Yes, J.K. Simmons is a heavy favorite to win the Best Supporting Actor trophy for “Whiplash.” And Julianne Moore will likely earn her first Oscar for her mesmerizing work in “Still Alice.” Yet this year a few major prizes are legitimately up for grabs, including Best Picture.
ABC’s Oscars telecast still holds other, more intriguing questions. We won’t know the answers to the following five queries until the envelopes start opening shortly after 8 p.m. EST Feb. 22.
- Will Diversity Woes Get Their Due? – The buzz overwhelming last month’s Oscar nominations came not from any particular film but the lack of minority nominees. Will the telecast address the issue directly, perhaps via a clips montage showing how film has handled race relations? Or, will host Neil Patrick Harris acknowledge the subject with a quip or two, letting the audience release its collective guilt?
- Will Obama Enter, Stage Left? – Two years ago First Lady Michelle Obama made the Best Picture announcement, taking the honors from acting legend Jack Nicholson. Could an Obama (or two) make a follow-up appearance?
- Who Will Get Political First? – Not all politicized Oscar speeches are created equal. Michael Moore selfishly used the podium back in 2003 to slam the Bush administration despite his award having nothing to do with the Iraq War. Yet Jared Leto spoke eloquently during his Oscar acceptance speech. He honored both those who have passed from AIDS, fitting given his award for “Dallas Buyers Club,” as well as the citizens in Venezuela and the Ukraine enduring political nightmares. Whose turn is it this year, and will more than one winner use the podium as their personal soapbox?
- Can Neil Patrick Harris Make Us Say, “Billy Who?” – Hosting the Oscars may be the toughest gig in show business, worse that doing PR for Justin Bieber. Get too snarky and the press will eat you alive. Kiss up to the Hollywood big wigs and the press will eat you alive. Tell one too many bad jokes and the press, well, you know the drill. Harris is an amiable star but hardly a heavyweight comedian like past hosts Steve Martin or Billy Crystal. He has his work cut out for him.
- Will We Snore Through the Whole Telecast? – This might be the easiest question of all to answer. No matter the host, the films being honored or the attempts to streamline the show, the Oscars telecast leaves even hardcore film fans begging for release.
DID YOU KNOW: The Oscars ceremony has all the glamour Hollywood can muster. It also boasts a cash bar where water is $4 a bottle.