“It’s almost like watching a ballgame played without the ball,” Janet Maslin said.

The former New York Times film critic was reflecting on the burgeoning buzz around the Academy Awards, in a year of distinctly unbuzzy competition.

Amid the modest, tasteful contenders, there is no Titanic—let alone a Dances with Wolves—to provoke fisticuffs about art versus commerce.

that doesn’t stop the commerce. “The big pile of cash that’s still
using a lot of newspaper advertising is Hollywood,” said one
ad-industry observer. “And that’s why they’re going like crazy to it.”

the press, in turn, is creating a hospitable editorial environment for
the movie ads—reserving space in print and on the Web for writing about
the Academy Awards, whether there’s anything worth saying or not.