Celebrities have picked their formal wear, the red carpet is rolled out and golden dudes are ready to be engraved. Because it’s Oscar night once again.
The 94th Academy Awards are honoring the best of the best movies had to offer last year, and Hollywood is coming together – and navigating a whole bunch of COVID-19 protocols and testing – to celebrate a new crop of winners joining the Oscar pantheon.
There are some interesting story lines in the major categories, starting with best picture. The Netflix Western epic “The Power of the Dog” dominated as an early favorite but the heartwarming Apple TV+ dramedy “CODA” has come on strong in recent weeks as a likely winner of Oscar’s biggest prize.
“King Richard” star Will Smith is expected to grab his first Academy Award win for best actor – though he faces competition from Andrew Garfield (“tick, tick … BOOM!”) and Denzel Washington (“The Tragedy of Macbeth”), who defeated Smith in the category 20 years ago.
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After wins at the Screen Actors Guild Awards and Critics Choice Awards, Jessica Chastain (“The Eyes of Tammy Faye”) has the pole position in the best actress race, though Kristen Stewart (“Spencer”), Olivia Colman (“The Lost Daughter”), Penelope Cruz (“Parallel Mothers”) and Nicole Kidman (“Being the Ricardos”) all loom as upset picks. The other acting categories are a little less chaotic, with Troy Kotsur (“CODA”) and Ariana DeBose (“West Side Story”) as solid favorites for supporting actor and actress respectively.
Stay tuned for all the highlights and winners from Sunday’s Oscar ceremony (ABC, 8 EDT/5 PDT):
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Oscar host Amy Schumer made headlines this past week expressing her hope that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy could beam in via satellite during the Oscars to highlight the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Penn took it a step further Saturday in a CNN interview, threatening to “smelt” his Oscars (for “Milk” and “Mystic River”) “in public” if the Ukraine leader doesn’t appear. All eyes will be on the Academy ceremony to see if it happens, but in an interview with USA TODAY, Schumer’s fellow host Wanda Sykes expressed doubt: “He’s pretty busy, I don’t know if he has time for our little movie show.”
Kotsur has run the table on the way to Oscar night and is expected to snag the best supporting actor trophy, which would make him the second deaf actor (and first male) to win an Oscar. (The first was his “CODA” co-star Marlee Matlin for “Children of a Lesser God” in 1987.) The supporting actor field features Kotsur as well as Ciarán Hinds (“Belfast”), J.K. Simmons (“Being the Ricardos”) and “Power of the Dog” co-stars Jesse Plemons and Kodi Smit-McPhee.
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The “West Side Story” star has picked up every piece of hardware so far (SAG, Critics Choice, British Academy Film Awards) and is poised to take best supporting actress Sunday night. If it holds to form, DeBose will be the first Afro-Latina and first openly queer woman of color to win an acting Oscar. But first, she’ll need to be victorious in a category that includes Kirsten Dunst (“The Power of the Dog”), Jessie Buckley (“The Lost Daughter”), Judi Dench (“Belfast”) and Aunjanue Ellis (“King Richard”).
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The wildest acting category this Oscar season has been best actress, with lots of contenders and just five slots. Stewart and Cruz were snubbed by SAG but earned Academy Award nominations alongside Colman and Kidman, and Chastain – an outside contender late last year – has late momentum going into Oscar night. This would be Chastain’s first Oscar win, after previously being nominated for “The Help” (2011) and “Zero Dark Thirty” (2012).
With his iconic “Training Day” performance, Denzel Washington upended “Ali” star Smith 20 years ago at the Academy Awards. They face each other again Sunday – Washington for “The Tragedy of Macbeth,” Smith for “King Richard” – but Smith is expected to come out on top this time. (Fun fact: He also picked up a Razzie this weekend, but a good Razzie.) Also up for best actor: Andrew Garfield (“tick, tick … BOOM!”), Javier Bardem (“Being the Ricardos”) and Benedict Cumberbatch (“The Power of the Dog”).
Jane Campion’s Western “The Power of the Dog” has gone from early front-runner for best picture to mere contender this awards season, being passed by “CODA” late in the game. The Sundance favorite about a deaf fishing family and their hearing daughter won best cast at SAG and an all-important Producers Guild Award (a bellwether since the PGA uses the same preferential ballot as the Oscars). Those two will be competing for the prized Academy Award against coming-of-age dramas “Belfast” and “Licorice Pizza,” Japanese film “Drive My Car,” sci-fi epic “Dune,” musical redo “West Side Story,” sports biopic “King Richard,” disaster satire “Don’t Look Up” and noir remake “Nightmare Alley.”
Sunday will add a 94th film to Oscar’s history of best picture winners. And in honor of tonight’s Academy Awards, we watched all the past 93 best pictures and ranked them, from worst to best, with many of them available on demand and streaming if you want to binge a few before the main event tonight. What’s No. 1? Here’s a hint: Leave the gun, take the cannoli.
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ABC will broadcast the Oscars live Sunday, and the show also is available for streaming on abc.com if you have your TV provider information. If you’re looking for red-carpet action/Oscar hype, ABC has two “On the Red Carpet Live! Countdown to the Oscars” pre-shows starting at 1 EDT/10 PDT on the network and 4:30 EDT/1:30 PDT on the streaming service ABC News Live, while E!’s “Brunch at the Oscars” pre-show starts at 2 EDT/11 PDT, with arrivals on “E! Live from the Red Carpet” at 5 EDT/2 PDT. ABC’s traditional “Oscars Red Carpet Show” airs at 6:30 EDT/3:30 PDT.
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