What to expect from the 2022 Oscars

FILE PHOTO: An Oscar statue sits before being placed out for display as preparations for the Academy Awards are underway in Los Angeles, California, U.S., March 24, 2022. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

It’s safe to assume many movie lovers will watch the 94th Academy Awards this Sunday with clenched fists. Because while there are numerous opportunities for folks to become upset – major changes to the telecast and a surprisingly neck-and-neck best picture race, in addition to the usual ceremony complaints – the Oscars are still the Oscars, and a certain type of person will watch them no matter what.

That’s the hope, anyway, as the Oscars producers seem to be relying on that loyal audience to stick around while they make drastic changes to the show in an attempt to lure in new viewers.

How far will they go? How successful will they be? The results will likely influence Oscars ceremonies for years to come. In the meantime, though, here’s what we do know about this one.

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– When and where are the Oscars happening?

The Oscars are scheduled for Sunday at 8 p.m. Eastern. The show will air on ABC, as per usual, and stream online through the ABC app and services like Hulu and YouTube’s live television add-ons.

As the world adjusts to a “new normal,” so, too, will the Oscars. The ceremony, which last year took place on a smaller scale at Los Angeles’s Union Station, will return to its home at the Dolby Theatre, though still not filled entirely to capacity. Producers are requiring nominees and guests in the audience to show proof of coronavirus vaccination and two negative PCR tests, but the vaccine mandate will not extend to performers and presenters (who still have to be tested).

– Who is hosting?

The return to form goes beyond location, as the Oscars will also have a host for the first time since 2018 – three hosts, actually. Regina Hall, Amy Schumer and Wanda Sykes will split the duties, drawing upon their respective backgrounds in comedy. Ceremony producer Will Packer said in a statement that there would be “many surprises in store! Expect the unexpected!”

What shouldn’t be expected, thankfully, is the realization of Schumer’s apparent pitch to have Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appear during the show via satellite or a pretaped segment. The comedian said during a recent appearance on “The Drew Barrymore Show” that the idea stemmed from there being “so many eyes on the Oscars.” She added, “I am not afraid to go there, but it’s not me producing the Oscars.” (It should be noted that telecast ratings have steadily declined over the years.)

Hall noted in an interview with Deadline that the goal is to “keep everything concise and really fun.”

“You want to celebrate, and roast a couple of people here and there,” she said. “We want to make sure it’s a really incredible night because it’s the first time the show has had hosts in a couple of years.”

– Who are the front-runners?

Jane Campion’s simmering thriller “The Power of the Dog” has been widely considered a front-runner for best picture throughout award season, though Sian Heder’s “CODA” is sneaking up on it. The latter, a coming-of-age drama about a teenager who is the only hearing person in her family, picked up major awards in the Oscars lead-up, including top honors at the Producers Guild of America Awards.

“CODA” has also done well in acting categories; supporting actor Troy Kotsur won the Screen Actors Guild Award and seems likely to snag the Oscar as well. Supporting actress seems a toss-up between long overdue wins for Kirsten Dunst (“The Power of the Dog) or Aunjanue Ellis (“King Richard”), or another repeat SAG triumph – for Ariana DeBose, who would be the second actress to win for playing Anita in “West Side Story.”

Though best actor nominee Denzel Washington (“The Tragedy of Macbeth”) is undeniably a heavyweight, the category seems to be “King Richard” star and SAG winner Will Smith’s to lose. Best actress boasts the oddest collection among the four acting categories, between Olivia Colman (“The Lost Daughter”), Penélope Cruz (“Parallel Mothers”), Nicole Kidman (“Being the Ricardos”), Kristen Stewart (“Spencer”) and Jessica Chastain (“The Eyes of Tammy Faye”), the last of whom also won a SAG award.

And finally, best director: Campion is the first woman to be nominated twice in the category, following her 1994 nod for “The Piano.” But could her insensitive remarks toward Venus and Serena Williams at the Critics Choice Awards hurt her chances of beating Kenneth Branagh (“Belfast”), Ryusuke Hamaguchi (“Drive My Car”), Paul Thomas Anderson (“Licorice Pizza”) and Steven Spielberg (“West Side Story”)?

– What changes have been made to the telecast?

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced in late February that eight categories – best original score, film editing, production design, makeup and hairstyling, sound, documentary short subject, live action short film and animated short film – would be removed from the live telecast. Instead, their awards will be distributed beforehand in a taped ceremony, of which clips will be included in the main broadcast.

The last time the academy tried to cut some categories from the live telecast – seemingly in an attempt to attract viewers who might be less interested in technical awards – backlash prompted the organization to reverse course. This year, it seems to be sticking with the decision. But that doesn’t mean it has been well received. Numerous Hollywood guilds have expressed their disappointment, in addition to a letter written to academy president David Rubin that was signed by more than six dozen industry professionals, including academy darlings James Cameron, Guillermo del Toro, Kathleen Kennedy and John Williams.

Oscar-winning film editor Alan Heim told The Washington Post’s Travis M. Andrews that “the academy is looking to get a bigger audience, but I don’t think they know where the audience is.”

– Who is performing?

The academy announced that live performances of nominated original songs will include: Beyoncé’s “Be Alive” from “King Richard,” Sebastián Yatra’s “Dos Oruguitas” from “Encanto,” Billie Eilish’s “No Time to Die” from the James Bond film of the same name and Reba McEntire’s “Somehow You Do” from “Four Good Days.” (The final nominated song, Van Morrison’s “Down to Joy” from “Belfast,” won’t be performed due to scheduling conflicts, according to a news release.)

– Is there a red carpet?

ABC will host two live pre-shows Sunday afternoon in the lead-up to the Oscars: a three-hour broadcast of talent interviews and predictions beginning at 1 p.m. Eastern and hosted by ABC News’s T.J. Holmes and Amy Robach, as well as another pre-show on the ABC News app featuring live red carpet interviews from 4:30 to 6:30.

Traditional red carpet coverage will air on the network from 6:30 to 8 p.m., hosted by fashion designer Brandon Maxwell and actors Vanessa Hudgens and Terrence J. Elsewhere, E! will have its own offerings featuring actress Laverne Cox as host from 5 p.m. until the ceremony’s start.

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