions who tune-in to the show, invite your movie-loving friends over, and might pound the coffee table until your homemade Oscar cookies bounce onto the floor while arguing over the merits of The Social Network vs. The King’s Speech, then why not embrace a little more red carpet in your life? Let’s be honest — surprise hasn’t been much of a factor lately when it comes to opening the envelopes. A great deal of energy is devoted to forecasting who will claim one of those little golden guys, and Hollywood now tracks award season the way the National Weather Service tracks hurricane season. Jeff Bridges, Slumdog Millionaire, The Hurt Locker, Sandra Bullock getting trophies? To steal a line from Radiohead: No alarms and no surprises.

So where are the surprises? In the candid moments. The stream-of-consciousness that erupts in the acceptance speeches, the raw emotion just backstage, the nervous laughter in the audience as another daring host pokes fun at Russell Crowe — and yes, the red carpet. In fact, things are looser out there than at any other point in the evening. Expanding from 30 to 90 minutes, while it may be a huge and risky leap, could give that part of the Oscars room to breathe, room to relax. It could actually seem like arrivals, as opposed to a harried, celebrity traffic-jam. All the pre-show producers Charlie Haykel and Juliane Hare need to do is make sure they keep it classy but fun, and hire hosts who can make the viewers feel like they’re part of the conversation. Don’t hire someone who will ask Natalie Portman for the bazzillionth time “What attracted you to Black Swan?”

Fashion is a major part of the Oscars, too. This expanded pre-show gives style more a presence, allows the best and the worst to really stand out.  If a character like Björk shows up in a swan dress, hey, go ahead and lay that egg, babe. And thanks for the chuckle. We’re not in any hurry. And there’ll be plenty of time for elegant actresses to wow the folks at home. Grace and style don’t fare well when hurried.

The Oscars are sometimes referred to as “adult prom,” but having covered them for a decade, they feel more like graduation night to me — a group of people, taking the next step after a lot of work and hustle. Do you remember the best part of graduation? For me, it was that moment, just before “Pomp and Circumstance” begins to play, when you’re all gathered together in the hallway, getting in line, adjusting your caps and gowns, pushing to get close to your friends, sharing a few last jokes before it’s all over.

Maybe that’s optimistic and corny. Oscar night is annually knocked for being a too-long affair. It will be a challenge to keep the entire evening lively, smart and compelling. My hope is that the expanded red carpet will allow the pre-show to do what many of the actresses in those tight gowns cannot: Breathe.

How do you feel about an expanded red carpet pre-show, PopWatchers?

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