What tonight's Oscars might look like after a flub-filled awards season

The race to the Oscars has been an unpredictable, flub-filled roller-coaster this season — perhaps providing the best reason to tune in to what remains one of the most-watched TV events of the year. Here's what you need to know for tonight's big show.

After attempts to reform the ceremony meet with backlash, the film academy awards its top prizes tonight

It's been a tumultuous year for the Academy Awards. What effect will controversies and reversed decisions have on the Oscars? (Matt Sayles/A.M.P.A.S. via Getty Images)

The path to the Oscars has been an unusual, unpredictable and flub-filled roller-coaster ride this season — perhaps providing the best reason to tune in Sunday night to an Academy Awards broadcast that remains one of the most-watched TV events of the year.

We're in for something we haven't seen in decades since there'll be no host. But how different will it truly be after organizers reversed major decisions aimed at trimming the monstrously long program?

Earlier best picture predictions have fallen by the wayside, some amid controversies for major contenders. Pre-Oscar award galas have crowned different films, including Roma, Black Panther, Green Book and Bohemian Rhapsody

Here's a quick catch-up on what you need to know.

Academy's rocky road to the Oscars

After 2018 marked the lowest-rated Oscars ever (and the longest ceremony in more than a decade), the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences aimed to overhaul this year's edition into a livelier, trimmer celebration. But the group's decisions sparked one backlash after another.

Kevin Hart was picked to host the Oscars, until a backlash about homophobic tweets and comedy bits from the actor and comedian's past led to his withdrawal. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

The academy's biggest fiasco began with its choice of comedian and actor Kevin Hart as Oscars emcee, which quickly drew with criticism when many brought up homophobic tweets and comedy bits he's delivered in stand-up sets. The result: the Academy Awards will be without a host for the first time in 30 years (the fifth time in its 91-year history).

The academy also raised an instant outcry with its proposal for a "popular film" category, but Oscar organizers subsequently shelved the idea.

Fresh criticism came after producers' decision to move four of the craft categories to commercial breaks, with the edited footage added to the broadcast later. This plan was also scrapped.

Oscar producers also reportedly wanted to feature just two musical performances (Shallow, performed by A Star is Born leads Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, and All the Stars from Black Panther, performed by Grammy-winner Kendrick Lamar and SZA) out of the five original-song nominees. This decision also riled, got the axe and now the latter track won't even be performed at all, according to Variety and Deadline

Audiences will, however, get a live performance from Queen and Adam Lambert, though Bohemian Rhapsody is neither nominated for its songs nor its soundtrack. And newly minted Grammy-winner Kacey Musgraves has also been added to the show.

Meanwhile, the films themselves haven't been immune to controversies that could threaten their Oscar chances, from opposition to Hollywood disruptor Netflix's best-picture entry Roma to troubling allegations against Bohemian Rhapsody director Bryan Singer and objectionable acts by Green Book's director Peter Farrellyco-writer Nick Vallelonga and co-star Viggo Mortensen.

The main contenders

Is the academy — itself undergoing a major overhaul — getting better at reflecting what regular folks are loving at the movies? Unlike recent years, this awards season has included several box office hits.

Vying for best picture are: 

  • A Star Is Born.
  • Roma.
  • Green Book.
  • The Favourite.
  • Black Panther.
  • BlacKkKlansman.
  • Bohemian Rhapsody.
  • Vice.

For those counting, two films — Roma and The Favourite — that some might consider the traditional, arty sort of films the Oscars typically crown are heading into the ceremony in the lead, with 10 nods each

However, this awards season, no single film has emerged as a clear frontrunner. The various critics' and industry groups have spread the love, presenting their top prizes to different titles. 

Who's expected onstage

Presenters slated to appear during the 2019 Oscars telecast include famous faces from the movie screen and beyond, including, from left, actors Michelle Yeoh, Jason Momoa, Jennifer Lopez, Chadwick Boseman and tennis pro Serena Williams. (Getty Images)

More than three dozen notable figures are slated to appear Oscar night, including:

  • past winners like Barbra Streisand, Brie Larson, Charlize Theron, Helen Mirren and Javier Bardem.
  • faces from this year's movies, such as Amandla Stenberg, Chadwick Boseman, Stephan James, Jennifer Lopez, Michelle Yeoh, Constance Wu, Jason Momoa and Melissa McCarthy.
  • notable figures from other spheres like Serena Williams, chef Jose Andres, U.S. Congressman John Lewis, Queen Latifah and Pharrell Williams.

Fingers crossed for some delightful banter, meme-worthy bits and chatter-inducing, must-see moments.

Canadians in the spotlight

Canadians Oscar nominees and presenters gather for Telefilm Canada's annual celebration ahead of the Academy Awards on Friday. (Megan McCleister/CBC)

The two short film categories are packed with Canadian contenders this year. 

Filmmakers vying for best animated short include Toronto-raised director Domee Shi (Bao), Vancouver's David Fine and Alison Snowden (Animal Behaviour) and Canadian-born Trevor Jimenez (Weekends). Meanwhile, two Quebec directors are up for best live action short: Jérémy Comte for Fauve and Marianne Farley for Marguerite

Canadians are also contenders for sound mixing and production design.

How to watch

The Oscars take place at the Hollywood and Highland Center's Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. CBC News will be on the red carpet for the event.

The 91st annual Academy Awards will be broadcast live on ABC and CTV on Sunday, Feb. 24, at 8 p.m. ET. It will be televised live in more than 225 countries and territories worldwide.


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