It all comes down to this, movie fans. The 91st Academy Awards are almost here, and despite the many hiccups this year's show has already suffered, the ceremony is still the premier event of the season for anyone who loves movies.
Not that the producers seem to fall into that group. The weeks leading into this year's ceremony have been filled with missteps and errors -- including but not limited to a controversial decision to give out four smaller awards during the broadcast's commercial breaks (with the results folded into the telecast via an edited package). That change was swiftly denounced on social media and later reversed. Movies, now more than ever!
But regardless of the backroom drama surrounding the broadcast itself, the Oscars are poised to be a celebration of 2018 in film -- and it's a wide-open race for Best Picture thanks to a wild season of precursor upsets. The biggest prize for drama at the Golden Globe Awards went to Bohemian Rhapsody, while the BAFTAs picked Alfonso Cuarón's Roma as the year's best film. Green Book has also picked up some unexpected steam this season (winning in the comedy category at the Golden Globes), while the SAG Awards proved that people shouldn't sleep on Black Panther this year either.
There is also some small debate around who will take home the Academy's acting prizes. Olivia Colman's BAFTA-winning turn in The Favourite is, well, the favorite for some. But Glenn Close's work in The Wife has already earned her a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild Award -- she's a big favorite (sorry, Olivia) to win on Sunday night. Best Supporting Actress nominee Regina King seems poised to finally collect her first Oscar for If Beale Street Could Talk, so long as the Academy doesn't try to make it up to Vice's Amy Adams for past oversights. Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody) and Mahershala Ali (Green Book) also seem like locks for the leading and supporting categories, respectively -- unless the controversies surrounding their pictures finally catch up to them.
We'll have to tune in to the show to see which films and performances stuck with Oscars voters the most this year, so here's what you need to know about how to watch the 91st Academy Awards.
How to watch: The 2019 Oscars will air live on Sunday, Feb. 24 at 8/7c on ABC. That channel is available for live-streaming at ABC's website as well as Hulu's Live TV service.
What to expect: There's been an unusual amount of drama leading up to this year's Oscars telecast. Most notably, erstwhile host Kevin Hart stepped away from the role after some of his old homophobic tweets resurfaced. And even though Kumail Nanjiani and Tracee Ellis Ross proved they were totally up to the job when they announced the nominations, no new host has been named. ABC President of Entertainment Karey Burke has assured journalists that the show's no-host formula will be smooth, putting the spotlight on the presenters as well as the stars and films being honored.
The Academy has also been doing damage control elsewhere. After Allison Janney revealed she was not initially slated to present and that it was a heartbreaker for her, the Academy quickly remedied that and invited all four of last year's acting winners to present this year, per usual. The Academy also recently announced that all five nominees for Best Original Song will be given their time in the spotlight, despite originally only planning to feature two: Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper's "Shallow" and Kendrick Lamar and SZA's "All the Stars" (Lamar, however, remains unconfirmed to appear).
Another controversial decision made by the Academy was shifting certain categories off into the commercial breaks. This year, at least at first, four winners will be announced away from the televised broadcast: Best Cinematography (where Cuarón is a favorite for Roma), Best Editing (which could go to Bohemian Rhapsody, a victory that might melt Film Twitter), Best Makeup and Hairstyling (Vice is in the lead there) and Best Live-Action Short (sorry, this one maybe deserves a spot amongst the ads).
Following intense backlash from the film community, the Academy defended its plan in a letter to members, writing that the acceptance speeches for those four wins would be aired during the telecast but that the plan was simply to shore up time spent on talent walking to the stage. "We'd like to assure you that no award category at the 91st Oscars ceremony will be presented in a manner that depicts the achievements of its nominees and winners as less than any others," the letter read. But the Academy later backed off these controversial plans -- and all 24 categories will be awarded during the live broadcast.
