Oscar night begins with downpour over red carpet

The Oscars are here — and so is the rain.  

After the shortest awards season in decades, the 92nd annual Academy Awards  gets underway Sunday evening at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. The red carpet has been rolled out two to three weeks earlier than usual in a bid to freshen up a ceremony and potentially boost ratings.

Just as stars began to arrive on the carpet, the skies opened up above the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, unleashing a downpour. 

The position of some camera crews had them just outside the tent, sending them scrambling to find tarps and plastic to protect their gear.

“Oh my God the tent is leaking,” said one photographer who noticed a hole over the massive Oscars sign.

Harried staff ran around with squeegees trying to bump excess water off the tent.

But the downpour didn’t dampen the red carpet looks of early arrivals, including Billy Porter. The Pose star wore a glistening, gold metallic top with a feather effect and a full skirt depicting the interior of the Cupola Room at Kensington Palace.

Actor Billy Porter was one of the early arrivals at the Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. on Sunday ( Jordan Strauss/Invision/Associated Press)

The truncated awards season has put the normally bloated Oscars season on a diet (Sunday’s show will also, for the second straight year, be hostless) and sent film academy members scrambling to finish their movie-watching — no small task in a year featuring a few three-hour epics like The Irishman and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

Among the presenters the academy will lean on in the absence of a host are Tom Hanks, Maya Rudolph, Spike Lee, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Chris Rock, Timothée Chalamet, Will Ferrell, Diane Keaton and Kelly Marie Tran.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus poses on the red carpet on Sunday. The comic actress is one of the Academy Awards presenters. (Eric Gaillard/Reuters)

Fittingly for a fast race, a movie about a mad dash has risen to the top of the heap. After winning nearly every major precursor award, Sam Mendes’ 1917, about a pair of British soldiers sent with an urgent message to deliver through recently-held enemy territory, is the favourite for best picture.

Thanks to its technical dazzle, the seemingly one-continuous-shot 1917 is also likely to come away with the most awards Sunday, even without any acting nominations.

Although Joaquin Phoenix, Renée Zellweger, Brad Pitt and Laura Dern all appear to be all-but-certain locks in the acting categories, there’s still the potential for a history-making upset. Momentum has swung behind Bong Joon Ho’s South Korean thriller Parasite, and some believe it has a chance to become the first non-English language film to win best picture.

Such a win would be a watershed moment for the Academy Awards, which has long been content to relegate international films to their own category. But in an effort to diversify its largely white and male membership, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has inducted more overseas members in recent years.

Kirk Douglas, Kobe Bryant to be remembered

The ceremony will come just days after the death of Kirk Douglas, one of the last surviving stars of Hollywood’s golden age. It also comes after Kobe Bryant, a 2018 Oscar-winner for the short film Dear Basketball, died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26. 

Both men are expected to be remembered during the In Memoriam segment tonight. 

Spike Lee honoured Bryant on the red carpet by wearing a purple suit trimmed in yellow and adorned with the basketball star’s No. 24 on the lapels and on his back. Lee also wore a pair of Bryant’s Nike sneakers.

Director Spike Lee, wearing a suit with the number 24 in memory of NBA player Kobe Bryant, poses on the red carpet ahead of the Academy Awards on Sunday. (Eric Gaillard/Reuters)

Lee walked the red carpet in a purple suit last year, too — a nod to late musical artist and close friend Prince.

Broadcaster ABC and the academy will be hoping a widely watched field of nominees — including the $ 1 billion US-grossing Joker, up for a leading 11 awards — will help viewership. Last year’s show garnered 29.6 million viewers, a 12 per cent uptick.

Netflix contenders

This year’s Oscars comes amid a streaming overhaul throughout Hollywood. Hurrying to catch up to Netflix and Amazon, most of the major studios are prepping or have already launched their own streaming services, as have new entrants like Apple. Netflix comes into the Oscars with a leading 24 nominations thanks to The Irishman, Marriage Story, The Two Popes and the likely best documentary winner, American Factory.

But despite spending heavily through awards season, Netflix may go home with only a few awards. The streamer is still seeking its first best picture win after Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma came up just shy last year.

Instead, this year’s Oscar favourites are largely movies released widely in theatres. They also predominantly feature male characters and come from male directors.

Absence of actors of colour nominations

After a year in which women made significant gains behind the camera, no female directors were nominated for best director. The acting categories are also the least diverse since the fallout of #OscarsSoWhite pushed the academy to remake its membership. Cynthia Erivo (Harriet) is the only actor of colour nominated. Those results, which have been a topic in speeches through awards season, stand in contrast to research that suggests the most popular movies star more people of colour than ever before.

Mindy Kaling arrives at the Oscars on Sunday. (Jordan Strauss/Invision/Associated Press)

Ticket sales slumped about four per cent last year despite the Walt Disney Co.’s record $ 13 billion US in worldwide box office. Disney, which acquired 20th Century Fox last spring, accounted for an overwhelming 38 per cent of domestic ticket sales. And yet Disney, aside from owning the network the Oscars are broadcast on, will likely play a minor role at the Academy Awards. The studio may win best animated feature with Toy Story 4 and possibly best editing for the Fox film Ford v Ferrari.

And while Democratic candidates are vying for the presidency and votes are still being counted in Iowa, former U.S. President Barack Obama may well notch another win. The first film from his and Michelle Obama’s production company, American Factory, is favoured to win best documentary.

The Academy Awards telecast begins at 8 p.m. ET. 

CBC | Arts News

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