Lights, cameras and action! The Oscars are finally here, with some of the world's biggest stars, top filmmakers and powerful movie industry executives gathering for Hollywood's annual celebration of the silver screen.

Here's what you need to know about tonight's ceremony.


What: 

This year marks the 88th annual edition of the Academy Awards. The CBC News arts team is on-site in Hollywood, reporting live from the red carpet and behind-the-scenes.

Where:

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Workers cut and measure red carpet next to an Oscar statue wrapped in plastic at the entrance to the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. (David McNew/Getty Images)

The Dolby Theatre at the Hollywood & Highland Center in Hollywood, Calif.  

When:

The red carpet pre-show starts at 7 p.m. ET, with the awards ceremony to follow at 8:30 p.m. ET. The telecast, which runs approximately four hours, will be broadcast live by ABC, simulcast in Canada by CTV and ultimately shown in more than 225 countries around the globe.

The host:

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Chris Rock returns to the Oscars podium tonight for the 88th edition. (Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press)

This year, acerbic stand-up comedian, actor and producer Chris Rock makes his return to the Oscars podium. He previously hosted in 2005 and deflated a good number of egos with his celeb-skewering bits (one wonders whether Jude Law ever forgave him) as well as an uncomfortably honest skit about how the public doesn't actually watch Oscar contenders). 

Producers tapped the Saturday Night Live alum and Everybody Hates Chris creator as the 2016 Oscars host last fall — more than two months before the nominations were announced and set off the #OscarsSoWhite uproar for a second year.

Rock has been mum about the racial diversity furore that has engulfed this year's ceremony, but given that his comedy never ducks heavy topics including politics or race relations, who better to host? His monologue will definitely be Sunday night's must-see TV.

The big story:

The Academy Awards are arguably the most prestigious film industry honour on the planet — just scoring an Oscar nod makes it into a person's obituary. An Oscar nomination (and, most assuredly, a win) can change the course of a career. So it's understandable that which individuals, teams or movies earn nominations become a big deal. 

For a second consecutive year, the film academy put forth a slate of all-white acting nominees and was instantly greeted with a tsunami of social media outrage that quickly manifested into offline criticism and widespread debate. Moving quickly to introduce new diversity efforts only sparked a retaliatory backlash.

The #OscarsSoWhite fiasco — which admittedly points a larger issue within the wider film industry itself — hangs like a storm cloud over the 2016 proceedings and casts a shadow over this year's nominees.

That said, survival thriller The Revenant leads this year's Oscar race with 12 nominations, while the contenders for best picture, the night's most anticipated trophy, are:

  • The Big Short
  • Bridge of Spies
  • Brooklyn
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • The Martian
  • The Revenant
  • Room
  • Spotlight

The complete list of the nominees can be found here and CBC's arts reporter and film critic Eli Glasner offers his predictions here.

The Canadian contenders

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Actress Rachel McAdams is among the strong slate of Canadian Oscar contenders this year. (Evan Agostini/Associated Press)

This year, the field is peppered with Canadians. Chief among them are Irish-Canadian co-productions Room (including a nod for Irish-Canadian author Emma Donoghue's screenplay) and Brooklyn. Both are contenders for best picture.

Filmed partly in Alberta and British Columbia, lead Oscar nominee The Revenant's contenders include a spate of Canadian collaborators, including visual effects artist Cameron Waldbauer, set decorator Hamish Purdy, sound technician Chris Duesterdiek (up for sound mixing), makeup and hair artist Robert Pandini.

Emma Donoghue tells CBC's Zulekha Nathoo what she's learned from screenwriting1:01

Denis Villeneuve's Sicario earned a trio of nods (though the Quebec filmmaker himself failed to earn one). Rachel McAdams is a best supporting actress nominee for her turn in Spotlight, while R&B chart-topper The Weeknd and his Canadian team of co-songwriters are in the running for best original song for Earned It from the film Fifty Shades of Grey.

Other Canadian hopefuls include:

  • Documentary short filmmakers Adam Benzine (for Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah) and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy (for A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness).
  • The Martian sound technician Paul Massey (for sound mixing) and artist Anders Langlands (visual effects).
  • Animated short nominee Richard Williams (shares in nomination for Prologue with Imogen Sutton).

Find full coverage of the 2016 Academy Awards tonight at CBCNews.ca/arts.

Tune in Monday, when the CBC's Eli Glasner will offer his take on this year's Oscars in a live chat (beginning at 12 p.m. ET) with the CBC News Trending team