'The Revenant' leads charge at 'whitewashed' Oscars

HOLLYWOOD, UNITED STATES, Frankie Taggart- Hollywood hit the Oscars red carpet Sunday for its annual show of glitz and pageantry honoring cinema's finest -- with a broiling row over diversity an awkward guest at the party.
Tinseltown's elite are looking forward to the usual sparkling night of celebration, with survival epic "The Revenant" leading the charge for golden statuettes and a panoply of rivals snapping at its heels.

But controversy over the "whitewashing" of nominations -- there are no ethnic minority nominees in the acting categories for the second year running -- threatens to steal the limelight.
An audience expected to number several hundred million around the world will be hanging on every word uttered by black comedian and actor Chris Rock, who is hosting despite calls for him to join a boycott.
Insiders say the 51-year-old has completely rewritten his opening monologue in the wake of the scandal, which could prove embarrassing for the Academy's 6,000-plus voting members, overwhelmingly white men.
The funnyman appeared in relaxed mood hours before the ceremony, posting a picture of Oscars note paper bearing the phrase "Get ready" and, soon after, a video of him ordering breakfast at a McDonald's drive-thru.
- Belle of the ball -
Formalities for the 88th Oscars got underway with celebrities arriving on the red carpet under hazy blue skies at Hollywood's Dolby Theatre.
Best supporting actress nominee Alicia Vikander floated in a strapless pale yellow Louis Vuitton gown that had Oscar watchers on Twitter comparing her princess look to that of Belle in the Disney classic "Beauty and the Beast."
Saoirse Ronan, a best actress nominee for "Brooklyn," paired her slinky emerald green sequined Calvin Klein gown with -- mismatched earrings, one green and one white!
- Team Leo -
Analysts have predicted that Sunday will be a night of long overdue glory for old Hollywood hands who have previously missed out.
Jaws will drop if best actor doesn't go to Leonardo DiCaprio for "The Revenant," 22 years after his first of five acting nominations.
"Don't know about u but I'm rooting for LEO! He's blessed us w/ years of his storytelling, he deserves this!" tweeted pop diva Lady Gaga, an Oscar nominee.
A widely-anticipated best supporting actor Oscar for Sylvester Stallone, who reprises his turn as underdog boxer Rocky Balboa in "Creed," would be one of the stories of the night, almost four decades after his only other nominations -- for best actor and screenplay for the franchise's original outing, "Rocky."
The 69-year-old shared a picture on Instagram of him dressed in a dark blue dinner jacket with black and blue lapels and a black shirt and bowtie, captioned: "On my way to the Oscars... It's been a memorable year."
First-time nominee Brie Larson -- stunning in blue Gucci -- looks to be a lock for best actress, having dominated the awards season with her performance as a kidnapped mother in "Room."
Sweden's Vikander ("The Danish Girl") faces competition in the best supporting actress category from "Carol" star Rooney Mara, on her second nomination, and previous best actress winner Kate Winslet, acclaimed for her work in "Steve Jobs."
"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.
- 'Surprises will happen' -
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's "The Revenant" is the overall frontrunner, with 12 nominations, followed by George Miller's stark action epic "Mad Max: Fury Road" with 10 and Ridley Scott's space adventure "The Martian," with seven.
The Gold Derby website, which aggregates experts' predictions, has "The Revenant" in the lead for best film, but analysts are split on whether Inarritu will also pick up best director for the second year running following his win for "Birdman."
"I think 'The Revenant' will win best picture and the director will go to Miller," said Hollywood analyst Anne Thompson.
"It would be unlikely that the Academy would reward a genre sequel like 'Fury Road' with best picture, but they have gone with directors like Ang Lee and Alfonso Cuaron for well-mounted spectacles like 'Life of Pi' and 'Gravity.'"
"As many people are saying, this is an unusual year when surprises will happen," she added.
The night will also feature some social activism: several stars including Oscar winner Patricia Arquette and past nominee Steve Carell are to wear bracelets to promote a campaign against gun violence.
And Vice President Joe Biden will introduce a song by Lady Gaga to push an initiative tackling sexual assault on US university campuses.
Gaga sang a duet with Elton John on Saturday at his pre-Oscars pop-up concert in West Hollywood, which drew thousands of fans to the Sunset Strip.

Monday, February 29th 2016
Frankie Taggart

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