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Oscars 2022: When, Where And Why To Watch This Year's Ceremony

Gold curtains are gathered behind larg letters than read OSCARS as a plastic covering protects a massive red carpet.
A man takes a selfie as preparations for the 94th Oscars red carpet arrivals area continue along Hollywood Blvd. this week.
(Frederic J. Brown
/
AFP via Getty Images)
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This Sunday marks the 94th Academy Awards. Among the unknowns: How many people are even interested?

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Last year’s scaled-down ceremony had all-time low TV ratings. With no blockbusters among the nominees for the most-anticipated awards, this show is highly unlikely to come anywhere near the viewership numbers in 1998 when crowd-favorite Titanic swept with 11 awards, including best picture.

The pandemic accelerated a shift in how people watch movies. Four years ago the domestic box office was nearly $12 billion. In 2021, that number was $470 million. Many movies that would have been released first to theaters now are simultaneously (or exclusively) available streaming.

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Just two years ago, four best picture nominees grossed more than $100 million in domestic theaters: 1917, Joker, Ford v Ferrari and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. This year, only one best picture selection — Dune — grossed more than $100 million in North America, and it barely squeaked by that milestone.

Last year did produce one of the highest-grossing movies of all time, Spider-Man: No Way Home. The film had more than $800 million in domestic ticket sales. It's up for just one Oscar: visual effects.

How to watch

For those of you planning to view from home, ABC is broadcasting live and streaming. Here are the times to keep in mind here on the West Coast:

  • Red carpet starts at 4:30 p.m.
  • Ceremony opens at 5 p.m.

And now, an overview of what to expect.

What’s changed

  • The pandemic has clearly changed, likely forever, where people watch movies. Two of this year’s top contenders for best picture — The Power of the Dog and CODA — were released, respectively by the streamers  Netflix and Apple TV Plus.
  • Last year the pandemic forced the producers of last year’s show to downsize the ceremony (no red carpet or fancy after-parties) and relocate to downtown’s Union Station. This year, the show returns to the Dolby Theatre, where a red carpet only a little smaller than the Rose Bowl has been rolled out on Hollywood Boulevard.

The Best Picture Contest Got Interesting

It’s admittedly glib — but altogether accurate — to label this year’s Oscar race as The Power of the Dog versus the power of the underdog. And that long shot movie could very well displace Jane Campion’s dark Western for the biggest prize Sunday night: the Academy Award for best picture.

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The underdog in this case is writer-director Siân Heder’s CODA, a low-budget indie movie that several months ago would have been considered lucky simply to be among the 10 best picture nominees.

Now with a series of triumphs in Hollywood guild awards and other ceremonies preceding the pandemic-delayed Oscars, CODA appears to be in a near dead-heat with Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog. That alone is a feat considering Campion’s film has long been the presumed favorite to win the most important Academy Award.

It’s been that kind of up-and-down year inside the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

A Rocky Lead Up

Much of this year’s Oscar news had little to do with the nominated films, directors, actors, writers and crew (unless you count Campion’s much-criticized comments about Venus and Serena Williams). Instead, the chatter has been focused on the academy itself.

In a desperate bid to reverse collapsing ratings, the academy not only excluded the presentation of eight awards from the broadcast ceremony (they’ll be awarded an hour before the televised show begins), but also added a new “Twitter Oscar” for more popular films. That’s a choice adjudicated not by academy members but by social media users.

Possible Breakthrough Moments

At the same time, the Academy Awards still can set a different (and better) record. For the first time in its 93-year history, the Oscars could finally honor a woman as best cinematographer, The Power of the Dog’s Ari Wegner. Yes, that’s right: no woman has ever won in the category, and only two female cinematographers — Wegner and Mudbound’s Rachel Morrison — have been nominated.

What’s more, Campion is likely to be named best director, which would mean female filmmakers will have won the directing Oscar for two straight years (Nomadland’s Chloé Zhao was best director a year ago). And of course, that’s never happened before.

And The Oscar Goes To...

Based on interviews with Oscar voters and the consensus of prognosticators, the four lead acting races have strong favorites.

In the lead acting races:

  • Will Smith for King Richard
  • Jessica Chastain for The Eyes of Tammy Faye.

In the supporting acting races:

  • Troy Kotsur is considered a lock for supporting actor for CODA (he would become the first male Deaf performer to win an acting Oscar)
  • Ariana DeBose is equally favored to take supporting actress for West Side Story

What about best picture?

So who will win best picture? The Power of the Dog or CODA?

It’s difficult to compare the artistic merits of the films, as they are both exceedingly well-made, but it is possible to juxtapose their productions. The Power of the Dog was made for about three times the budget of CODA, and was bankrolled by Netflix. CODA was independently financed, and sold to Apple TV Plus at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival.

Oscar voters don’t focus on such matters, but the difference does feed into CODA’s underdog storyline. Some Oscar voters (all of whom said they were voting for CODA) told me they felt Netflix’s awards campaign for The Power of the Dog felt entitled.

All of that may be irrelevant to how Oscar voters mark their ballots. Based on the conversations I’ve had with academy members, they’re voting for CODA because it ends well. (The same might also be true for other potential upset candidates Belfast, King Richard and Dune.) 

So with so many troubles around the world, the margin of victory could be that simple: right now, feel-good movies feel good.

What questions do you have about film, TV, music, or arts and entertainment?
John Horn, entertainment reporter and host of our weekly podcast Retake, explores whether the stories that Hollywood tells about itself really reflect what's going on?