Rain-soaked Hollywood primed for Oscars drama

March 2, 2014 7:04 am
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Lupita Nyong’o holds her award for best supporting actress and director Steve McQueen holds his award for best director for 12 Years a Slave at the 2014 Independent Spirit Awards on March 1, 2014 in Santa Monica, California/AFP
Lupita Nyong’o holds her award for best supporting actress and director Steve McQueen holds his award for best director for 12 Years a Slave at the 2014 Independent Spirit Awards on March 1, 2014 in Santa Monica, California/AFP
HOLLYWOOD, Mar 2 – Hollywood’s finest finally hit the red carpet Sunday for the most fiercely contested Oscars show in decades – after organizers scrambled to make sure the weather doesn’t rain on the glamorous parade.

After months of drought, a huge storm has hit just in time for the Academy Awards, drenching the famous red carpet where A-listers will strut their stuff as Tinseltown’s annual awards season comes to a climax.

Three movies – harrowing historical drama “12 Years a Slave,” 3D space thriller “Gravity” and 1970s crime caper “American Hustle” – are leading a packed field for the top prizes.

On the acting front, Cate Blanchett is the hot favourite for her turn in Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine,” while Matthew McConaughey is widely tipped to strike Oscars gold for his portrayal of homophobic HIV-positive AIDS activist Ron Woodroof in “Dallas Buyers Club.”

Jared Leto’s role as Woodroof’s unlikely transgender business partner has put him ahead of the field for best supporting actor, and Lupita Nyong’o could take home a statuette for her big-screen debut in “12 Years a Slave.”

On the eve of Hollywood’s biggest night, “12 Years a Slave” scored a last-minute boost by winning best feature and best director for Briton Steve McQueen Saturday at the Independent Spirit Awards.

McConaughey, Leto, Blanchett and Nyong’o took home the acting awards, further cementing their status as the ones to beat for the prized Oscar statuettes.

But experts agree that, while some categories may be seemingly settled, all bets are off for the big prize of the night, the best picture Oscar, which will be handed out at the end of the 86th Academy Awards ceremony hosted by US talk show host Ellen DeGeneres.

“It’s been a very intense season because there’s been so many good films,” industry journal Variety’s awards editor Tim Gray told AFP in the run-up to the Oscars.

“The very last envelope that’s opened is going to be very suspenseful.”

The 6,000 or so voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences cast their ballots over 12 days starting on Valentine’s Day and ending on Tuesday.

But the best picture race is so close that the winner could come down to only a few votes, under the Academy’s preferential voting system. Under the rules, voters rank all nine nominated films.

They are: “American Hustle,” “Captain Phillips,” “Dallas Buyers Club,” “Gravity,” “Her,” “Nebraska,” “Philomena,” “12 Years A Slave” and Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

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