Five Things to Watch for at the Oscars

Hollywood's biggest night is shaping up less as a celebration than as a reckoning.

Last year's Academy Awards ended in chaos when Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway initially announced the wrong movie as Best Picture.

This year's Oscars unfold Sunday with the real La La Land in a state turmoil far more serious than a bungled awards presentation.

Here are some things to watch for on Hollywood's biggest night, which is shaping up less as a celebration than as a reckoning:

Time for Time's Up
During the 2013 Oscars nominations announcement, that year's host, Seth MacFarlane, floated a quip that likely went over the heads of most viewers. "Congratulations: You five ladies no longer have to pretend to be attracted to Harvey Weinstein," he said of the Best Supporting Actress nominees.

Last year, revelations of sexual harassment and sexual abuse allegations against the movie producer spurred widespread stories of decades of rampant sexism and worse throughout the entertainment industry.

The imbroglio spawned the #MeToo and Time's Up movements, which have brought symbolic black dresses and a serious sense of purpose to the awards season. The Oscars will provide the largest – and most unpredictable – forum yet for Hollywood's long-overdue upheaval.

A New Jimmy Kimmel
Perhaps the former co-host of "The Man Show" might not seem the best Oscars host amid the sexual harassment crisis.

But Kimmel returns to the Academy Awards a changed person – and performer. His ABC show became more politically charged last year after the life-saving heart surgeries undergone by his infant son, Billy, prompted him to weigh in on the healthcare debate. 

The Oscars will test whether Kimmel can navigate the tough balancing act of delivering pointed jokes that entertain without making light of victims.

The Trump Card
The closest President Trump likely ever will come to snaring an Oscar is the Worst Supporting Actor Razzie he won for his role in Bo Derek’s “Ghosts Can’t Do It.” Last year, the rocky early days of his presidency provided Oscar ceremony fodder (“Some of you will get to come up here on this stage tonight and give a speech that the president of the United States will tweet about in all-caps during his 5 a.m. bowel movement," Kimmel told his star-filled audience.)

But it's unclear how much the president, who was once caught on tape bragging his celebrity gave him power to accost women, will be directly targeted this time. 

Either way, Trump, who gained popularity via a TV show and now regularly bashes the media elite as president, likely will try to declare an Oscars victory for himself. He might watch the ABC broadcast – but it's an even better bet he'll be monitoring the audience numbers. In September, he mocked the ratings of the Emmys, tweeting: "Smartest people of them all are the "DEPLORABLES.""

Audience Interest
Viewership could emerge as a bigger pre-show guessing game than picking the the winners at an Academy Awards ceremony where only two of the nine Best Picture nominees (“Dunkirk” and “Get Out”) pulled in more than $100 million at the box office

Oscar might yet again pay the price for snubbing quality hits like "Wonder Woman" in favor of "Phantom Thread" and other artsy fare.

Hollywood's distance from the people who buy movie tickets stands out all the more as "Black Panther," another groundbreaking superhero flick, rules the box office and the pop cultural zeitgeist.

Snafu Review
Kimmel's likely to joke early, if not often, about how "Moonlight" nearly got shafted during last year's wild finale.

The Academy needs a hitch-free show. The Hollywood brass doesn't want folks in the White House and elsewhere tweeting better jokes than the host.

Can Oscar avoid another embarrassing "Did that really just happen?" moment? Only time – and Twitter – will tell.

Hester is Director of News Products and Projects at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of "Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as a Family." Follow him on Twitter.

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