The Oscars are upon us! The stylists are all agog! The intersection of Hollywood and Highland is even more impassable than usual! And while it’s disconcerting how they creep up on us ever since the powers that be moved them up a month (remember how they used to be at the end of March? What happened to that? Were they worried about cutting into the important April Fool’s Day market?), they remain our just reward for sitting through the Super Bowl earlier this month.
So what can we expect? Here’s your mini-guide to sounding like you know what you’re talking about at your viewing party.
The winners: There’s no clear-cut front runner for best picture this year. Conventional wisdom would have it that it’s Boyhood’s prize to lose, and if that’s the name called on Sunday I’ll cheer along with the rest, but it remains to be seen whether the Academy will unexpectedly hand it to Selma as a kind of public penance/consolation prize, and I would argue that The Grand Budapest Hotel is something of a sentimental favorite, given the fact that no one expected a film that was released in March to get anything like the number of nominations it did, meaning that people actually, genuinely like it.
The actors: Three of the races are all sewn up: Julianne Moore for Still Alice (her statuette is long overdue; she could have won for at least seven other performances over the years, but suffers from being so consistently great that she’s often overlooked); Patricia Arquette (who is brilliant in Boyhood, and has also startled Hollywood with visual evidence of what happens when a woman ages naturally over time—news flash: she still looks good!); and J.K. Simmons, who is the kind of journeyman actor the Academy loves to honor in this category (personally, I still have not been able to bring myself to watch Whiplash, because I would rather rip my eardrums out with a pair of pliers than listen to that much uninterrupted jazz riffing). The only real toss-up is whether Eddie Redmayne or Michael Keaton will prevail in the Best Actor race, but if I had to guess, I’d go with Redmayne. Keaton will never have another chance, and gives a strange and mesmerizing performance in Birdman, but the Academy loves to inaugurate new young stars, and Redmayne played a physically challenged person. Best two of three goes to him.
The clothes: If the red carpet thus far is any indication, we’re going to see a lot of too-revealing gowns, and a lot of boring ones that don’t fit quite right. I am so beyond over actresses showing up in dresses with slits in creepy and awkward places that seem designed only to show off the fact that the wearer doesn’t need any damn Spanx. (Kate Hudson, I’m looking at you.) I’m counting on Cate Blanchett to show up in something regal and fabulous, and we’ll see if Lupita Nyong’o does perfect or decides to go “fashion-forward” and turns up looking like a bathmat. Fingers crossed for bathmat. At least it’ll be interesting.
The music: With Craig Zadan and Neil Meron producing, and Neil Patrick Harris on host duties, we’re guaranteed a bunch of musical numbers that are not quite as clever or well-performed as they think they are.
Matthew McConaughey: The main thing I’m looking forward to this year is how the Kanye West of the movie business manages to make Julianne Moore’s big moment all about himself. A tone-deaf fake out? An impromptu bongos session? Will he wrestle the mike away from her to deliver a self-serving oration about how proud he is and how he made it all happen? Whatever it is, be sure we’ll be reminded of how wonderful and special he and everyone else in the room is. Because that, ladies and gentlemen, is the true meaning of the Oscars.