Stage set for Oscars to mark year eclipsed by #MeToo campaign

Hollywood’s awards season reaches its glittering climax on Sunday at the Oscars, with fairy tale romance “The Shape of Water” and dark crime comedy “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” neck-and-neck in the race for the major statuettes..

The ceremony caps a difficult few months during which the industry has declared war on the pervasive culture of sexual misconduct brought to light by the downfall of movie mogul and alleged serial sex attacker Harvey Weinstein.

As with the Golden Globes in January, the mood in Tinseltown on Sunday is expected to be celebratory but defiant as the film world’s A-listers speak out against dozens of showbiz people called out for predatory behavior since October.

Peter Debruge, the chief film critic for Hollywood trade publication Variety, he said further expecting this year’s celebrations would place front and center an issue acknowledged for a long time as an “open secret” — but never before handled.

“This year, now that the case has blown open, it’s a totally different situation,” he told AFP of the Weinstein scandal, ahead of Sunday’s gala.

“I think we can expect jokes, we can expect political statements, we can expect any of the women who win to take that opportunity to kind of speak their minds.”

The 90th Academy Awards — hosted by late night funnyman Jimmy Kimmel — will be beamed live around the world by ABC from Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre.

With voting among the Academy’s 8,500 members closed since Tuesday, the frenzied and at times schmaltzy campaigning that perennially marks the awards merry-go-round can no longer impact the results.

Organizers are looking to rebound after last year’s flubbed announcement of the best picture winner — the trophy was initially given to “La La Land,” when the actual winner was “Moonlight.”

“The Academy is certainly going to be on high alert to make sure that the people from PriceWaterhouse are not backstage tweeting and distracted, that you know the right envelopes go out,” said Debruge.

“But at the same time, every once in a while, some human error like that can make a show really exciting.”

With the #MeToo and Time’s Up campaigns against sexual misconduct and gender inequality dominating the 2018 awards circuit, this year’s Oscars is seen as an opportunity for the industry to support female filmmaking.