Really, the Oscars were supposed to be dead by now.

The Academy Awards ceremony was supposed to have withered away, a victim of its own irelevance. The Oscars were supposed to have been done in by studio blockbusters, the Internet, video games, the demise of film criticism, the closing of the art houses and most of all, by their own snooty elitism and arcane standards. The annual show was supposed to have been killed by the Academy's own insistence on ignoring popular taste to award obscure indie movies and its refusal to stop shining a spotlight on the obscure, boring technicians whose job it is to make movie stars look cool.

And yet, the Oscars have not only refused to slink off into the woods to die, they're actually doing better than they have in years. After a long decline, the show's ratings bounced back in 2010 to its biggest audience in five years. Ad sales rates for 30-second spots during the 2011 Oscars are back up to pre-recession levels. And of the 10 Best Picture nominees, at least seven are bona fide hits, with potential viewers excited to see whether sorta-hip young hosts James Franco and Anne Hathaway will oversee victories for such popular favorites as 'The King's Speech,' 'Black Swan,' 'True Grit' and 'Inception.' How did an institution supposedly at death's door bounce back into such robust health?
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