The presenters: Janney, Gary Oldman, Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell will return to present. The Academy has also announced that Awkwafina, Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Tina Fey, Whoopi Goldberg, Brie Larson, Jennifer Lopez, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Amandla Stenberg, Charlize Theron, Tessa Thompson, Constance Wu, Javier Bardem, Angela Bassett, Chadwick Boseman, Emilia Clarke, Laura Dern, Samuel L. Jackson, Stephan James, Keegan-Michael Key, KiKi Layne, James McAvoy, Melissa McCarthy, Jason Momoa, Sarah Paulson, Elsie Fisher, Danai Gurira, Brian Tyree Henry, Michael B. Jordan, Michael Keaton, Helen Mirren, John Mulaney, Tyler Perry, Pharrell Williams, Krysten Ritter, Paul Rudd and Michelle Yeoh will serve as presenters for the showcase.
The evening will also include a slate of eight presenters from outside of the Hollywood realm, including tennis star Serena Williams, who is set to speak about what A Star Is Born means to her. Producer Donna Gigliotti told the New York Times of the decision, "Along with inclusion, which we definitely want to embrace, the big theme of the show is about movies connecting us -- not in this theater but in a big, sweeping, cultural way."
Other stars alongside Williams who will introduce the Best Picture nominees include chef José Andrés, actor and comic Dana Carvey, actor and singer Queen Latifah, Congressman John Lewis, actor Diego Luna, musician Tom Morello, actor and comic Mike Myers, comic and late-night host Trevor Noah, actor Amandla Stenberg and singer and actor (and all-around legend) Barbra Streisand.
"Movies connect us all," said Oscars producers Donna Gigliotti and Glenn Weiss about the decision to have a starry roster of Best Picture introductions. "They move us, and they create moments and memories that unite us. We are thrilled to assemble this well-known array of film lovers to introduce and share their reflections on the Best Picture-nominated movies."
The nominations: Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite, Green Book, Roma, A Star Is Born and Vice are all competing for Best Picture. Meanwhile Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Willem Dafoe, Rami Malek and Viggo Mortensen will all duke it out for Best Actor, while Yalitza Aparicio, Glenn Close, Olivia Colman, Lady Gaga and Melissa McCarthy contend for Best Actress. Click here for the full list of the 2019 Academy Award nominees.
PHOTOS: 17 Times the Oscars Got It Wrong
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On some level, The Blacklist has always been about the two Raymond Reddingtons. There's the criminal mastermind Reddington (James Spader), who simultaneously torments and aids the federal government. And there's conflicted father Reddington (also Spader), who simultaneously torments and aids his supposed daughter (Megan Boone).
For years it appeared that the central tension of The Blacklist was about which version of Reddington would prevail and how. But now that Liz has learned about the actual two RRs, the show is about identity and patronage in a different way. After tonight's two-hour episode, it's clear there is a lot of potential for the search for The Real Raymond Reddington (TM) -- if only The Blacklist doesn't get too caught up in the supposed mystery of it all.
The basic question of what happened to the legitimate Red isn't as interesting as the show thinks it is. Whoever James Spader has been playing for 100-plus episodes is the character the audience cares about. His relationships with Liz and Dembe (Hisham Tawfiq) matter the most. A shocking revelation that the original Red is some hero, or even still alive, can't diminish the stature of the show's main character. The mystery surrounding the identity of the real Red does hold intrigue, but what matters is how the answers to that mystery help evolve the characters the audience already knows.
These episodes offered mixed results on this front. At times, the trial sequences exhibited what happens when The Blacklist gets too dialed into the secrecy of its plotlines and between its main characters. The degree at which both Fake Red and Ressler (Diego Klattenhoff) referred to "Raymond Reddington" while clearly indicating they meant someone other than the Spader-esque figure in the courtroom quickly felt on-the-nose rather than sharp. Likewise, while it's technically big news to learn that original flavor Red did not, in fact, commit treason against the U.S. all those years ago, the second hour undercut the emotion of that revelation -- and great work from Spader -- with an onerous line about how Reddington was never the same person again.
The big news of these episodes unsurprisingly only generates more questions. The original Red didn't commit treason and tried to unveil the operations of the shadowy cabal that the task force can never seem to snuff out, only to be undercut by Katarina, Liz's mother. How did all of that lead to this other guy taking over Reddington's identity -- especially after he was branded a traitor by the U.S. government? Why was Katarina then involved in that identity swap? These are perfectly interesting questions in the grand scheme of Blacklist-style mysteries.
