Five Things to Watch for at the Oscars

"La La Land," with its record-tying 14 Oscar nominations, could turn acceptance speeches at Sunday's Academy Awards into the same old song and dance.

But it's far from certain that the movie musical will capture all the Oscar drama.

Here are five things to watch for at Sunday night's ceremony, to be broadcast on ABC:

Jimmying Open the Show
First-time Oscars host Jimmy Kimmel takes the stage of the Dolby Theatre seven weeks after his late night rival Jimmy Fallon's strong performance at the Golden Globes.

Kimmel doesn't possess the musical comedy chops of Fallon, who opened the Globes with an elaborate "La La Land” parody, or of past Oscars hosts like Billy Crystal, Neil Patrick Harris and Hugh Jackman.

But look for Kimmel, whose post-show movie parody videos earned more laughs than some Oscars hosts of recent years, to assemble a top-notch cameo-filled reel for prime time. Last year's gem – a satire of "The Producers" called "Trumped" – proved both funny and prescient. 

Political Floorshow
"Trumped" aside, Kimmel's not known as a particularly political comedian. But it's a good bet that President Trump's name – and policies – will be on the lips of some winners.

The first Reality-TV president has loomed throughout the awards season – from Meryl Streep's Golden Globes speech likening him to a bully to Busta Rhymes rapping about "President Agent Orange" at the Grammys.

A suggested play-at-home Oscars game: Count whether "La La Land" or Trump gets more mentions.

Will "Bonnie and Clyde" Steal the Show?
Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, co-stars of "Bonnie and Clyde," might reunite a half-century later to present the Best Picture statuette, according to The Hollywood Reporter. 

The news spurred hopes that other stars from the classic crop of 1967 Best Picture nominees will appear.

The wish list includes Dustin Hoffman ("The Graduate") and Sidney Poitier ("Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner" and Best Picture winner "In the Heat of the Night"), who turned 90 this week. 

Last year's troubling lack of recognition for performers and filmmakers of color spurred the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite – and calls for a boycott.

The nominations this time around better reflect Hollywood's quality output – as well as the country’s population. Seven of the 20 acting nominations went to actors of color. Meanwhile, four of the nine best picture nominees feature non-white primary protagonists. 

Denzel Washington's brilliant turn in "Fences" would be a Best Actor lock most years, though Casey Affleck's chilling turn in "Manchester by the Sea" makes for a tight race.

Viola Davis is a Best Supporting Actress favorite for "Fences," though it’s puzzling that she wasn’t put up for Best Actress. Speaking of which: The most glaring snub of awards season remains Oscar voters' failure to nominate Taraji P. Henson for "Hidden Figures."

"La La”-Land Grab
"La La Land," a fine but flawed film, captured the imagination of Hollywood, which tends to reward movies about the entertainment industry (“Birdman” and “The Artist” are the two most recent examples of good films enshrined in greatness with Best Picture victories). 

But anything could happen, given this year’s crowded field of nine nominated movies  – even if might be folly to hope for a surprising and satisfying Hollywood ending.

Jere Hester is Director of News Products and Projects at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of "Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as a Family." Follow him on Twitter.

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