Countdown to the Oscars! How to watch, which celebs will be there, who’s up for what – here’s all you need to know

It’s Hollywood’s biggest night of the year, and while pandemic restrictions have seen some celebs showing up on their laptops for other ceremonies in slightly more casual attire than they perhaps would in person (yes, we’re looking at you, Jason Sudeikis), rest assured the Oscars is pulling out all the stops to bring back a bit of glamour.

Which means we’ll get a star-studded red carpet (because clearly, the fashion is one of the best bits), even if it does look a little less crowded than previous years. So that’s a positive. The downside? We don’t get to check out the celebs’ kitchens, and fewer pets on show.

Ahead of the 93rd Academy Awards, here’s everything you need to know.

Writer/director Emerald Fennell, left, and actress Carey Mulligan promote their film Promising Young Woman during the Sundance Film Festival in Utah in January 2020. Pic: AP
Promising Young Woman writer and director Emerald Fennell (left) and star Carey Mulligan – the film is up for several awards. Pic: AP

When does the Oscars ceremony take place?

The show takes place on Sunday 25 April in Los Angeles. For the UK, that’s the early hours of Monday 26 April, starting at 1am and running until around 4am to 5am. So if you’re staying up with us, you’re in for a late night!

Which films are up for best picture?

  • The Father – the story of a father and daughter dealing with his dementia, starring Sir Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman. Up for six awards in total.
  • Judas And The Black Messiah – biographical drama about the betrayal of Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya), chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party in late-1960s Chicago, by FBI informant William O’Neal. Up for six awards – read our interview with filmmaker Shaka King
  • Mank – a black-and-white picture of golden age La La Land, telling the story of the writing of Citizen Kane by social critic and alcoholic screenwriter Herman J Mankiewicz, played by Gary Oldman. Leads the way with 10 nominations.
Minari tells the tale of a Korean family who move to America to build a better life
Minari tells the tale of a Korean family who move to America to build a better life
  • Minari – touching family drama about a Korean family starting a farm in Arkansas in the 1980s, starring Steven Yeun and Yuh-jung Youn. Nominated for six awards – read our interview with director Lee Isaac Chung
  • Promising Young Woman – darkly comic revenge tale starring Carey Mulligan as a woman out to teach guys preying on drunk women a lesson. Nominated for five awards – read our interview with Mulligan and director Emerald Fennell
  • Nomadland – after losing everything following the recession of the late 2000s, widow Fern (Frances McDormand) begins a journey through the American West in her van, living as a modern-day nomad. Another one up for six awards, and a big winner at the BAFTAs.
Nomadland star Frances McDormand and director Chloe Zhao on set. Pic: Searchlight Pictures/20th Century Studios
Nomadland star Frances McDormand and director Chloe Zhao pictured on set. Pic: Searchlight Pictures/20th Century Studios
  • Sound Of Metal – Riz Ahmed stars as a drummer who is desperate to return to his old life after losing his hearing. Nominated for six awards – read our interview with director Darius Marder and co-star Paul Raci
  • The Trial Of The Chicago 7 – historical legal drama starring an ensemble cast including Sacha Baron Cohen and Eddie Redmayne, the film follows the Chicago 7, a group of anti-Vietnam War protesters charged with conspiracy and crossing state lines with the intention of inciting riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Also up for six awards.
British actor Daniel Kaluuya was quite literally the only man for the job. Pic: Judas and the Black Messiah/Warner Bros
British actor Daniel Kaluuya is the favourite to win best supporting actor. Pic: Judas And The Black Messiah/Warner Bros

Which British stars are in the running?

This is a good year for British talent, with several nominees in the acting categories. In fact, in the leading actor category, three of the five nominees are British – Sir Anthony Hopkins (who won the BAFTA), Riz Ahmed and Gary Oldman – while in the leading actress category, Carey Mulligan and Vanessa Kirby (Pieces Of A Woman) are shortlisted.

