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A bunch of fancy people who have to dress up in uncomfortable clothes at a ridiculously early hour (afternoon in L.A.) to watch a pause-filled show and swig a bunch of cocktails on live television — what could go wrong?

In recent years, just about everything, including the incorrect announcement of "La La Land" as the best picture winner in 2017 and, of course, Will Smith slapping host Chris Rock in 2022. (One of the few things we know about this Sunday's unpredictable ceremony is that Smith, who is banned, will not attend.)

Those incidents and many more are included in the well-researched, dishy "Oscar Wars."

Michael Schulman's book, just out in paperback, begins with a perfect sentence ("The Oscars, it should be said at the start, are always getting it wrong.") and proceeds to demonstrate how. Not a year-by-year recap ("Inside Oscar," by Damien Bona and Mason Wiley, does that well), Schulman's book is arranged around smartly-chosen themes, including chapters about Oscar's worst best pictures, disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein's gaming of the system and diversity blunders.

Schulman, who has been in attendance at Oscar ceremonies (although he was too far away to see the slap clearly), doesn't take the annual Hollywood back-patting too seriously, but his insight and wit help show how it goes wrong and could be better.

Oscar Wars

By: Michael Schulman.

Publisher: Harper, 608 pages, $24.99.