Oscars 2016: What to expect from the year’s biggest night in film

If you plan on tuning into Sunday’s 88th Academy Awards, you’ll be treated to, among other things, the cap of red carpet season, the culmination of weeks of controversy regarding the nominations’ racial diversity and, lest we forget, a celebration of the 55 films nominated for the industry’s most-prestigious awards.

Here’s what you need to know.

How can I watch the ceremony? 

The three-hour ceremony will air on ABC at 8:30 p.m. EST. If you’re more interested in the dresses than the statues, the red carpet will be live at 7:00 p.m EST.

Like last year, live streaming is also available if you’re a cable TV subscriber in one of eight markets (Chicago, Fresno, Houston, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, Raleigh-Durham and San Francisco), but be warned: it has a reputation of cutting in and out.

How late do I have to stay up to hear what wins Best Picture?

11:30 p.m.-ish. The notoriously long show has an average length of about 3 1/2 hours, but this year, the Academy is hoping to streamline the speeches by asking all nominees to submit a list of all the people they want to thank (think production studios, agents, managers, etc.) before the ceremony, which will run on a ticker at the bottom of the screen.

Who can I expect to see on the broadcast? 

Lady Gaga arrives at the 58th Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, California February 15, 2016.  REUTERS/Danny Moloshok - RTX273FZ

Lady Gaga arrives at the 58th Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, California February 15, 2016. Photo by Danny Moloshok/Reuters.

Actor and comedian Chris Rock will host the ceremony for the first time since he last helmed the awards in 2005. Given the robust racial discussion, you won’t want to miss his opening monologue.

You can see a full list of the evening’s myriad of presenters here.

And look out for performances from Best Original Song nominees, including Lady Gaga (who’ll be introduced by Joe Biden), Sam Smith and The Weekend.

Which movies should I at least pretend to have seen? 

Emory Cohen as "Tony" and Saoirse Ronan as "Eilis" in BROOKLYN. Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures. © 2015 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

Emory Cohen as Tony and Saoirse Ronan as Eilis in BROOKLYN. Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures.

“The Revenant” and “Mad Max: Fury Road” are starting the evening with the most nominations of the year, with 12 and 10 nods.

There has also been considerable buzz about Saoirse Ronan’s performance as a young Irish immigrant who carves out a new life in “Brooklyn,” as well as Brie Larson’s performance in “Room,” where she plays a young mother who has spent years held captive in a shed with her son.

Expect the night’s biggest award for Best Picture to go to one of these three films.

“The Revenant”: A gritty tale of revenge, based on a true story, that follows Leonardo DiCaprio as a 19th century fur trapper fighting to survive increasingly grueling conditions in the Wild West.

“The Big Short”: A fast-paced Wall Street flick, based on the book of the same name by Michael Lewis, that follows several individual hedge fund managers who reasoned the housing market was on the brink of collapse before anyone else.

“Spotlight”: Based on a true story, “Spotlight” follows a team of Boston Globe reporters who uncovered the Catholic Church’s massive cover-up of sexual abuse by priests.

You can see a complete list of this year’s nominations here.

What about the #OscarsSoWhite controversy?

Many prominent figures in the film and entertainment industry have shared their dismay at the lack of diversity in the major acting categories — the second year in a row the Academy has chosen to nominate exclusively white actors. In response, actors Will and Jada Pinkett-Smith and director Spike Lee have announced their intentions to boycott the ceremony all together.


Oscar nominees are shown in this combination of file photos. Director Spike Lee and actress Jada Pinkett Smith said on January 18, 2016 they will boycott next month's Academy Awards ceremony because black actors were shut out of nominations, and the Academy acknowledged it needed to do more to promote diversity. The Oscar acting nominees announced on Thursday lacked black performers for a second straight year, leading to the revival of the Twitter feed #OscarsSoWhite that emerged in 2015. From top to bottom (L-R) are best actor nominees Bryan Cranston, Matt Damon, Michael Fassbender, Eddie Redmayne, and Leonardo DiCaprio; best actress Brie Larson, Saoirse Ronan, Charlotte Rampling, Jennifer Lawrence and Cate Blanchett; best supporting actor Mark Rylance, Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Sylvester Stallone and Mark Ruffalo; best supporting actress Alicia Vikander, Rachel McAdams, Rooney Mara, Kate Winslet and Jennifer Jason Leigh. REUTERS/Staff/Files      TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY      - RTX22ZJ7

Oscar nominees are shown in this combination of file photos. Photo by Reuters

But the uproar stems from a much deeper-seated diversity issue in Hollywood. In fact, out of 30,000 characters in films over the past decade, roughly three quarters were white, even though minorities accounted for 46 percent of the $1.27 billion in tickets sold in the nation, according to the Washington Post.

Amid the controversy, the Academy has remained defensive yet forward-thinking since the nominations were announced in January.

“Everyone seems to be into the minutiae of it all,” Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president Cheryl Boone Isaacs told The Los Angeles Times on Friday. “The point is that we’re doing something. We are progressing. This is not another time where the door’s going to close. We want to make sure that it stays open, that it is the beginning of a movement that will continue.”

What does this mean for the Oscars’ ratings? 

The negative press creates a bit of a conundrum for the Academy, which has seen its ratings slip in the past few years. Viewership dipped by 16 percent last year, attracting the smallest at-home audience in six years.

It’s hard to tell whether the controversy will convince viewers to watch the event or ignore the ceremony all together.

Will Leo finally win Oscar gold?

Leonardo diCaprio starred in "The Revenant," which won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture -- Drama Sunday night.

Leonardo DiCaprio starred in “The Revenant,” which won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture — Drama Sunday night.

Almost all critics predict the four-time Academy Award nominee will walk away with a trophy this weekend after years of displaying a gracious Oscar loser face.

And for all he put up with, he probably deserves it. For his role in “The Revenant,” Leo was given the option of eating from an artificial raw bison liver, but true to character, he opted for the actual thing. His real-time reaction made it to the final edit of the film. Will his commitment pay off?

It’s a safe bet.

Have any predictions for Best Picture? What are your thoughts on the all-white acting nods in this year’s ceremony? Join the conversation on Facebook, and let us know your thoughts.