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Oscars 2016: 5 Things to Watch For

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The 88th annual Academy Awards gets underway tonight starting at 8 p.m. EST. The annual award show will honor the year in film for 2015, which saw movies such as “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” set records at the box office, although many films flopped, as well.

Below are five things to watch for during tonight’s telecast, from Chris Rock‘s opening monologue to Lady Gaga‘s chances of adding an Oscar to her already-crowded trophy case.

1. Will Chris Rock Take on #OscarsSoWhite?

There’s no getting around it. The controversy over lack of diversity among this year’s nominees has cast a shadow over the run-up to the ceremony, and it will likely loom throughout the evening. After brushing off some calls to drop out of the show following Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith‘s decision to boycott it, host Chris Rock reportedly re-worked his jokes to tackle #OscarsSoWhite and racial diversity in Hollywood. When he first hosted the show in 2005, Rock noted how four black actors were nominated that year, and this year there are none. Rock’s comedic style is blunt, so we expect him to get his point across to the audience at home. But will his humor resonate with the industry?

2. A Repeat for Inarritu?

“The Revenant” director Alejandro G. Inarritu has a chance to make history Sunday night. If he wins best director, the Mexican filmmaker, who won last year for “Birdman, ” will be third man to claim the award in two consecutive years. John Ford did it in 1941 and 1942 for “The Grapes of Wrath” and “How Green Was My Valley, ” respectively, while Joseph L. Mankiewicz pulled it off in 1950 and 1951 with “A Letter to Three Wives” and “All About Eve.” His biggest competition? Pundits and observers think it’s George Miller for “Mad Max: Fury Road, ” but it’s hard to argue against Inarritu’s track record this season: winning best director honors from the Golden Globes, the Directors Guild and the Baftas.

3. Leo the Lock

If there’s anyone practically guaranteed to win an Oscar this year, it’s best actor nominee Leonardo DiCaprio for his grunt-and-bear-it work in the survivalist epic “The Revenant.” (Betting site Ladbrokes recently had him at 1/50, while Eddie Redmayne was a distant second at 20/1.) Going into Sunday night, DiCaprio is 0-for-4 at the Academy Awards, dating back to 1994, when his “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?” turn lost in the supporting actor category to Tommy Lee Jones (“The Fugitive”). Since then, he’s received best actor nominations for “The Aviator” (2004), “Blood Diamond” (2006) and “The Wolf of Wall Street” (2013). DiCaprio’s futility at the Oscars has become a punch line, and there’s even a satirical online game, “Leo’s Red Carpet Rampage, ” that portrays, in pixels, his quest for gold. At 41 years old, however, DiCaprio hasn’t had it all that bad when it comes to the Oscars. Al Pacino didn’t win an Academy Award until he was 52, and Cary Grant didn’t win either of the two times he was nominated.

4. Brie and Alicia’s Moment

In the two actress categories, two relative newcomers to the Award season scene are poised to take home statues. Best actress nominees Brie Larson‘s performance as Ma in “Room” has won her accolades already, including, and SAG award. Her performance is raw and emotional, and last month she told the Journal that the film is a “metaphor for her life right now.” “My life was much smaller and more easily quantifiable, ” she said. “Then the world handed me this really big push to be in something much bigger and complicated.”

After dazzling critics with her performance last spring in “Ex Machina, ” Swedish actress Alicia Vikander has become a stand-out for the best supporting actress category for her role in “The Danish Girl.” She’s in a tough field for best supporting actress — up against Kate Winslet (“Jobs”), Rooney Mara (“Carol”), Jennifer Jason Leigh (“The Hateful Eight”) and Rachel McAdams (“Spotlight”). But she’s already won the SAG award for the performance and as history has shown us that Oscar loves an underdog. Wins for either of these two will catapult their careers over the next several years.

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