An Oscars unlike any before will get underway today, with history on the line in major categories and a telecast retooled for the Covid-19 pandemic.
Here's everything you need to know about this year's ceremony.
When to watch
The 93rd Academy Awards will begin at 12pm NZ time today. Live red carpet coverage will begin from 10.30am.
Where to watch
Thanks to the Mondayised public holiday, you get to watch the Oscars live from your sofa. TVNZ 2 will begin broadcasting the red carpet live from 10.30am and the ceremony from 12pm. You can also watch it via TVNZ On Demand.
How it will all unfold
There will be no host, no audience, nor face masks for nominees attending the ceremony at Los Angeles' Union Station — this year's hub for a show usually broadcast from the Dolby Theatre.
In contrast with the largely virtual Golden Globes, Zoom boxes have been closed out — though numerous international hubs and satellite feeds will connect nominees unable to travel.
There will once again be a live audience but only 170 attendees will be permitted inside the station at any one time, and they will be rotated in and out during commercial breaks.
Show producers are hoping to return some of the traditional glamour to the Oscars, even in a pandemic year. The red carpet is back, though not the throngs; only a handful of media outlets will be allowed on site.
There will be no sweatpants allowed and actors will have to be out in their best frocks. "Formal is totally cool if you want to go there, but casual is really not," organisers said in a leaked email.
The pre-show will include pre-taped performances of the five Oscar-nominated songs.
The ceremony will look 'more like a movie'
Pulling the musical interludes (though not the in memoriam segment) from the three-hour broadcast — and drastically cutting down the time it will take winners to reach the podium — will free up a lot of time in the ceremony. And producers, led by filmmaker Steven Soderbergh, are promising a reinvented telecast.
The Oscars will look more like a movie, Soderbergh has said. The show will be shot in 24 frames-per-second (as opposed to 30), appear more widescreen and the presenters — including Brad Pitt, Halle Berry, Reese Witherspoon, Harrison Ford, Rita Moreno and Zendaya — are considered "cast members".
The telecast's first 90 seconds, Soderbergh has claimed, will "announce our intention immediately".
But even a great show may not be enough to save the Oscars from an expected ratings slide. Award show ratings have cratered during the pandemic, and this year's nominees — many of them smaller, lower-budget dramas — won't come close to the drawing power of past Oscar heavyweights like Titanic or Black Panther.
Last year's Oscars, when Bong Joon Ho's Parasite became the first non-English language film to win best picture, was watched by 23.6 million, an all-time low.
This combination photo shows poster art for best picture Oscar nominees, top row from left, "The Father," "Judas and the Black Messiah," "Mank," "Minari," bottom row from left, "Nomadland," "Promising Young Woman," Sound of Metal," and The Trial of the Chicago 7." Photo / AP
Small screen movies make it big in pandemic time
Netflix dominated this year with 36 nominations, including the lead-nominee Mank, David Fincher's black-and-white drama about Citizen Kane co-writer Herman J Mankiewicz. The streaming service is still pursuing its first best-picture win; this year, its best shot may be Aaron Sorkin's The Trial of the Chicago 7.
But the night's top prize, best picture, is widely expected to go to Chlo? Zhao's Nomadland, a contemplative character study about an itinerant woman (Frances McDormand) in the American West. Should it be victorious, it will be one of the lowest budget best-picture winners ever. Zhao's film, populated by non-professional actors, was made for less than $5 million. (Her next film, Marvel's Eternals, has a budget of at least $200m.)
Zhao is also the frontrunner for best director, a categ...