The 91st Oscars will be handed out Sunday evening in a ceremony that’s shaping up to be almost as unpredictable as the awards themselves, with no host leading the show and no clear front-runner in the race for best picture.
Writer/director/producer/cinematographer Alfonso Cuaron’s black-and-white foreign-language drama “Roma” and the bawdy period film “The Favourite” have the most nominations, with 10 each.
Cuaron has won most of the major directing honors leading up to the Academy Awards, including the top prize from the Directors Guild of America, for “Roma,” a portrait of a domestic worker for a well-to-do 1970s Mexican family. But a foreign-language film has never won the Oscar for best picture.
“Green Book,” the story of a white New York bouncer who forges a bond with a black master-pianist during a tour of the Deep South in the 1960s, won the usually Oscar-predictive Producers Guild of America Award for feature films. The film also has a Golden Globe to its credit, but its Oscar credentials appeared to take a hit when director Peter Farrelly was passed over for an Academy Award nod.
The Queen biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” also has a Golden Globe to its name, adding to its best-picture hopes, while Rami Malek is considered a strong contender for best-actor honors for his portrayal of the band’s late frontman Freddie Mercury. “Black Panther,” the first comic-book-based film to ever receive a best-picture nomination, earned some awards-season credit when it won the best ensemble cast prize at the Screen Actors Guild Awards.
Rounding out the best-picture category are “BlacKkKlansman,” “A Star is Born” and “Vice.”
Cuaron will compete for best-director honors with Spike Lee for “BlacKkKlansman,” Pawel Pawlikowski for the Polish film “Cold War,” Yorgos Lanthimos for “The Favourite” and Adam McKay for “Vice.”
This year marks the first time that two directors of films nominated for best foreign-language picture — “Roma” and “Cold War” — have been nominated for best director. Also nominated for best foreign-language film are “Capernaum” (Lebanon), “Never Look Away” (Germany) and “Shoplifters” (Japan).
The best-actor race appears to be a horse race between Malik for “Bohemian Rhapsody” and Christian Bale, who packed on 40 pounds for his portrayal of former Vice President Dick Cheney in “Vice.” Bale has already won Golden Globe and Critics’ Choce Awards, while Malek won a Golden Globe and the more-Oscar-predictive Screen Actors Guild honor. Also competing are Bradley Cooper for “A Star is Born,” Willem Dafoe for “At Eternity’s Gate” and Viggo Mortensen for “Green Book.”
Bale is the only nominee in the category to already have an Oscar. He won a supporting-actor trophy in 2010 for “The Fighter.”
Glenn Close, with Golden Globe, Critics’ Choice and SAG Awards already to her credit, is the clear front-runner for best actress for her performance as the silent brains behind a Nobel Prize winner in “The Wife.” Globe winner Olivia Colman is also nominated for her lead role in “The Favourite,” along with Yalitza Aparicio for her role as a Mexican domestic worker in “Roma,” Lady Gaga for her work alongside Cooper in “A Star is Born” and Melissa McCarthy for her lead role in “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
Close has six previous Oscar nominations, but she has never won. She was nominated for best actress for the films “Fatal Attraction,” “Dangerous Liaisons” and “Albert Nobbs.”
Mahershala Ali is the front-runner for best supporting actor for his portrayal of pianist Don Shirley in “Green Book.” Ali has already collected Golden Globe, SAG and Critics’ Choice awards for his work in the film. He will compete for the Oscar with Adam Driver for “BlacKkKlansman,” Sam Elliott for “A Star is Born,” Richard E. Grant for “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” and Sam Rockwell for “Vice.”
Rockwell won the supporting-actor Oscar last year for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Ali won the same prize three years ago for “Moonlight.”
Regina King, another Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice Award winner for her work in the romance “If Beale Street Could Talk,” tops the list of supporting-actress nominees. Also vying for the prize are Amy Adams for “Vice,” Marina de Tavira for “Roma” and Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz for “The Favourite.”
For Adams, the nomination is the sixth Oscar nod of her career, but she has never won. Weisz won a supporting-actress Oscar in 2005 for “The Constant Gardener,” while Stone was named best actress in 2016 for “La La Land.”
Nominated for best animated feature film are “Incredibles 2,” “Isle of Dogs,” “Mirai,” “Ralph Breaks the Internet” and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.”
The Oscar ceremony will be held without a host, following the withdrawal of announced host Kevin Hart. Hart dropped out of the gig after criticism arose of past homophobic jokes and comments for which he has since apologized. Instead, an unusually large array of presenters — including non-actors such as tennis star Serena Williams and chef Jose Andres — has been gathered to help keep the ceremony moving.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has vowed to keep the 5 p.m. ceremony to three hours, and the lack of a host could help the cause. The Academy had announced plans to trim the ceremony by presenting four awards during commercial breaks, then showing edited versions of the acceptance speeches later in the broadcast. But a wave of outrage prompted the Academy to scrap the plan.
The Academy has also apparently warned nominees that if they win, they’ll have a total of 90 seconds to get to the stage and give their entire acceptance speech.
The Oscars will be aired live on ABC.