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Is Banksy in Town for the Oscars?

A week after the Academy admitted its nervousness over the elusive nominee, familiar graffiti pops up in a Los Angeles alley

You've got to hand it to Banksy and "Exit Through the Gift Shop" — if nothing else, they're making sure that Best Documentary Feature will be the most entertaining category at the Oscars this year. 

A week after Academy president Tom Sherak told TheWrap that he was uncomfortable with the idea of the elusive graffiti artist accepting an award in disguise, the Internet is still buzzing with questions that involve the Academy, the movie, its director, his plans, his identity, and even a star of "The Hills."

Banksy graffitiAnd the biggest question of all: Is Banksy in town less than two weeks before the Oscar show? The evidence to suggest that he might be comes from, of all places, actress Lauren Conrad's Twitter account, where she posted this photo with the caption, "Is Banksy in LA?"

Jetset Graffiti picked it up and wrote, "Yes, it’s true. Banksy is beginning his press tour for the upcoming Oscar’s [sic] in Los Angeles."

The LAist website linked to Jetset Graffiti, and said the artwork was "likely" the work of Banksy.

The stenciled art is in an alley in the Westwood section of Los Angeles, near the UCLA campus. A couple of other possible pieces have surfaced as well – though it's impossible to tell if they're genuine.

Banksy?And at the Animal blog, Bucky Turco mocked the whole thing (and all of us who wrote about it) by saying that it's all a faux controversy because "anyone capable of Googling 'Banksy unmasked' knows what the well orchestrated street artist looks like."

Of course, the number of people who've done that – which would yield the photo shown at right, which appeared in 2008 in Britain's Daily Mail and earlier in other British newspapers, and which Banksy has of course disputed – is only a fraction of the number who'll watch the Oscar show. And representatives for the film have, from all indications, told the Academy that Banksy would not appear onstage undisguised – which, rightly or not, does appear to worry the Academy.

You can certainly argue that AMPAS has overreacted, and that they shouldn't worry — that instead, they ought to encourage "one of the world's greatest marketers to exactly the demographic that the Academy is pandering to at every bloody turn," as David Poland writes. (The producers of "Exit Through the Gift Shop" did not respond to a request for comment.)

Or you can just sit back, enjoy the spectacle, and marvel at how Banksy can leave his mark on the Oscars whether or not he shows up at the Kodak.