What to watch out for dur­ing Sun­day night’s Os­cars cer­e­mony

Ahead of this year’s star-stud­ded fes­ti­val of self-con­grat­u­la­tion, here are a few of the things that may or may not happen on Sun­day night

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FRONT PAGE - WORDS BY DON­ALD CLARKE

1 Did any­body ac­tu­ally see these films?

Yes, they did. But this is still the low­est-gross­ing set of best-pic­ture nom­i­nees since 2011.

Dunkirk, which took $525 mil­lion world­wide, is by far the most lu­cra­tive project. Com­ing in sec­ond place with $254 mil­lion, Get Out was a huge hit in the US, but it fared less well in the “rest of the world”. One might rea­son­ably ar­gue that no­body should care about this. We pre­tend the Os­cars are about qual­ity, not com­merce (we don’t, re­ally). The or­gan­is­ers cer­tainly give a hoot. When hits are nom­i­nated, the view­ing fig­ures tend to soar. The most watched cer­e­mony ever named the then high­est-gross­ing film of all time as best pic­ture. It was 1998. “Ice­berg! Dead ahead!”

2 Has Hol­ly­wood solved its woman prob­lem?

Don’t be ridicu­lous. A de­press­ing 77 per cent of non-act­ing nom­i­na­tions went to men. Women are, how­ever, re­ceiv­ing bet­ter roles in more Os­car-friendly movies. The best ac­tress race is, for the sec­ond year run­ning, more com­pet­i­tive than its male coun­ter­part. Un­til the last week or so, four ac­tresses seemed like contenders: Saoirse Ro­nan, Margot Robbie, Frances McDormand and Sally Hawkins. And the fourth was Meryl “21 noms” Streep. To put this in per­spec­tive, it’s only a lit­tle over 20 years since Jes­sica Lange won for Blue Sky. What? Well, ex­actly. For decades, the vot­ers strug­gled to com­plete the cat­e­gory. This year, it’s Denzel Wash­ing­ton, up for the poor Ro­man J Is­rael Esq, who rep­re­sents a mak­ing-up-the-num­bers re­lease.

3 Will# Me too and# Times up dom­i­nate the red car­pet? There will cer­tainly be a lot of that about. As at the Golden Globes and Bafta, red car­pet pre­sen­ters will want to ac­knowl­edge the cam­paigns against the abuse of women in the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­tries. But Chan­ning Dungey, pres­i­dent of en­ter­tain­ment at ABC, which broad­casts the cer­e­mony, has ex­pressed cau­tion. “We cer­tainly want to hon­our and re­spect Time’s Up and al­low that mes­sage to be heard,” she said. “But we’re try­ing to make it more planned than spur of the mo­ment — it has its mo­ment and then doesn’t feel like it over­shad­ows the artists and films be­ing hon­oured.” The Time’s Up cam­paign told the New York Times it is not ask­ing stars to wear black or bring ac­tivists as guests. Make of that what you will.

4 Will brave Gaels be able to wrap them­selves in the flag? It de­pends what you mean by “Gaels”. It is only two years since the great an­nus mirabilis of Ir­ish cin­ema – the in­dus­try’s 1990 World Cup – when the Ir­ish Film Board man­aged more nom­i­na­tions than Para­mount and Uni­ver­sal com­bined. We’re still do­ing fine. But Saoirse Ro­nan is un­likely to get past the Frances McDormand jug­ger­naut. The Bread­win­ner, out of Kilkenny, is too com­pact to beat Pixar’s bossy Coco in an­i­mated fea­ture. Cos­tume de­signer Con­salata Boyle, a sur­prise nom­i­nee for Vic­to­ria & Ab­dul, has the mis­for­tune to run up against Daniel Day-Lewis’s frocks in Phan­tom Thread. Mind you, Martin McDon­agh, raised in Lon­don to Ir­ish par­ents, holds the right class of pass­port.

As a pro­ducer, he will take an Os­car if Three Bill­boards out­side Eb­bing, Mis­souri wins best pic­ture. He’s also a con­tender in the hotly con­tested best orig­i­nal screen­play race.

5 Could there be an­other En­ve­lope gate?

To be fair, the bizarre en­ve­lope mix-up in 2017 – in­volv­ing best pic­ture, of all things – re­quired so many weird cir­cum­stances that it will surely never happen again. But the Academy has made pre­cau­tions any­way. Price wa­ter house Coop­ers, the ac­count­ing firm that su­per­vises the vote, is throw­ing staff at the prob­lem. A new pro­ce­dure de­mands that the celebrity pre­sen­ter and a stage man­ager con­firm that they’ve been given the cor­rect en­ve­lope. A third PwC “bal­lot­ing part­ner” – added to those po­si­tioned at ei­ther wing – will mem­o­rise the re­sults and ob­serve events from the con­trol booth. PwC of­fi­cials have been banned from us­ing phones or so­cial me­dia. Good job, team. That will en­sure the sta­ble door is well and truly closed be­hind that long-bolted horse.

