A general view of the Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. (Jason Merritt / Getty Images )
"Argo" heads into Sunday's Oscars with the wind at its back, but Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln" has the most nominations of any film -- a dozen. Will Ben Affleck's 1970s Iran drama make it a sweep, or are there some surprises in order?
The suspense isn't only about who will go home with statuettes, of course. Many will tune in to see how first-time emcee Seth MacFarlane handles the hosting duties, and how the bevy of planned musical numbers -- including by Barbra Streisand and Adele -- come off. (The red carpet begins at 4 p.m. L.A. time, and the show commences on ABC at 5:30 p.m.)
The ceremony at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland caps what several Hollywood executives say is the most expensive best picture race ever. Conservative estimates suggest that Warner Bros. (“Argo”) and the Walt Disney Co. (“Lincoln”) each have spent at least $10 million on all of the “for your consideration” promotions for their respective releases.
Even though Spielberg’s biography of the 16th president entered the awards season as the season’s heavy favorite, Affleck’s “Argo” has won pretty much every major award in the weeks leading up to the Academy Awards. Its sweep includes top honors from the Producers Guild of America, the Writers Guild of America, the Screen Actors Guild and the Directors Guild of America, which gave Affleck its top prize for directing the film.
No matter how many Oscars “Argo” does win at the Academy Awards, Affleck can’t take home the directing trophy as he wasn’t nominated in the category. If “Argo” does pick up the best picture statuette, it will be the first film since 1989’s “Driving Miss Daisy” to win the top Oscar without its director being nominated for making it (Affleck would, however, share a best picture win with fellow producers Grant Heslov and George Clooney).
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is hoping that this year’s roster of popular releases — for the first time, six of the nine best picture nominees have grossed more than $100 million in domestic theaters— combined with “Ted” and “Family Guy” creator MacFarlane’s hosting the show can draw a younger and bigger viewership.
The ABC broadcast has drawn more than 40 million viewers only once in the last five years, and the median age of the television audience has soared from 39 to nearly 53 years old in barely two decades. But even if MacFarlane draws some younger viewers, will they stay tuned in through a celebration of James Bond and a salute to movie musicals?
While the battle between “Argo” and “Lincoln” may be one of the evening’s closest races, several other top contests should not be that suspenseful. Daniel Day-Lewis is expected to be named lead actor for his starring role in “Lincoln,” while Anne Hathaway is also widely regarded as the likely recipient of the supporting actress trophy.
The lead actress race is seen as a contest between Jennifer Lawrence for “Silver Linings Playbook” and Emmanuelle Riva in “Amour.” And the presumptive favorites for supporting actor are Robert De Niro for “Silver Linings Playbook” and Tommy Lee Jones for “Lincoln.”