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How to watch the 2020 Academy Awards, and other Oscars questions answered

No, there’s not a Popular Film award

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a close-up of a giant Academy Award statue Photo: Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images

The 92nd Academy Awards are fast approaching. The annual celebration of the best movies of the year (or at least the movies whose producers spent the most money on Oscars campaigning) will soon award its prestigious prizes.

As in most years, the 2020 nominees include some of the most respected filmmakers in Hollywood, as well as younger breakout stars like Little Women’s Saoirse Ronan and Florence Pugh. Also like in previous years, the nominations still skew very white and male, despite the Academy taking steps to broaden the voter base after the 2015 #OscarsSoWhite movement.

Whether you’re watching the Oscars to root for your favorite film or just to participate in the conversation surrounding the (probably inevitable) controversial wins, here’s everything you need to know before Sunday’s ceremony.

What time are the Oscars?

The Oscars are airing live from Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre on ABC on Sunday, Feb. 9. The awards ceremony starts at 8 p.m. ET, with red carpet coverage beginning at 6:30 p.m.

Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) listens to Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) tell a story as the two sit at a bar in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Hollywood is nominated for Best Picture.
Photo: Andrew Cooper/Sony Pictures

Where can I stream the Oscars?

Anyone with an eligible pay-TV package can watch the Academy Awards ceremony on ABC’s app or website. Both require users to log in with a valid TV subscription.

For cord-cutters without access to cable (i.e., without their parents’ login information), there are always live TV add-ons for streaming services. Hulu subscribers can easily add Live TV to their service for an extra $49 monthly (bringing it to $54.99/month with ads or $60.99/month without ads.) Alternately, YouTube TV is $5 cheaper at $49.99/month. Both services will stream the Oscars on Sunday.

You could also just pick up an over-the-air TV antenna. These aren’t the rabbit ears that you found in your grandparents’ den; modern antennas are sleek and flat. Plus, they’re relatively cheap. You can pick up an antenna with access to whatever local broadcast stations are within range of you — usually including at least the big four networks (ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox) — for $20-30.

a soldier holding a rifle walks toward a firebombed town in silhouette in 1917
World War I drama 1917 is nominated for Best Picture.
Image: Universal Pictures

Who’s hosting the Oscars?

For the second year in a row, the Oscars ceremony will proceed without a host. While the 2019 Oscars were hostless out of necessity — Kevin Hart stepped down after homophobic tweets resurfaced online, and the Academy couldn’t find a last-minute replacement host — this year, the omission was intentional. Despite the chaotic circumstances surrounding it, last year’s ceremony didn’t feel disjointed without a host. Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Maya Rudolph kicked off the show with a joke-filled monologue, but the lack of host-led bits between segments helped move the ceremony along.

This year will likely follow that format, with various stars tapped to fill hostlike roles. ABC’s entertainment president, Karey Burke, promised that the show will offer “huge entertainment values, big musical numbers, comedy, and star power.”

Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho) holds up a rock mounted in wood in Parasite
Bong Joon-ho’s class satire Parasite is nominated for Best Picture.
Image: Neon/CJ Entertainment

Who are the 2020 Oscar nominees?

The Academy nominated nine films for Best Picture this year: 1917, Marriage Story, Little Women, Ford v. Ferrari, Once Upon A Hollywood, Joker, Jojo Rabbit, The Irishman, and Parasite.

The full list of Oscar nominees also includes Toy Story 4 (Best Animated Feature), The Lighthouse (Best Cinematography), and Knives Out (Best Original Screenplay).

Is there a Best Popular Film award?

Short answer: no. The Academy’s ill-advised attempt to create an award exclusively for flashy blockbusters was sufficiently mocked by fans and critics alike, who saw the move as pandering and, ultimately, unnecessary. As it turns out, most of the Best Picture nominees from the last two years have managed to pull in both critical acclaim and box office returns.

Joaquin Phoenix as the Joker pulls his mouth into a demonic grin
Yep, Todd Phillips’ Joker is also nominated for Best Picture.
Photo: Niko Tavernise/Warner Bros. Pictures via Polygon

But, like, how should I watch the Oscars?

Over the past several years, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has struggled to stay relevant in a changing media landscape. Ratings for the annual awards ceremony have steadily declined (though, to be fair, so have television ratings overall). The Academy’s attempts to course-correct have only underlined how out of touch the organization seems to be with the rest of the moviegoing public.

And yet, for those who love movies, awards shows, and/or Billy Porter, the Oscars are still the biggest entertainment night of the year. Yes, the ceremony is long and awkward, and the films that win are usually ones that appeal to the Academy’s largely older white male voting block. But the important thing to remember when watching the Oscars is that great films will endure the test of time — with or without that trophy. Just-fine movies, like 2010 Best Picture winner The King’s Speech, may eventually be remembered only as “the movie that gave Tom Hooper the blank check to make Cats.”

That may sound like an argument against watching the Oscars, but it’s actually an argument against viewing the ceremony as a horse race determining which movies and performances are objectively the best. Just shift your perspective to see it as a messy, glamorous, weird spectacle that’s a little (or a lot) out of touch with reality. I promise, it’s a lot more fun.

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