HOLLYWOOD, United States, Feb 26, (Agencies): The Hollywood awards season reaches its glittering climax at Sunday’s Oscars, with bleak survival epic “The Revenant” tipped to clean up on a night overshadowed by a simmering race row.
Viewers around the world will tune in to see who wins at Tinseltown’s most prestigious prize ceremony, but controversy over the “whitewashing” of nominations has threatened to steal more headlines than the tough competition.
Analysts are backing “Revenant” star Leonardo DiCaprio to bag his first golden statuette on his fifth acting nomination, while Brie Larson has dominated the awards season with her performance as a kidnapped mother in “Room.”
“Leonardo DiCaprio winning for ‘The Revenant’ will not be a surprise,” said Los Angeles-based film awards expert Anne Thompson.
The Indiewire blogger called the 41-year-old DiCaprio a “beloved movie star at a time when there aren’t many,” pointing to the punishing film shoot he endured in freezing weather conditions to portray 19th century fur trapper Hugh Glass.
“He ate a bison liver. The Academy goes for this stuff,” she told AFP.
“Spotlight,” about child abuse in the Catholic Church, and Wall Street satire “The Big Short” look like safe bets for the original and adapted screenplay honors after being recognized by the Writers Guild.
The race for supporting actor and actress, as well as the statuette for best director, remain too close to call however, with only a couple of days to go before the big night.
Sylvester Stallone (“Creed”) and Alicia Vikander (“The Danish Girl”) grabbed the early awards buzz by taking home a Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild award, respectively.
Triumph for Hollywood darling Stallone, who gets standing ovations at most industry gatherings, is seen as the potential feel-good story of the night, four decades after his first nomination for playing the same role — boxer Rocky Balboa.
But the 69-year-old sentimental favorite is facing a late surge in the talent-heavy supporting actor category from BAFTA winner Mark Rylance, who played real-life Soviet spy Rudolf Abel in “Bridge of Spies.”
Christian Bale (“The Big Short”) and Mark Ruffalo (“Spotlight”) also could pull off a major surprise.
Vikander is competing with “Carol” star Rooney Mara, on her second nomination, and Britain’s Kate Winslet, who earned wide acclaim for her work in “Steve Jobs” — and already has a best actress Oscar for “The Reader.”
From a blood-soaked tale of revenge, to a dystopian action thriller, to a dramedy about the subprime mortgage crisis, this year’s contenders for the best picture Oscar on Sunday offer a wide range of stories and moods.
Below is a brief summary of each of the eight movies vying for the most coveted golden statuette:
‘The Big Short’
Adam McKay’s “The Big Short” is based on Michael Lewis’s non-fiction 2010 book of the same name on the 2008 global financial meltdown.
Boasting an all-star cast including Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt, it is nominated for five Oscars, including best director.
‘Bridge of Spies’
Steven Spielberg’s espionage thriller is nominated for best picture and five other statuettes, including best supporting actor for Britain’s Mark Rylance.
Set in the Cold War, it tells the story of the 1962 prisoner exchange of American spy plane pilot Francis Gary Powers and graduate student Frederic Pryor for Soviet spy Rudolf Abel (Rylance).
Directed by John Crowley and based on Colm Toibin’s book of the same name, “Brooklyn” tells the story of a young Irish immigrant navigating her way in 1950s New York and torn between two men who love her.
The film earned three Oscar nods, including best actress for Saoirse Ronan.
‘Mad Max: Fury Road’
George Miller’s stunt-filled fourth installment of the “Mad Max” franchise tells the story of a post-apocalyptic road warrior — played by Charlize Theron — who sets out to free the wives of a tyrannical warlord.
The film earned 10 Oscar nods including for best director, costume design and makeup.
Based on the novel by Andy Weir, the movie tells the survival story of astronaut Mark Watney, who becomes stranded on Mars following an unexpected storm and is left for dead.
The film has received seven Oscar nods including for best actor (Matt Damon) and best visual effects.
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s bleak revenge thriller earned a leading 12 nominations, including for best picture, director and actor.
It tells the story of real-life 19th century fur trapper Hugh Glass, portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio, who is expected to walk away with his first Oscar.
“Room,” up for four Oscars including the best actress prize for Brie Larson, was adapted from Emma Donoghue’s novel of the same name, shortlisted for the Booker Prize.
The film tells the story of Joy “Ma” Newsome, a young woman who has given birth in captivity and escapes after seven years in a shed, as told through the eyes of her five-year-old son Jack.
“Spotlight” depicts the painstaking investigation by The Boston Globe newspaper on how the Catholic Church hushed up the activities of nearly 90 pedophile priests in the northeastern US city in the early 2000s.
Nominated for six Oscars and a slew of other prizes, the film is based on a series of stories by the real Spotlight team, who earned the Globe the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.