In the supporting actor category, Daniel Kaluuya is the favourite after wins at the BAFTAs, Golden Globes, Critics’ Choice and Screen Actors’ Guild awards, and Sacha Baron Cohen is also in the running, with Olivia Colman nominated for best supporting actress. Promising Young Woman writer and director Emerald Fennell (who you may recognised as the actress who played Camilla in The Crown) is the first British woman to be nominated for best director (and with her debut, no less).

Colman is a previous winner, having picked up the best actress gong for The Favourite in 2019, as is Oldman, who won for Darkest Hour in 2018. Hopkins, who won his Oscar for Silence Of The Lambs back in 1992, has now been nominated six times. Mulligan, Kaluuya and Baron Cohen have been shortlisted for awards before, but never won, while the nods this year are a first for Ahmed and Kirby.

Chadwick Boseman's final screen performance in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. Pic: Netflix
Chadwick Boseman is nominated posthumously for his final screen performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Pic: Netflix

Who are they up against?

Steven Yeun and the late Chadwick Boseman make up the shortlist in the leading actor category, with Boseman widely expected to win the award posthumously following wins at the Golden Globes, Critics’ Choice and Screen Actors’ Guild awards. Frances McDormand, Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) and newcomer Andra Day (The United States vs Billie Holiday) are the other stars shortlisted for best actress.

In the supporting actor category, Kaluuya’s Judas And The Black Messiah co-star Lakeith Stanfield is up against him, along with Leslie Odom, Jr (One Night in Miami) and Paul Raci (Sound Of Metal). Maria Bakalova (Borat Subsequent Moviefilm), eight-time nominee Glenn Close (Hillbilly Elegy), Amanda Seyfried (Mank) and Minari’s Yuh-Jung Youn are up for supporting actress.

Fennell’s competition in the directing category includes: Thomas Vinterberg (Another Round), David Fincher (Mank), Lee Isaac Chung (Minari) and Chloe Zhao (Nomadland).

Following previous criticism over a lack of diversity, this year’s shortlist features the most diverse line-up of acting nominations ever, with nine of the 20 nominees from ethnic minority groups – marking a huge shift from last year’s shortlist announcement, when just one of the 20 nominees, British star Cynthia Erivo, was non-white. It comes after the Academy significantly expanded its voting body, inviting more than 800 new members in the past year.

Before this year, the highest number of non-white acting nominees was seven out of 20, in 2017. Before that, in both 2015 and 2016, there were no non-white performers nominated in any acting category.

Viola Davis is celebrated blues singer Ma Rainey. Pic: Netflix
Viola Davis is now the most nominated black actress ever. Pic: Netflix

Women have already made history this year

It’s a rather incredible statistic, but before the 2021 nominations were announced, only five women had ever been shortlisted for best director before. That’s ever, in the history of the Oscars. Some 92 ceremonies. And only one woman – Kathryn Bigelow – had ever won. That was for The Hurt Locker in 2010.

It looks more likely than ever that that number could double following the announcement of this year’s line-up, which sees two women – yes, two! Zhao and Fennell – nominated for the first time ever. Zhao is also the first Asian woman to be nominated.

In the acting categories, Davis is the first black woman to receive two best actress nominations; she was previously shortlisted in the category for The Help in 2012, and in 2017 won the best supporting actress prize for her role in Fences. She was also nominated for best supporting actress for Doubt in 2009, meaning her Ma Rainey nod, her fourth, makes her the most-nominated black actress ever.

Riz Ahmed in Sound Of Metal. Pic: Amazon Studios
Riz Ahmed stars in Sound Of Metal. Pic: Amazon Studios

When and where can I see the nominated films?

You’ll no doubt have heard a lot of buzz about a lot of these films, especially after big wins at the BAFTAs for the likes of Nomadland and Promising Young Woman. But because of delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many releases have only just been made available in the UK, or are still to be launched here.

Sound Of Metal and Promising Young Woman were released last week, on Amazon Prime Video and Sky Cinema respectively, while Nomadland hits Disney+ on 30 April and The Father will be shown in cinemas, as long as lockdown reopening goes to plan, from June.

