10 February 2020 00:34
To longtime Academy Awards photographer Al Seib, the Oscars red carpet is Hollywood's own 405 Freeway. After capturing the ceremony for the Los Angeles Times for more than 30 years, staff photographer Seib describes Oscars' glamorous arrivals area as only a true Angeleno can: in terms of its traffic patterns. On the now-private celebrity side, the carpool lane has been removed, allowing for a roomier, free-flowing space similar to the less structured Oscars carpets of 15 or 20 years ago. This weekend, in an effort to give photographers a cleaner backdrop for their celebrity subjects, the fan sections have been downsized and relocated to ground-level "pods." But Seib is still hopeful the stars might step in front of the stargazers. Seib is optimistic, however, that the new fan setup — in closer proximity to the carpet — will encourage more celebrity-fan interactions.
When it comes to battling the elements on Hollywood's biggest night (and day), Seib has on occasion seen flooded, squishy carpets and drenched news crews. This year, the academy has erected a simple, giant tent covering the path to the theater, designed to keep the carpet dry without impeding the water's natural drainage cycle. Rain leaks through the canopy at the 92nd Academy Award red carpet. "We have a leak in the red carpet next to the stage," one crew member barked into his walkie-talkie. "It becomes a little bit of a Catch-22 when you have the awards show earlier in the season," Seib said.
The truncated time table has put the normally bloated Oscars season on a diet (Sunday's show will also, for the second straight year, be hostless) and sent film academy members scrambling to finish their movie-watching — no small task in a year featuring a few three-hour epics like "The Irishman" and "Once Upon a Time... The weather provided some early drama on the carpet, with workers scrambling to keep rain from leaking onto camera crews covering the ceremony. After winning nearly every major precursor award, Sam Mendes' "1917," about a pair of British soldiers sent with an urgent message to deliver through recently-held enemy territory, is the favorite for best picture. Thanks to its technical dazzle, the seemingly one-continuous-shot "1917" is also likely to come away with the most awards Sunday, even without any acting nominations. Momentum has swung behind Bong Joon Ho's South Korean thriller "Parasite," and some believe it has a chance to become the first non-English language film to win best picture. Such a win would be a watershed moment for the Academy Awards, which has long been content to relegate international films to their own category. But in an effort to diversify its largely white and male membership, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has inducted more overseas members in recent years. And just about no one has a bad word to say about t he widely praised class satire "Parasite," the Palme d'Or winner at last year's Cannes Film Festival and the first foreign language film to win top honors from the Screen Actors Guild Awards. "Regardless of the outcome, I think the door has been opened," Bong said on the red carpet. ABC and the academy will be hoping a widely watched field of nominees — including the $1 billion-grossing "Joker," up for a leading 11 awards — will help viewership. This year's Oscars comes amid a streaming overhaul throughout Hollywood. Netflix comes into the Oscars with a leading 24 nominations thanks to "The Irishman," "Marriage Story," "The Two Popes" and the likely best documentary winner, "American Factory." Instead, this year's Oscar favorites are largely movies released widely in theaters. Those results, which have been a topic in speeches through awards season, stand in contrast to research that suggests the most popular movies star more people of color than ever before. Yet Disney, aside from owning the network the Oscars are broadcast on, will likely play a minor role at the Academy Awards.