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Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2016-02-28

The year’s biggest red-carpet event gets under way on Sunday, with many wondering whether Leonardo DiCaprio will take home Hollywood’s most coveted prize and how host Chris Rock will handle the #OscarsSoWhite controversy.

Here’s what you need to know about the nominees for the 88th annual Academy Awards.

BEST PICTURE NOMINEES

The Revenant
Almost entirely devoid of dialogue, this immersive tale of survival is the odds-on favourite to win the coveted Best Picture award. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio and directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, who also directed last year’s winner for Best Picture, the film is inspired by the real-life story of a fur trapper who was mauled by a grizzly bear and then abandoned by his companions. The movie is filmed in natural light and has been hailed for its beautiful cinematography, but was less universally adored by critics than many of its competitors in the same category. Some have been outspoken in their view that the movie doesn’t deserve to win Best Picture, but given that it has already taken home the Golden Globe and the BAFTA, many are betting that it will.

Spotlight
The second of the most likely winners of tonight’s prize, “Spotlight”, tells the story of the Boston Globe journalists whose reports revealed the staggering breadth and scale of paedophilia within the Catholic Church. Directed by Tom McCarthy and starring Rachel McAdams, Michael Keaton and Mark Ruffalo, the painstakingly researched and crafted movie manages to make the slow-moving process of investigative journalism riveting while at the same time oozing authenticity. If the film wins tonight it won’t be the first prize to result from the Globe’s coverage: the real-life team of journalists won the Pulitzer in 2003 for its reporting on the scandals.

The Big Short
Another of the critics' favourites, this is the third adaptation of a Michael Lewis book to be nominated for Best Picture by the Academy (the other two being “Moneyball” and “The Blind Side”). A compelling silver-screen account of the financial collapse of 2008, the film, which is directed by Adam McKay, follows an eccentric hedge-fund manager played by Christian Bale. The film received — but failed to win — the Golden Globe for best picture, but some critics think that with its A-list cast (Brad Pitt, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Melissa Leo and Marisa Tomei are some of the other big names gracing the credits) and its engaging rendering of an important but difficult subject, the film could be the surprise winner of tonight’s contest.

Bridge of Spies
Another foray into history by Steven Spielberg, this dramatic Cold War thriller tells the story of an American lawyer, played by Tom Hanks, who is charged with brokering the swap of a Soviet agent (Mark Rylance) held prisoner in America in exchange for a US pilot who was downed over Soviet territory. In characteristic Spielberg style, the film garnered a raft of award nominations, including six Oscars, and was widely loved by critics, although few expect it to snag the Best Picture award.

Brooklyn
An emotional tale of love, loyalty and belonging, this adaptation of the eponymous 2009 novel by Irish writer Colm Toibin was translated to the big screen by veteran theatre director John Crowley. The plot centres on a young woman who immigrated to New York and faced the difficult task of starting over while confronting questions of identity. Another film adored by both critics and the public, it picked up the Outstanding British Film award at the BAFTAs earlier this month but is seen as having little chance of walking away with the top prize.

Mad Max: Fury Road
While few think it’s the film that will win, some notable critics think that it should. There is perhaps no better allegory for our current times than this dark, edge-of-your-seat action film. Charlize Theron stars in the fourth installment of George Miller’s dystopian Mad Max series as one of the toughest female characters to dominate the screen in a very long time, the aptly named Furiosa, who flees an oppressive ruler in post-apocalyptic Australia and sets off on a search for her homeland. A Best Picture win for the film would be a bit of an upset, but one that would be viewed as well deserved by many a critic and fan.

The Martian
Who knew being stranded in space could be so amusing? Directed by Ridley Scott, the saga of an astronaut (portrayed by Matt Damon) who is forced to figure out how to survive on Mars after his crewmates leave him for dead has been described by critics as thrilling and surprisingly funny. Not widely expected to snag a golden statuette tonight, it scored a none-too-shabby consolation prize in the form of the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture-Musical or Comedy.

Room
With a setting that is downright claustrophobic compared to those of most other films in the Best Picture category this year, the aptly named “Room” tells the story of a kidnapping victim and her born-in-captivity son who are confined to a shed in their captor’s backyard. This indie film, directed by Lenny Abramson and starring Brie Lawson and Jacob Tremblay, is the underdog success tale on a slate dominated by much bigger movies. Its win of the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival attests to its popularity with audiences, and an unexpected Best Picture Oscar would warm a lot of hearts.

Date created : 2016-02-28

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