Oscars night is here! Hollywood ready for glitzy gala

Will Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma” win the Best Picture?

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BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 23: Oscar Statue at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on February 23, 2019 in Beverly Hills, California. Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images/AFP

Hollywood’s A-listers will hit the red carpet Sunday, February 24 for the Oscars – the climax of a long, eventful awards season that could yield some big surprises.

Alfonso Cuaron’s black-and-white cinematic ode to his childhood, Roma, leads with 10 nominations and is a firm favorite for the coveted best picture Academy Award.

If it does win, it will be the first foreign-language film, and the first from streaming giant Netflix, to earn the honor.

Alfonso Cuaron's 'Roma' has been the talk of the awards season, nabbing 10 nominations in this year's Oscars. Screenshot from YouTube/Netflix

But civil rights dramedy Green Book has overcome controversy to remain on the radar, and could benefit from the Academy’s complex preferential voting system to snatch the top prize.

Hot on their heels are a variety of films, from offbeat royal romp The Favourite (also with 10 nominations), to Spike Lee’s race drama BlacKkKlansman, to crowd pleasers like superhero flick Black Panther and musical romance A Star Is Born.

Two biopics – Vice about former US vice president Dick Cheney and Bohemian Rhapsody about the band Queen – round out the list of contenders for best picture.

The 7,900-odd voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had bold choices in front of them – traditional art-house Oscar bait, and big, rousing blockbusters.

“With 8 best picture nominees, every film has passionate supporters, but no film has a consensus,” Tim Gray, awards editor for showbiz trade publication Variety, told AFP.

All will be revealed at the Dolby Theatre, in a ceremony beamed around the world to millions of showbiz fans, with a twist – there will be no host for the first time in 3 decades.

The Academy opted to take the risk after comedian Kevin Hart withdrew from the gig in the face of a firestorm over past controversial tweets that were slammed as homophobic.

“They still don’t have an answer to a question that’s been around since the first TV showing in 1953: is this a presentation of every category, or is it entertainment?” Gray said. “They want it to be both.”

The entertainment factor will be high when Queen opens the show with singer Adam Lambert fronting the iconic band.

Will Glenn Close finally win?

For top acting honors, Christian Bale’s transformation into Cheney for Vice gave him the early lead in the Oscars race, and several statuettes.

But Rami Malek won respect from his peers – and a Golden Globe, Bafta and a Screen Actors Guild award – for his spellbinding turn as late Queen frontman Freddie Mercury.

“In Christian Bale’s, I see an incredible actorly thing, but with Rami Malek, you see a role that just really connected with audiences,” said Variety’s chief film critic Peter Debruge.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if the newcomer disrupts in this case.”

SANTA BARBARA, CA – FEBRUARY 01: Rami Malek speaks onstage at the Outstanding Performer Award Honoring Rami Malek during 34th Santa Barbara International Film Festival at Arlington Theatre on February 1, 2019 in Santa Barbara, California. Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for SBIFF/AFP

The best actress race has a clear favorite: Glenn Close, who has swept the prizes for her gripping work in The Wife as a woman on the edge when her author husband wins the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Lady Gaga wowed fans and critics with her turn in A Star is Born, and Yalitza Aparicio’s nomination for her first acting role in Roma earned praise. But it looks to be Close’s night.

“It is not her strongest role, but it is an opportunity for her to really own a small film, to carry it on her shoulders, and to remind the industry that here is one of our real treasures as an actress,” Debruge said.

Lead Actress nominee for “The Wife” Glenn Close attends the 91st Oscars Nominees Luncheon at the Beverly Hilton hotel on February 4, 2019 in Beverly Hills. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP)

Mahershala Ali (Green Book) and Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk) are the odds-on favorites in the supporting acting categories.

Better ratings this year?

The Academy – desperate to boost television ratings that have plummeted in recent years – is trying to stick to a 3-hour telecast, but it hit a few bumps along the way.

Controversies over its efforts to save time included plans to present a handful of awards during commercial breaks, and to feature only a few of the nominated songs. Both ideas have since been scrapped.

Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper will sing their power ballad “Shallow” from “A Star Is Born.” Songstresses Jennifer Hudson, Bette Midler and Gillian Welch will also perform. But Variety reported that Kendrick Lamar and SZA would not perform “All the Stars” from “Black Panther,” due to a “logistics and timing” issue.

The 91st Academy Awards begin tonight at 5:00 PM PST.