6 Has the Os cars fi­nally solved its pre­sen­ter prob­lem? Well, ob­vi­ously not. Jimmy Kim­mel can’t do the show for­ever. Aside from any­thing else, in the present era, view­ers might like to see some­body other than a white bloke at the Os­car mi­cro­phone. But Kim­mel’s suc­cess­ful out­ing last year was one of the pleas­an­ter sur­prises in re­cent Os­car his­tory. In­deed, af­ter dis­as­trous twin turns by Anne Hath­away and James Franco, a be­wil­der­ing dud from Awards veteran Neil Pa­trick Harris and an of­ten funny, but ut­terly ill-judged, Seth MacFarlane cringeatho­n, many Os­car vet­er­ans de­cided it was an im­pos­si­ble job. Ar­riv­ing with mod­est ex­pec­ta­tions last year, Kim­mel man­aged to com­bine light snark with a re­spect that stopped short of be­com­ing oleagi­nous. If he suc­ceeds again, he will be­come the de­fault host of his era. A Bob Hope. A Johnny Car­son. A Billy Crys­tal. Not bad com­pany.

7 Who will be left off the ‘in memo­riam’ trib­ute? It should be a brief, mov­ing respite from the hub­bub, but no other sec­tion of the show has caused quite so much con­tro­versy as the an­nual trib­ute to the re­cently dead. Last year, the seg­ment some­how man­aged to leave off Doris Roberts, Garry Shan­dling and Robert Vaughn. Robert Vaughn? He was the last of The Mag­nif­i­cent Seven, for Pete’s sake. Those over­sights were, how­ever, over­shad­owed by the mon­tage in­clud­ing a pho­to­graph of the still-liv­ing pro­ducer Jan Chap­man in­stead of late pro­duc­tion de­signer Janet Pat­ter­son. We can surely count on Roger Moore, Jerry Lewis, Jonathan Demme, Martin Lan­dau and Ge­orge Romero mak­ing it in. But some­body’s favourite will un­doubt­edly have been left off the list. Pre­pare your an­gry email.

8 Were the winners al­ways so pre­dictable?

No, they weren’t. There have al­ways been years when a big film marched tri­umphantly over the lit­tle projects cow­er­ing be­fore its ad­vance. Noth­ing was stopping Schindler’s List in 1994 or Gone With the Wind in 1940. But, over the last two decades, the satel­lite events have in­creased and the on­line cov­er­age of those cer­e­monies has gen­er­ated whole dig­i­tal sub-in­dus­tries. The sanc­tity of “awards sea­son” was con­firmed in 2001 when, for years an amus­ing Easter af­ter­thought, Bafta moved its gongs back be­fore the Os­cars and changed its rules to ad­mit films re­leased in the UK dur­ing the early part of the year. In short, we now have too much in­for­ma­tion. If the Academy were to uni­lat­er­ally drop its awards into the first week of Jan­uary then we might get more ex­cite­ment. That won’t be hap­pen­ing.

9 What records stand to be bro­ken or equalled? Should Meryl Streep take a fourth stat­uette, she will equal Katharine Hep­burn’s record for most wins in act­ing cat­e­gories. Should Daniel Day Lewis, al­legedly fac­ing re­tire­ment, win his fourth best ac­tor Os­car, he will break his own record for most wins in that cat­e­gory and pull ahead of Jack Ni­chol­son and Wal­ter Bren­nan for most act­ing wins by a man (the other two have sup­port­ing wins in their tally). Should The

Shape of Wa­ter con­vert 11 of its 13 nom­i­na­tions, it will equal the to­tal for most wins. None of these things is go­ing to happen. More real­is­ti­cally, writer James Ivory and doc­u­men­tar­ian Agnes Varda, both 89, have good chances of be­com­ing the old­est-ever winners. Varda is the se­nior by a few weeks.

10 Is it you or have the nom­i­nees got bet­ter? It’s not just you. In­creas­ing the nom­i­nees from five to a max­i­mum of 10 and ex­pand­ing the mem­ber­ship to in­clude younger, more di­verse vot­ers has al­lowed in an ar­ray of in­ter­est­ing pic­tures that would have strug­gled dur­ing the 1980s and 1990s (Os­car’s most bor­ing years). In 1990, Awak­en­ings, Ghost and

God­fa­ther Part III – none clas­sics – were among just five films vy­ing for the best pic­ture won by Dances With Wolves. Thank heav­ens for Good­fel­las. In the last decade we’ve seen such in­ter­est­ing nom­i­nees as Amour, Beasts of the South­ern Wild, Room, Get Out and Lady Bird. Moon­light re­ally did win last year. So give the Os­cars a break.

CHRISTO­PHER POLK/ JA­SON MER­RITT/ KEVIN WIN­TER/GETTY IMAGES

Far left: Daniel Day-Lewis ac­cepts the Best Ac­tor award for Lin­coln in 2013, his third win in the cat­e­gory. Above: La La Land pro­ducer Jor­dan Horowitz holds up the card read­ing last year’s ac­tual best-pic­ture win­ner Moon­light while War­ren Beatty and...

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