Going for the gold has a new meaning this weekend as the 86th Academy Awards are handed out at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.
Instead of an Olympic medal, the prize is a statue standing 13 1/2 inches and weighing 8 1/2 pounds and, for the past eight decades, known by its nickname of Oscar.
As the ceremony and hoopla near, here’s an Oscar cheat sheet with some questions and answers about Hollywood’s biggest night:
1. Ellen DeGeneres is getting another bite of the chocolate Oscar as host. How did she fare the first time, in February 2007?
She was amiable in a show that was “terribly boring,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette TV editor Rob Owen wrote.
Her patter was not nearly as funny as when she hosted the Emmy Awards although she tried to take advantage of the nominees in the front row by vacuuming the carpet under the famous feet of Meryl Streep, Ryan Gosling and Penelope Cruz. She also asked director Steven Spielberg to take her picture with Oscar nominee Clint Eastwood for her MySpace page. Hey, it was 2007.
This year, the Oscars will salute the 75th anniversary of “The Wizard of Oz” and honor big-screen real-life heroes, superheroes, popular heroes and animated heroes, past and present, as well as the filmmakers who bring them to life.
2. Who will attract the most attention on the red carpet?
In the couples category, no one can top the synergistic sizzle of “12 Years a Slave” producer and actor Brad Pitt and partner Angelina Jolie. However, in a single awards season, Lupita Nyong’o has emerged as the one to watch.
A supporting actress nominee for “12 Years,” she ruled the red carpet at the BAFTA Awards in London in a strapless belted green Christian Dior gown. She rocked a turquoise column gown by Gucci at the Screen Actors Guild Awards and wowed onlookers in a red Ralph Lauren dress with a long, flowing cape at the Golden Globes.
3. What time does the Oscar show start on Sunday?
E! will launch its “Live From the Red Carpet: The 2014 Academy Awards” with Ryan Seacrest and Giuliana Rancic at 5:30 p.m.
ABC’s “Red Carpet Live,” with Robin Roberts, Lara Spencer, Jess Cagle and Tyson Beckford, will air at 7 p.m., and the Oscars will start at 8:30 p.m. on ABC.
If you’re too keyed up to sleep afterward, the ninth annual “Jimmy Kimmel Live: After the Oscars” will begin after the late local news on ABC. And Joan Rivers and her opinionated panel of fashionistas will weigh in at 9:30 p.m. Monday with “Fashion Police: The 2014 Academy Awards” on E!
4. How do voting members cast their ballots and when did voting close?
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences members could vote online or with paper ballots. Voting closed 8 p.m. Tuesday. The accounting firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers will tabulate and verify the results.
5. Who has the momentum going into the ceremony?
Cate Blanchett from “Blue Jasmine” seems unbeatable, and Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto from “Dallas Buyers Club” have been on a winning streak in best actor and supporting actor competitions. Oddly enough, though, the men weren’t nominated for the British Academy Film Awards.
Leonardo DiCaprio, a leading actor nominee and one of four producers of the best picture contender “The Wolf of Wall Street,” has been very visible of late. He’s talked about everything from what he looks for in a woman (“humility, a sense of humor and not a lot of drama,” he told CBS’ Gayle King) to his ability to just say no to drugs.
A week ago, his foundation gave a $3 million grant to the international organization Oceana to protect sharks, marine animals and habitat in the Pacific and Arctic oceans. Still, it may be an honor just to be nominated this time.
6. What’s with McConaughey and “All right, all right, all right”?
Those were the first lines he ever said on film, in Richard Linklater’s 1993 “Dazed and Confused.” It’s an 18-hour fictional time capsule during which teens smoke dope, drink beer and cruise around their small Texas town on the last day of school in 1976.
He played a long-ago graduate who hangs around with high schoolers and woos the girls, arguing, “I get older; they stay the same.”
7. Will Woody Allen skip the Oscars in light of Dylan Farrow’s renewed allegations of child molestation, which he has denounced as “untrue and disgraceful”?
The filmmaker never attends such events, although he made an exception in March 2002 to introduce a film tribute to his native New York six months after the 9/11 attacks.
Backstage, he told reporters: “I wanted to do something for New York, and the opportunity presented itself to me on a silver platter. It was a chance to come and try to be helpful to the city, and we’ve had such a tough time of it there, that there was no way that I could resist it.”
