Oscars Expect a Colorful Turnout

02/23/2004 AT 12:10 PM EST

Although many details are under wraps until the night of the show, viewers can expect some notable changes when stars like Naomi Watts, Diane Keaton and Renee Zellweger hit the red carpet on Feb. 29.

After two years of fairly subdued showings -- first following the Sept. 11 attacks and then the impending war in Iraq -- this year's Oscars are expected to be a livelier and more colorful affair. "I expect the Oscars to be a feast of glamour," said Enzo Angileri, a hairstylist who will fix coiffures for Charlize Theron and Holly Hunter, Reuters reports.

Fashionistas are also predicting a colorful turnout compared to the rather circumspect production of recent years. "I think we're going to see a lot of colors and chiffons and very flowy goddess dresses because it's springtime and because last year was sort of a subdued year," celebrity stylist Phillip Bloch said.

That openness is expected to carry over into the ceremony itself, where show producer Joe Roth promises less restraint for stars who want to have their say during acceptance speeches, the Associated Press reports.

"How am I going to say (no) to Clint Eastwood? Or Sean Penn?" Roth asked. "Not only are they adults, but they are the best in their field." Eastwood is nominated for Best Director for "Mystic River," which stars Penn, who's up for Best Actor.

Roth says the success of awards shows such as the Oscars is partly about casting and partly about luck, but creating an inviting arena for award winners is the key element. "Most of (the success) really is trying to make an atmosphere that allows the performers to feel comfortable and speak from the heart," he said.

Roth hopes to reverse the show's downward trend in ratings, which has been steadily slipping since 1998. About 33 million people tuned in to last year's ceremony, making it the least-watched show since the ratings were first tabulated in 1974.

In other Oscar news, several new presenters have been added to the already star-studded list. John Travolta, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins -- who is nominated for Best Supporting Actor and won at the SAG Awards for "Mystic River" -- join a long list of celebrity presenters that includes Julia Roberts, Tom Cruise, Julianne Moore and Tom Hanks, among others.

Over the weekend, several awards shows gave some possible indicators of Oscar choices. "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" was a winner of the international film award by the Directors Guild of Great Britain in that group's first awards ceremony. "Rings" also captured the top prize at Sunday's SAG awards, but a couple smaller films were recognized at the Writers Guild of America Awards on Saturday. "American Splendor," the story of comic-book artist Harvey Pekar, won best adapted screenplay, and Sofia Coppola's "Lost in Translation" was named best original screenplay, Reuters reports.

The 76th Academy Awards will air live on ABC Sunday from the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood.

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