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Oscars 2024: How to watch and what to watch out for

America’s most glamorous election contest is finally drawing to a close. Yes, it’s Oscars weekend.

Only marginally shorter than its political counterparts (and with no less lobbying), the road to the 96th Oscars ceremony is likely leading toward what industry and casual viewers have all been betting on: a wildly popular box office hit on the cusp of cleaning up, with “Oppenheimer” in pole position to claim best picture and a host of other categories.

Comparisons are already being made to 1998 and 2004, when “Titanic” and “The Return of the King” steamrolled their respective competition on their way to a record 11 Oscars each. Despite its 13 nominations, Christopher Nolan’s epic take on the life and times of the father of the atomic bomb is unlikely to dominate to quite that degree, but since when did Hollywood (or industry press) let the truth get in the way of a good story?

Emily Blunt (as Kitty Oppenheimer) with writer, director, and producer Christopher Nolan and Cillian Murphy (as J. Robert Oppenheimer) on the set of "Oppenheimer." - Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures
Emily Blunt (as Kitty Oppenheimer) with writer, director, and producer Christopher Nolan and Cillian Murphy (as J. Robert Oppenheimer) on the set of "Oppenheimer." - Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures

How to watch

We’ll find out exactly how well “Oppenheimer” and co. do on Sunday at 7 p.m. EST, when the ceremony kicks off on ABC in the US (for international listings, see here). The telecast will also be available to stream on abc.com and the ABC app. It will be available through subscription on Hulu Live TV, YouTubeTV, AT&T TV and FuboTV as well.

The host and presenters

Jimmy Kimmel on stage at the Oscars in 2023. - Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Jimmy Kimmel on stage at the Oscars in 2023. - Kevin Winter/Getty Images

A stellar year for cinema should give the ceremony no shortage of films to celebrate, and ABC will be hoping ratings continue to rise after a better 2023, following a historic low in 2022.

Jimmy Kimmel returns to host for the fourth time, and A-list presenters will include Steven Spielberg, Sally Field, Jennifer Lawrence, Dwayne Johnson, Rita Moreno, Al Pacino, Zendaya and Michelle Pfeiffer. And in a flourish not seen since the 2009 ceremony, five previous winners will reportedly take to the stage to present acting categories.

Performances

Ryan Gosling, Margot Robbie and Greta Gerwig on the set of "Barbie" - Jaap Buitendijk/Warner Bros. Pictures
Ryan Gosling, Margot Robbie and Greta Gerwig on the set of "Barbie" - Jaap Buitendijk/Warner Bros. Pictures

Producers will be hoping to unleash some spray-tanned magic with this year’s programming coup, having successfully convinced Ryan Gosling to get on stage to belt out nominated “Barbie” banger “I’m Just Ken” before he returns the character back to his twist-tie box (and presumably before Billie Eilish goes on to perform and probably win the category with “What Was I Made For?”). Also set to perform are Jon Batiste with “It Never Went Away” from the film “American Symphony,” Becky G with “The Fire Inside” from “Flamin’ Hot,” and Scott George and the Osage Singers will perform “Wahzhazhe (A Song For My People)” from “Killers of the Flower Moon.”

Key contests

Emma Stone in "Poor Things." - Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures
Emma Stone in "Poor Things." - Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures

The ceremony will have to create some surprises, as by this point certain categories are all but sewn up. Nolan is all but assured of winning best director (it would be his first Oscar), while Da’Vine Joy Randolph has claimed pretty much every gong for supporting actress for her turn as a grieving mother in Alexander Payne’s “The Holdovers.” The same goes for supporting actor Robert Downey Jr., playing Lewis Stauss, the stone in Cillian Murphy’s shoe in “Oppenheimer.”

Likewise, “The Zone of Interest,” Jonathan Glazer’s Holocaust film that carves its own path, appears a shoo-in for best international feature – it would be the first win from the UK, for a film spoken in German and shot in Poland. What would have been its closest rival, Justine Triet’s Palme d’Or winner “Anatomy of a Fall,” was cut off at the knees when France failed to submit it for consideration. (The call for reform in this category rings out louder with every passing year.)

“Anatomy’s” Sandra Hüller squares up against Emma Stone and Lily Gladstone in perhaps the most undecided of the big categories, best lead actress. Gladstone and Stone split the Golden Globes, Stone won the BAFTA and Glastone won the SAG award, leaving this contest finely poised. Gladstone would become the first person identifying as indigenous to win the award, while Stone would claim her second best actress title at the age of 35.

Potential surprises

JaNae Collins, Lily Gladstone, Cara Jade Myers and Jillian Dion in "Killers of the Flower Moon" - Melinda Sue Gordon/Apple TV+
JaNae Collins, Lily Gladstone, Cara Jade Myers and Jillian Dion in "Killers of the Flower Moon" - Melinda Sue Gordon/Apple TV+

Could there be upsets? In best picture, not likely. Elsewhere, yes. If Gladstone falls short, “Killers of the Flower Moon” (10 nominations) could go home empty-handed. It’d be the second time in a row a masterwork from Martin Scorsese was overlooked, following 2019’s geriatric gangster epic “The Irishman,” which struck out despite also receiving 10 nominations. If Stone falls short, there’s an outside chance Yorgos Lanthimos’ Golden Lion winner “Poor Things” (11 nominations) goes home without a win, although it should pull through in either best production design and/or best costume design, where its strongest competition is “Barbie.” (It was a big year for women in aesthetically ravishing existential crises.)

"Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" - Sony Pictures Animation
"Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" - Sony Pictures Animation

Animated feature is a straight shootout between “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” and “The Boy and the Heron.” In one corner is the leading superhero movie of 2023, while in the other, a beautifully melancholic work from the daddy of Japanese animation Hayao Miyazaki. The friendly neighborhood Spider-Man still has the edge – just – but has further to fall, given it was once considered a possible best picture nominee.

There will be surprises – there always are. And remember: If your favorite doesn’t win, your love for that movie, that performance, that piece of craft work, is no less valid. “The creation of art is not a democratic process,” Steven Spielberg once wrote, and so it remains deeply weird to hang our appraisal of movies on one. But people love prizes, and the public likes to see a show. And if Hollywood knows how to do one thing, it’s how to put on one in grand fashion.

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