In the golden age of Hollywood, the world’s biggest stars arrived in Tinsel Town at Union Station.
Movie idols like Gloria Swanson would step off the train to a flurry of flashbulbs from the waiting paparazzi, and the station – built in 1939 – soon became a star in its own right, appearing in more than 150 films and TV shows and receiving admiration as one of the city’s greatest architectural gems.
This evening, the rail hub in downtown Los Angeles will once again play host to some of cinema’s biggest names, when an Oscars ceremony unlike any other comes live from the historic station.
The majority of this evening’s 93rd Academy Awards will take place in its grand waiting room and historic ticketing hall, an 11,200 sq ft space with vaulted ceilings and tree-filled outdoor patios, making it a perfect location for social distancing – although attendance is capped at 170 people.
Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh is helming the show, and has created intrigue by stating it will play out like a movie concept rather than a traditional awards programme. Previous awards shows during the pandemic, such as the Golden Globes and Grammys, have suffered from low ratings and technical issues, and the Academy is keen to buck the trend.
Despite the guarantee of A-listers in attendance, a promise of Zoom call acceptance speeches being a last resort, and a new concept and venue, LA-based showbusiness correspondent and P.S. columnist Ross King believes viewers might still be reluctant to join Oscar.
“It’s all very different this year and it will probably have the lowest viewing figures ever,” said Ross. “It’s been a strange week here – no Bafta tea parties, no British Consul General parties to welcome British nominees, no real gifting suites and no in-person interviews.
“The whole of Hollywood seems dead compared to how it normally is, when there are street closures all around the Dolby Theatre and crews from all over the world in attendance.
“There will be very low-key and small viewing parties around town, but with a minimal amount of people.”
The Dolby Theatre, which has hosted the Oscars for the past 19 years, will still have some involvement in the ceremony, and there will also be international hubs – including one in London – for nominees who are unable to travel to LA due to the current restrictions.
Stars will not be required to wear face masks on camera but will be asked to cover up during advert breaks. Ocean’s 11 and Erin Brockovich film-maker Soderbergh, who won the best director Oscar for Traffic in 2000, has said masks will play “a very important role in the story” that he is weaving into the show, adding that the topic “is central to the narrative”.
Ross said: “Hopefully the producers will have learned from some appalling awards shows this year, although I felt the Grammys was the best. The Oscars will fill the night with big stars, such as Harrison Ford, Brad Pitt and Reese Witherspoon.
“Steven Soderbergh says it will play out like a movie concept and the ceremony’s presenters are the cast who will play themselves, or versions of themselves.”
In a further break from tradition, the five best original song nominees will not be part of the main ceremony and will instead feature in the 90-minute pre-show Oscars: Into The Spotlight.
British Oscar nominees include Daniel Kaluuya, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Carey Mulligan, Olivia Colman, Riz Ahmed and Gary Oldman.
And the winner is?
- The Father
- Judas And The Black Messiah
- Promising Young Woman
- Sound Of Metal
- The Trial Of The Chicago 7
Nomadland is the front-runner, having already won best picture at the Golden Globes and Baftas. Minari is an outside chance, another film with Korean links following on from last year’s winner, Parasite.
- Riz Ahmed – Sound Of Metal
- Chadwick Boseman – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
- Anthony Hopkins – The Father
- Gary Oldman – Mank
- Steven Yeun – Minari
The late Chadwick Boseman, who passed away last August aged just 43, is the bookies’ favourite. Anthony Hopkins, at 83, is the oldest best actor nominee ever, and has a real chance at a second shock Oscar win.
- Viola Davis – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
- Andra Day – The United States Vs Billie Holiday
- Vanessa Kirby – Pieces Of A Woman
- Frances McDormand – Nomadland
- Carey Mulligan – Promising Young Woman
British actress Carey Mulligan is the top contender, but Frances McDormand – who is the first actress to be nominated in the acting and producing categories for the same film – is also a strong pick to make it three Oscar wins.
- Thomas Vinterberg – Another Round
- David Fincher – Mank
- Lee Isaac Chung – Minari
- Chloé Zhao – Nomadland
- Emerald Fennell – Promising Young Woman
Chloe Zhao, nominated in four different categories this year, is the odds-on favourite, while Emerald Fennell is nominated for her debut feature. Only five women have been nominated for best director before this year, and only Kathryn Bigelow has won.
With major studios holding many of their big movies back until cinemas can reopen, this year’s Oscar nominations is dominated by critically acclaimed independent movies.
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