LOS ANGELES: Film fans by the hundreds waited under cold, dreary skies for glimpses of stars about to cross the red carpet for the 79th annual Oscars on 25 February, carefully watched by a phalanx of policemen.
Security was tight on the land and in the air.
Hollywood experts say many of this year’s Oscar races are wide open. Comedy ”Little Miss Sunshine” and cultural drama ”Babel” were two leading picks for best film, but crime thriller “The Departed,” British royals saga “The Queen” and World War II tale “Letters From Iwo Jima” were not far behind.
But until the big show, which will be watched by millions of television viewers worldwide, begins Sunday evening no one will know the winners’ names.
The fans outside the Kodak Theater were keen to wait for the stars. They even practiced their squeals of delight if, for instance, Leonardo DiCaprio should go to the grandstand and offer his hand.
“We get to see this close-up. It’s not the People magazine version,” said Dawn Schwinghammer, who with her two sisters-in-law came from Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The Oscars are given out annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and Hollywood’s biggest celebrities turn out for the gala awards ceremony. The women stroll up the glitzy red carpet wrapped in couture gowns and the men put on their finest tuxedos.
After the fashion parade, they will walk into the Kodak where this year the show will be hosted by popular comedian Ellen DeGeneres. The Schwinghammers were hoping she would give the more than 3-hour show some zip this year.
LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE
Meanwhile, it was the awards races that had Atlanta’s Jackie Berger wondering what the night would hold.
“I’m hoping ’Little Miss Sunshine’ will win (best film), but I’m thinking ’Babel,’” Berger said. She said ”Babel,” the cultural drama that looks at communication barriers around the globe, had more critical acclaim, but ”Little Miss Sunshine” won her over with its sweet tale of a family of losers who learn what it means to be winners.
The race for best film is the widest open in years.
In the acting categories, only Helen Mirren is regarded as a shoo-in for best actress for her regal work as Queen Elizabeth II in “The Queen.”
The best actor category is expected to boil down to a race between Forest Whitaker as the brutal dictator Idi Amin in ”The Last King of Scotland” and veteran Peter O’Toole as an elderly man in love with a young woman in “Venus.”
“Dreamgirls” actor Eddie Murphy and actress Jennifer Hudson both have been picked as front-runners for the supporting actor and actress Oscars, respectively. They both face challenges. Alan Arkin of ”Sunshine” is picked to give Murphy a run for his money, and Adriana Barraza in “Babel” and Abigail Breslin from “Sunshine,” are given a shot at supporting actress.
Finally, Martin Scorsese is expected to win the best director for “Departed,” and if so, it would be his first Oscar for an individual film after seven previous nominations. The sentiment around town is that it is “Marty’s turn.”