• Oscars shapes up into a two-horse race

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    Scarlett Johansson seen backstage during rehersals for the 2015 Oscars at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood AFP PHOTO

    Scarlett Johansson seen backstage during rehersals for the 2015 Oscars at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood AFP PHOTO

    HOLLYWOOD, California: Hollywood is holding its breath ahead of the 87th Academy Awards (2015 Oscars) on February 22 (February 23 in Manila) with dark comedy Birdman and coming-of-age drama Boyhood neck-and-neck in the awards season home stretch.

    Tinseltown’s finest will be on the edge of their seats at the Dolby Theatre, waiting to finally learn who will win a coveted golden statuette—and who will walk away empty-handed.

    Julianne Moore, Patricia Arquette and Britain’s Eddie Redmayne are among those widely tipped to take home acting prizes during the show, hosted by song-and-dance man Neil Patrick Harris.

    But the race for the biggest prize of the night, the best picture Oscar, remains too close to call with only a couple of days to go.

    Birdman, a fanciful yet dark tale of a washed-up superhero actor battling to revive his career on Broadway, has swept a string of prizes ahead of the Oscars including top prizes from the Screen Actors Guild and the Directors Guild of America.

    But Richard Linklater’s Boyhood—which was made over 12 years with the same actors aging with their characters—scooped up the biggest awards at last month’s Golden Globes, as well as Britain’s BAFTAs.

    Tinseltown’s finest will gather once again at the 87th Academy Awards AFP PHOTO

    Tinseltown’s finest will gather once again at the 87th Academy Awards AFP PHOTO

    Some have even suggested that Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper could sneak up on the inside as a dark horse, boosted by the film’s box office success as the highest-grossing war movie of all time.

    Ballots cast
    When nominations were announced last month, Birdman shared the most nods with Wes Anderson’s stylish crime caper The Grand Budapest Hotel, at nine each, followed by World War II thriller The Imitation Game with eight. Boyhood followed with six.

    That fired the starting gun on the frenzied final weeks of frantic schmoozing and self-publicizing that defines Hollywood’s awards season, which gains momentum until the star-studded Oscars night.

    Campaigning can no longer have any impact on the results, as the 6,124 voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences finished casting their ballots on Tuesday.

    While the best picture race is on a knife-edge, several of the other key categories are seen as much easier to predict.

    Veteran star Moore is almost universally expected to win best actress for playing a linguistics professor suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease in Still Alice.

    Arquette is the favorite for best supporting actress as the single mother raising two kids in Boyhood, while JK Simmons is widely expected to win best supporting actor honors for jazz drama Whiplash.

    The best actor race is still seen as up for grabs—a two-man contest between Redmayne—as astrophysicist Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything—and Birdman star Michael Keaton.

    Best picture/director split?
    For best director, the frontrunners are Linklater and Mexico’s Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, the creative force behind Birdman.

    This has led to speculation that the best picture and best director prizes could be shared, as they were last year when Mexican Alfonso Cuaron won best director for Gravity, while the best picture Oscar went to 12 Years A Slave.

    “That’s a possibility, that Inarritu wins best director and ‘Boyhood’ best picture, or vice versa,” said Vincent Brook, a lecturer at the UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television.

    A star-studded cast of presenters will hand out the prizes at Sunday’s show, including Ben Affleck, Scarlett Johansson, Nicole Kidman, Eddie Murphy, Liam Neeson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Meryl Streep and Oprah Winfrey.

    Harris will have the tough task of following last year’s widely-praised mistress of ceremonies, Ellen DeGeneres.

    But the 41-year-old best known for TV show “How I Met Your Mother” should be up to it, having won four Emmys for hosting Broadway’s Tonys awards.

    AFP

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