Surprise! It’s Oscar time already. If it feels like the 92nd Academy Awards (commonly known as The Oscars) have crept up on us rather suddenly this year, you’re correct. After more than a decade of holding its Academy Award ceremonies in late February, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has truncated the traditional Award Season by moving the event all the way up to Feb. 9. So what can we look forward to this year, sitting at home on our couches watching famous celebrities cry and win gold statues for films we didn’t quite get around to seeing?
For starters 2020 will go without an Oscars host. Citing the success of last year’s host-free 91st presentation, ABC said it will once again dispense with the “traditional host.” If you remember, 2019 went hostless by necessity, not by design. Comedian/actor Kevin Hart, slated to anchor the big show, got himself caught in a controversy over some (decade-old) homophobic tweets two days before the ceremony. After alternately refusing to apologize for past mistakes and apologizing profusely, Hart stepped down as host. This left the ceremonies without a “master of” for the first time since 1989. Frankly, few viewers noticed or cared. The 2019 telecast clocked in 30 minutes shorter than the year before and pulled in about 13 percent more viewers.
President of ABC Entertainment Karey Burke assured viewers in January that this year’s show would still have “huge entertainment values, big musical numbers, comedy and star power.” Among the big stars expected to dress well and hand out awards come Sunday are Mahershala Ali, Timothée Chalamet, Olivia Colman, James Corden, Penélope Cruz, Will Ferrell, Gal Godot, Diane Keaton, Shia LaBeouf, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Steve Martin, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Keanu Reeves, Mark Ruffalo and Sigourney Weaver.
With solid nominations in the Best Original Song category, we can expect some memorable musical moments as well, including singer-actress Cynthia Erivo performing “Stand Up” from Harriet, pop rocker Elton John performing “Love Me Again” from Rocketman, Broadway baby Idina Menzel doing “Into the Unknown” from Frozen II, singer-actress Chrissy Metz belting out “I’m Standing With You” from Breakthrough and frequent Oscar fave Randy Newman tackling “I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away” from Toy Story 4. As if that weren’t enough, it was just recently announced that millennial icon Billie Eilish would be on stage for a “special performance” of her title track to the new James Bond film No Time to Die. (Which, hopefully, will not be performed over the show’s annual “in memorium” sequence.)
In boring technical news, this year’s Best Makeup and Hairstyling category has been expanded from seven finalists and three nominees to a whopping 10 finalists and five nominees. (Fans of Nicole Kidman’s coiffure in Bombshell now have something to root for.) Also, Best Foreign Language Film has been renamed Best International Feature Film, so don’t go getting all confused. (Animated and documentary films are now eligible for the category as well, which is good news for the Macedonian beekeeping documentary Honeyland.)
As for the night’s projected winners—well, Joker is leading the pre-award pack with 11 nominations. Although quantity doesn’t always equate to quality, the number of nominations is usually a good indicator of what the various voting members of AMPAS are leaning toward. Still, Joker seems like the kind of Hollywood blockbuster that sweeps the technical awards and loses out on the big categories. In which case, The Irishman, 1917 and Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood—all following closely with 10 noms apiece—are in a good position to snag some statues. Jojo Rabbit, Little Women, Marriage Story and Parasite have all locked up six nominations each.
The controversies and snubs are minimal this year. There’s plenty to complain about in regards to diversity, of course. There are no women in the Best Director and only one African American in any of the top categories. But that’s a persistent problem with the Oscars—and it starts with the fact that, of the top-grossing 100 films of 2018, women accounted for only 4 percent of the directors, 15 percent of the writers and 18 percent of the producers. During the same year, the number of top 100 films directed by African Americans surged to a record-setting 16 percent. AMPAS can’t nominate them if Hollywood doesn’t hire them in the first place. Not that the Academy is entirely blameless: Would it have killed them to, say, deny Martin Scorsese his ninth Best Director nomination (for The Irishman) to give Greta Gerwig her first (for Little Women)?
On the other hand, the Academy has invited actress Kelly Marie Tran to hand out an award. That ought to make up for the fact that she didn’t get to do or say anything in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.