Third in the Oscar-book sweepstakes, And the Winner Is. . .is up against Brown and Pinkston's Oscar Dearest (p. 26) and Wiley and Bona's Inside Oscar (p. 45). And the winner is. . . Levy, a professor of sociology and film at Columbia University, is nothing if not serious. For those who judge the televised Oscar awards by their worst moments--the longer-winded acceptance speeches or the often tedious musical numbers built around the five nominated songs--the idea of a solemn 432-page exhumation of the Oscar fuss may seem too much to bear. The fact is, there's barely a laugh in the book. It's moat sparkling passages remind us that 1985's bash, hosted in part by the brilliantly madcap Robin Williams, was one of the best ever, and that Bob Hope and Johnny Carson have had their witty moments as well. Otherwise, Levy has produced an elephant armored against levity. After the necessary review of how Louis B. Mayer got the Academy Awards started, Levy deals in depth with the nomination system, the winning process, the winning and nominated movies and performances, the meanings and effects of the Oscar Award, and the functions of the Oscar in American popular culture. Of the billions of Oscar televiewers, many don't even go to the movies but enjoy the awards for their suspense and to see celebrities. Today, the Oscar ceremonies are indistinguishable from their televised format, being a once-undreamed-of marriage of Hollywood with its archenemy and now funded by NBC rather than the studios. The commercials are sometimes more entertaining than the show's slack spots and sappier longuers. As for the half century of popularity contests and how Jimmy Stewart's reporter in The Philadelphia Story edged out Olivier's Maxim de Winter in Rebecca, well, many will feel they could have written this themselves or else are experiencing profound past-life recall. And the winner is. . .Inside Oscar--by Wiley and Bona!!! For two tons of malice for every ton of info!