You can read more about how to see other Oscar nominees here.

My Octopus Teacher. Pic: Netflix
My Octopus Teacher is shortlisted for best documentary. Pic: Netflix

What about the documentaries?

Nominated in the documentary feature category are: Collective, Crip Camp, The Mole Agent, Time, and My Octopus Teacher – which won the equivalent prize at the BAFTAs. The film documents a year spent by filmmaker Craig Foster forging a relationship with a wild common octopus in a South African kelp forest.

Another one to look out for is Collective, a hard-hitting documentary showing the aftermath of the 2015 Bucharest nightclub fire that killed 64 people and brought down the Romanian government – read more about it here.

Crip Camp tells the story of a groundbreaking summer camp which galvanizes a group of teens with disabilities to help build a movement, while The Mole Agent mixes documentary and drama as a private investigator in Chile hires someone to work as a mole at a retirement home, where a client suspects the caretakers of elder abuse.

Time tells the story of a black man sentenced to 60 years in prison in Louisiana for a robbery, and his wife’s fight for his release.

Renee Zellweger, best actress winner for Judy, poses in the press room at the Oscars in 2020. Pic: AP
Renee Zellweger, who won the best actress gong in 2020 for her role in Judy, is due to present an award this year. Pic: AP

Who’s hosting and presenting awards?

The Oscars has a history of comedians hosting, with the likes of Jimmy Kimmel, Chris Rock and Ellen DeGeneres presenting in recent years. Kevin Hart was announced to take the reins for 2019 but stepped down after homophobic tweets of his resurfaced online, which led to the ceremony taking place without a host, with different stars introducing different sections – a move that went down well and was repeated in 2020, and will be again this year.

“There’s so much wattage here, sunglasses may be required,” the show’s producers said as they announced their star presenters for this year.

Big names confirmed so far include (drum roll): Brad Pitt, Harrison Ford, Zendaya, Laura Dern, Regina King, Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon, Angela Bassett, Halle Berry, Don Cheadle, Bryan Cranston and Renee Zellweger, as well as Parasite director Bong Joon-ho, who of course picked up the awards for best film and best director in 2020.

Additional presenters will be unveiled before the ceremony.

Jason Sudeikis wore a hoodie to appear at the Golden Globes awards
Jason Sudeikis wore a hoodie for his virtual appearance at the Golden Globes

What’s the deal with Zoom?

The format of this year’s ceremony has been the subject of much debate, because clearly, the pandemic means changes have to be made. Other major awards shows which have featured virtual elements have seen ratings drop, as well as some difficulties with dodgy wifi – remember Kaluuya’s speech at the Golden Globes? No? That’s because you couldn’t hear the first bit.

As this is the Oscars, the biggie, producers have been determined for the show not to fall flat, and initially ruled out nominees appearing via Zoom. With travel restrictions in place, this understandably caused a bit of a fuss, and the Academy later rowed back slightly, announcing hubs at international locations – with London expected to be one of them – for stars unable to make it to Los Angeles.

Actresses Pamela Anderson and Elizabeth Hurley pose together as they arrive at the Vanity Fair post-Academy Awards party at Mortons in Los Angeles, March 25, 2001
Pamela Anderson, pictured posing with Liz Hurley, famously went for a more casual look for the Vanity Fair after party in 2001

What is the dress code?

“We’re aiming for a fusion of inspirational and aspirational, which in actual words means formal is totally cool if you want to go there, but casual is really not.” So anyone who had been hoping to pull a Sudeikis probably has to get shopping.

Where’s it all happening?

The ceremony, which was delayed by the pandemic, is taking place across two sites – Union Station in downtown Los Angeles and the Oscars’ usual home of the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.

How do I watch the in the UK?

You can watch the ceremony here in the UK on the Sky Cinema Oscars channel, with coverage starting at 12.30am on Monday 26 April.

Anything else?

Yes! You can follow all the action here live on Sky News online – we’ll be live-blogging through the night to bring you all the best bits, winners, reactions, and, of course, the red carpet fashion beforehand. See you here!