“Blue Jasmine” is nominated for three awards: Allen’s original screenplay, best actress Blanchett and supporting actress Sally Hawkins. Only Blanchett is expected to win, and if she doesn’t — losing to, say, Amy Adams from “American Hustle” — the controversy may be partly to blame.
Adams was nominated four previous times but never won, while Blanchett took the supporting prize for “The Aviator.”
8. Who is expected to present or perform?
Scheduled to present: Amy Adams, Kristen Bell, Jessica Biel, Jim Carrey, Glenn Close, Bradley Cooper, Penelope Cruz, Benedict Cumberbatch, Viola Davis, Daniel Day-Lewis, Robert De Niro, Zac Efron, Sally Field, Harrison Ford, Jamie Foxx, Andrew Garfield, Jennifer Garner, Whoopi Goldberg and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
Anne Hathaway, Goldie Hawn, Chris Hemsworth, Kate Hudson, Samuel L. Jackson, Angelina Jolie, Michael B. Jordan, Anna Kendrick, Jennifer Lawrence, Matthew McConaughey, Ewan McGregor, Bill Murray, Kim Novak, Tyler Perry, Brad Pitt, Sidney Poitier, Gabourey Sidibe, Will Smith, Kevin Spacey, Jason Sudeikis, Channing Tatum, Charlize Theron, John Travolta, Christoph Waltz, Kerry Washington, Emma Watson and Naomi Watts will also present.
Expected to perform: Pink, Bette Midler, Idina Menzel, Pharrell Williams, Karen O and U2.
9. Any hints about the stage of the Dolby Theatre?
Production designer Derek McLane is designing the look of the show for a second time. This much we know: He has incorporated nearly 164,000 Swarovski crystals into the Oscar set. He designed six custom crystal swag drapes (weighing a total of 1,830 pounds), a large crystal curtain and 18 opera box covers.
10. How many of the best picture contenders are on DVD and Blu-ray?
“Gravity,” “Captain Phillips,” “Dallas Buyers Club” and “Nebraska” are available now.
Still to come: “12 Years a Slave,” Tuesday; “American Hustle,” March 18; “The Wolf of Wall Street,” March 25; “Philomena,” April 15; and “Her,” date to be announced.
11. What will the winners, losers and other guests at the Governors Ball be nibbling on while you stumble to bed after midnight?
Master chef Wolfgang Puck and chef Matt Bencivenga are supervising more than 50 dishes, including smoked salmon Oscars, chicken pot pie with shaved black truffles and mini American Wagyu burgers with aged cheddar and remoulade.
There will also be crispy lobster shrimp dumplings, bites of fried chicken with white grits, shots of carrot orange gazpacho, taro root tacos with avocado, and butternut squash with farro and wild rice.
For those willing to test their Spanx or shuck them in the restroom, there will be sweets, including chocolate-dipped strawberry cheesecake pops, citrus panna cotta with funky chunky chocolate popcorn and cake marking Puck’s 20th year with the Oscars.
12. Any predictions?
With entire websites devoted to predictions, they’re not as special as they once were. Here are my picks for the titles and names that will be inside the envelopes:
Best picture: “12 Years a Slave.”
Director: Alfonso Cuaron, “Gravity.”
Actor: Matthew McConaughey, “Dallas Buyers Club.”
Actress: Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine.”
Supporting actor: Jared Leto, “Dallas Buyers Club.”
Supporting actress: Lupita Nyong’o, “12 Years a Slave.”
Animated feature: “Frozen.”
Original screenplay: “American Hustle” by Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell.
Adapted screenplay: “12 Years a Slave” by John Ridley.
Foreign language film: “The Great Beauty,” Italy.
Documentary feature: “20 Feet From Stardom.”
Film editing: “Gravity.”
Production design: “The Great Gatsby.”
Costume design: “The Great Gatsby.”
Makeup and hairstyling: “Dallas Buyers Club.”
Original score: “Gravity.”
Original song: “Let It Go,” Frozen.
Visual effects: “Gravity.”
Documentary short: “The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life.”
Live action short: “The Voorman Problem.”
Animated short: “Get a Horse!”
Sound mixing: “Gravity.”
Sound editing: “Gravity.”
Bonus: When will the 2015 ceremony be?
The 87th Academy Awards will be Feb. 22, 2015, in Hollywood.
Distributed by MCT Information Services