Preparations for 95th Academy Awards continue in Hollywood
Workers decorate Oscar statues with flowers as preparations continue for the 95th Academy Awards, also known as the Oscars, in Los Angeles, California, U.S., March 11, 2023. Reuters

Hollywood stars will walk a champagne-coloured carpet at the Oscars on Sunday when organisers aim to keep the spotlight on "Everything Everywhere All at Once," "Top Gun: Maverick" and other nominated films that brought crowds back to cinemas.

In case of an unexpected twist, a crisis response team will be on hand at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. The group was formed after Will Smith smacked Chris Rock on stage last year, tarnishing the film industry's most prestigious ceremony.

In this, the 95th Oscars, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences hopes to move past the slap and stage a glitzy show with new elements to attract younger viewers and boost sagging TV ratings.

The show will begin at 8 p.m. Eastern time (2400 GMT on Monday) and will be broadcast live on Walt Disney Co's ABC network. Comedian Jimmy Kimmel returns as host for the third time.

Producers said they plan to celebrate the moviegoing rebound of the past year, one that some feared may never happen when streaming took hold during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Several of 2022's biggest hits at the multiplex landed in the best picture race, from "Top Gun" and "Everything Everywhere" to "Elvis" and "Avatar: The Way of Water."

"Among our nominees are films that have not just hit the heart but also generated box office," said producer Glenn Weiss. "We're looking to really elevate that point."

The big films on the ballot, rather than some of the little-seen movies nominated in recent years, could help draw more viewers.

Last year, the television audience for the Academy Awards ranked as the second-lowest ever with 16.6 million viewers.

One novelty: QR codes will flash on TV screens ahead of commercial breaks with links to two- to-three minute videos about nominees. Organisers hope that sharing information about the contenders will give viewers people to root for and keep them watching.

To change up the look, organisers swapped out the traditional red carpet for the first time since 1961, opting instead for a champagne colour. The stars' entrance is covered by a dark tent that will give the appearance of nighttime glamour.

"Everything Everywhere All at Once," an offbeat story about a Chinese-American laundromat owner struggling to finish her taxes, comes in as the favourite to win best picture. The dimension-hopping kung fu adventure has swept the major Hollywood awards in the weeks leading up to the Oscars.

Star Michelle Yeoh faces off in the best actress category with Cate Blanchett, who played a devious orchestra conductor in "Tar." Best actor may be a toss-up between "Elvis" star Austin Butler and Brendan Fraser, who played a severely obese man in "The Whale."

Ke Huy Quan leads the supporting actor race for his role as Yeoh's disgruntled husband in "Everything Everywhere." A child star in a 1984 "Indiana Jones" movie, Quan quit acting for two decades because he saw little opportunity for Asian actors.

Angela Bassett is considered the favourite for supporting actress for her portrayal of Queen Ramonda in superhero movie "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever."

Winners are voted on by the roughly 10,000 actors, producers, directors and film craftspeople who make up the film academy.

Among the night's musical performances, pop superstar Rihanna will sing her nominated song "Lift Me Up" from "Wakanda Forever."

All of the awards for film craftspeople will be handed out live. Last year, some were announced before the broadcast to try to keep the show to three hours. That caused a backlash from behind-the-scenes workers and did not result in a shorter show. The telecast ran three hours and 40 minutes.