The 91st Academy Awards are taking place this Monday morning at 5am UAE time.
Oscars without a host?
This year, there will not be a host and Sunday's Oscars ceremony will not open with the traditional monologue in which celebrities and politicians are skewered. Comedian Kevin Hart withdrew from the host job in December after past homophobic tweets resurfaced.
Stars like Angela Bassett, Melissa McCarthy, Jason Momoa, Chris Evans, Awkwafina, Charlize Theron, Chadwick Boseman and Daniel Craig have been lined up as presenters.
Jennifer Hudson, Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper, Bette Midler, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings will perform nominated songs.
British band Queen, featuring Adam Lambert as lead vocalist, will open the Feb. 24 show with a live performance celebrating the box-office success of best picture nominee "Bohemian Rhapsody”. Bette Midler, Jennifer Lopez and record producer Pharrell Williams are also set to attend or present as well as tennis champion Serena Williams and comedians Trevor Noah, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.
A different stage design
Oscar viewers will also notice a very different stage design. Instead of the over-the-top jewel box look of recent years, the proscenium is one colour - gold - and curves and swoops like a Frank Gehry building, extending out into the theatre. It was designed by David Korins, who is best known for his work on Broadway ("Hamilton," "Dear Evan Hansen").
One thing is certain; the show will not be shorter. A pledge to broadcaster ABC to keep the show to three hours was wrecked last week when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences bowed to protests and scrapped plans to hand out four of the 24 Oscars during commercial breaks.
The film academy has been fighting over how to keep the Oscars to a reasonable running time since at least 1987. The reason is simple: protecting television ratings. After three hours, academy research has shown, people on the East Coast go to bed, dragging down overall viewership numbers. People on the West Coast also move on. Three hours of watching Hollywood celebrate itself - last year's show was nearly four, not counting red-carpet coverage - seems to be most people's limit.
The need to rethink the telecast has become a top priority since last year, when only 26.5 million people tuned in, a drop of nearly 20 percent from the previous year. Just a few years prior, the Academy Awards had an audience of 43.7 million viewers. Every potential solution the academy has announced, however, has gone down in flames.
Who are the nominees?
The best actor nominees are:
Christian Bale, "Vice"
Bradley Cooper, "A Star Is Born
Rami Malek, "Bohemian Rhapsody"
Viggo Mortensen, "Green Book"
Willem Dafoe, "At Eternity's Gate"
The best actress nominees are:
Yalitza Aparicio, "Roma"
Glenn Close, "The Wife"
Olivia Colman, "The Favourite"
Lady Gaga, "A Star Is Born"
Melissa McCarthy, "Can You Ever Forgive Me?"
Best picture nominees
Eight films are vying for the top honors at February's Academy Awards.
''A Star Is Born"
Nominees for best original song are:
"When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings" from "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs"
"All The Stars" from "Black Panther"
"I'll Fight" from "RBG"
"The Place Where Lost Things Go" from "Mary Poppins Returns"
"Shallow" from "A Star Is Born."
Nominees for best animated picture:
''Isle of Dogs,"
''Ralph Breaks the Internet,"
''Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse."
Nominees for best foreign language film:
Germany's "Never Look Away"
Poland's "Cold War"
Nominees for best supporting actor:
Mahershala Ali, "Green Book"
Sam Elliott, "A Star Is Born"
Adam Driver, "BlacKkKlansman"
Richard E. Grant, "Can You Ever Forgive Me?"
Sam Rockwell, "Vice"
Nominees for best original score:
''If Beale Street Could Talk"
''Isle of Dogs"
''Mary Poppins Returns"
Nominees for best supporting actress:
Amy Adams, "Vice"
Marina de Tavira, "Roma"
Regina King, "If Beale Street Could Talk"
Emma Stone, "The Favourite"
Rachel Weisz, "The Favourite"
Who exactly votes for the Oscars, and how does it work?
Less than 8,000 people in the entertainment industry select the honorees - and Tuesday marked the final day of voting. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Los Angeles currently has 7,902 voting members. Academy membership is divided into 17 branches - actors, directors, producers, costume designers, etc - and candidates must be active or otherwise have "achieved distinction" in the industry. Applicants must be sponsored by two Academy members representing their branch. Oscar winners and nominees are automatically considered for membership and don't need sponsors.
What will the Oscar guests eat?
As always, celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck will cater the extravagant post-Oscars party event. Puck has catered the event for decades, preparing thousands of dishes for the 1,500 guests, including the night's winners, who attend the bash.
They will nibble on Oscar-shaped flatbreads topped with smoked salmon and caviar, sip French bubbly and sink their teeth into tiny chocolate Oscar statuettes.
"We have been doing the Oscars for 25 years, which is really amazing," the 69-year-old chef told AFP on Thursday during a tour of his kitchen where he was prepping for the extravaganza.
"I remember the first time we did it, it was in downtown LA, at the Shrine Auditorium," he added. "We built the kitchen in the parking lot, it was raining and windy, it was so difficult. Now we have two state-of-the art kitchens, so it makes it much easier."
Sunday's menu, he said, will feature some classics that are always hits with partygoers, including wood-fired crispy flatbreads - 6,500 of them - with creme fraiche, smoked salmon and caviar.
Among the other 60 dishes on the menu this year will be spicy fried quail, black truffle chicken pot pie, Wagyu beef and agnolotti (a sort of ravioli) with black truffle and spring peas.
"We've got the black truffle from France," the Austrian-born Puck gushed as he showed samples of his dishes. "People love the smell, and we make a thousand of them, so the whole dining room smells like truffle."
On the sweet side, apart from the 24-karat dusted chocolate Oscars will be passion fruit and strawberry cookies, hibiscus orange pate de fruit and espresso macarons.
Puck, a regular on television talk shows, said no less than 35 pounds (16 kilograms) of black truffle, 350 pounds of Atlantic bigeye tuna and 250 Maine lobster will be served at the event.
Puck, who worked in some of France's top restaurants before relocating to the US at age 24, said the menu reflects the international flavor of the Academy Awards that honor movies and actors from across the globe.
In total, Puck - who heads an empire of restaurants stretching from Beverly Hills, to Las Vegas and Singapore - said he will be serving 16,000 individual dishes on Oscar night, including vegan dishes - enough to keep everyone satisfied through the evening.
Helping him prepare the feast are 200 assistant chefs who will be backed by 850 servers and 10 maitre d's on Oscar night.
How to watch the Oscars live in the UAE
The 91st Academy Awards will be broadcast live on February 25 to subscribers, airing on both OSN Movies HD and OSN Yahala Cinema.
Source: LA Times, REUTERS, AFP