And yet, like with the bag of bones last season, there's a creeping sense that these questions will subsume so much of the show, to the point where answers are all that matters -- until even newer questions are raised. While the race for answers can produce good TV, The Blacklist has thrived more commonly in exploring the complications between Red and Liz. That's really what it comes down to.
The moments that worked best across this two-hour block were far closer to that realm of storytelling. Spader and Boone were both quite good in their characters' respective reactions to the recorded explanation of Katarina's betrayal. Liz and Dembe shared another fine scene where the latter swore to -- and later followed through with -- not telling Red about Liz dropping the dime on him. Ressler and Liz seem closer than ever now that he knows the truth about her rogue investigation, to the point where Ressler committed perjury to protect said investigation. And the two sisters, Liz and Jennifer, decided to go their separate ways after Jennifer realized all the answers in the world weren't worth being kidnapped and beaten by a crook in her faux father's orbit.
Those individual character moments hit harder than any big, sweeping twist. It's far more interesting to think about Liz's deeply conflicted feelings over her fake father who holds an already outsized influence on her life. It's far more interesting to consider why Not Red continues the lie because of his similarly large emotional connection to Liz, even in the face of the death penalty. And it's far more interesting to think about how secondary characters like Ressler and Jennifer get stuck in the orbit of this complex relationship and struggle to maintain their own connections to Liz.
Really then, this is all about not just two versions of Raymond Reddington. It's about the two versions of The Blacklist. There's the show that gets gassed up on its twists, and the show that highlights the ongoing toll of its central relationship. The Blacklist probably isn't a success without both, but at this point in the run, the latter version is more compelling. That version needs to win out moving forward.
The Blacklist airs Fridays at 9/8c on NBC.
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Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire (Caitriona Balfe) settled in America during Season 4 of Outlander, but setting up shop on a new continent, reuniting with their daughter visiting from 200 years in the future and then chasing down said daughter's estranged husband left little time for the romance that Outlander fans have come to expect from the series.
"This season, we were introducing more characters, and there was a lot of story to get in," executive producer Maril Davis told a small group of reporters including TV Guide at the Television Critics Association winter press tour. "We've always talked about the sex scenes -- we love them, too -- but they have to be organic to the story. Sometimes that story, or the network or the studio, don't allow for those slow down times. In the book, you can slow down...You have enough time to do the quiet moments between Jamie and Claire, and sometimes we didn't have a chance this season."
Davis is not wrong. While the couple were able to find a few intimate moments together early in the season, there was never a logical time for them to stop and have sex between John Grey (David Berry) showing up with Jamie's long-lost son, Brianna (Sophie Skelton) arriving in Wilmington, and the subsequent hunt for Roger (Richard Rankin) after Stephen Bonnett (Ed Speleers) raped Brie. The couple's constant traveling, as well as the nature of the drama in this season, didn't leave a lot of time for setting the romantic tone that viewers and book readers are used to.
However, that is potentially going to change in Season 5, which Davis and the creative team are pre-producing right now. Now that the Frasers have settled on their land and Brie is safe with Roger, there should be more time for Claire and Jamie to spend together.
"I do anticipate a return, hopefully, to that [intimacy] next season," Davis said. "Every season has its different storylines and where we're going. We can't always re-create the first season, which was very special. It just has to be within the story and feel like its organic. That's something we work on and the actors work on. It's a collaboration."
Davis is a fan of the Outlander story herself, so she understands why the fans are frustrated, but said she has to strike a balance between giving them the fire of the romance and putting her actors in compromising positions in front of the camera.
"I'm a fan myself, so I totally get it. I know the fade-to-black moments drive everyone crazy. Sometimes you're asking actors to do things, and this is the fifth season," she said. "Trying to find those intimate moments without always having to show everything and putting your actors in that position...I want [the fans] to be satisfied."
Outlander has been renewed for Season 5 and 6 on Starz.
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