Oscars 2019: Everything you need to know about the Academy Awards

Where can you watch the ceremony? When does it start and end? Who are the favourites?

1. Where and when can I see the Oscars?

The 91st Academy Awards begin at the Hollywood and Highland Centre in Los Angeles at 5:00pm Pacific time on Sunday February 24th. If you haven’t yet got one of the 3,000 tickets then forget it. Sky1 broadcasts Oscars 2019: Red Carpet Live from midnight, hosted by Alex Zane. Domestic viewers who subscribe to the Sky Movie package (or Now TV) can watch from 1:00 am on Monday. But beware. There are a lot of commercial breaks and they increase in rapidity as the evening draws to its climax. There are highlights on Monday February 25th from 8pm on Sky Cinema Oscars, from 9pm on Sky1 and from 9.30pm on RTÉ2.

2. How long will they last? 

Now, there’s a question. At the end of last summer, the Academy announced a number of unwelcome changes – including the short-lived Oscar for best popular film – and at least one largely celebrated innovation: a commitment to keeping the show under three hours. Unfortunately for the organisers, every attempt to cut a segment was greeted with howls of protest that generated humiliating climb-downs. They still swear they can break the 180-minute mark. That hasn’t happened for over 40 years.

3. Who is the host? 

Ha ha! Is this a trick question? For the first time since 1989, there will be no formal host at the Oscars. We now know that the organisers wanted Dwayne “The Rock,” but he had to turn it down due to convenient filming commitments. Then Kevin Hart got the call, but, when journalists dug up past homophobic jokes, he prevaricated, offered couched apologies and then auto-defenestrated. The semantics here are confusing. Ceremonies in the 1970s had as many as four or five “hosts”. Don’t they then just become “presenters”?

4. Got a tasty bet for me? 

No. The Irish Times does not approve of gambling, but we can dispassionately report that Alfonso Cuaron's Roma is odds-on favourite for best picture at around 4/9. Green Book is second favourite at 13/5. Irish production The Favourite is good value at 17/1 (you never know). Most of the main races now have unbackable favourites. Cuaron is at 25/1 in director. Rami Malek is at 1/7 in best actor for Bohemian Rhapsody. Glenn Close is 1/9 for best actor. Mahershala Ali is a pointless 1/18 in best supporting actor. Look to best supporting actress for a shock. At 5/1, "overdue" Amy Adams could sneak past favourite Regina King at 1/3. But bookies always skew conservative on entertainment bets.

5. How are the awards voted on? 

Many of the nominations are decided by a vote among the relevant branch. So the editors vote for their peers and cinematographers do the same. The winners are then decided by a vote among all active and life members of the Academy. Only in best picture is the poll conducted by proportional representation. This really matters. A film like The Favourite probably suffers because it tends to repel less adventurous, more easily shocked voters. To win, a film needs not just first preferences, but a great many second and third preferences. This helped Spotlight (which nobody disliked) beat favourite The Revenant (pure Marmite) in 2016.

6. Am I imagining it or have the Oscars got more diverse?

It is only three years since the #oscarssowhite fiasco that saw not a single person of colour nominated in an acting category. Changes were already underway and, in the interim, the Academy has become significantly younger, less American and less white. At the same time, Hollywood acted on the knowledge – obvious forever – that diverse films score well at the box office. We will most probably see two black actors win this weekend: Mahershala Ali and Regina King. Two films with black directors, BlacKkKlansman and Black Panther, are nominated for best picture. But…

7. Where the women at?

There is actually some good news here. Of the 20 categories open to people of all genders, 52 individual women were nominated. That is an increase of eight from last year's 44. But this is overshadowed by the fact that not a single woman was nominated for best director and no film directed by a woman is up for best picture. Debra Granik and Marielle Heller, directors of respectively Leave no Trace and Can You Ever Forgive Me?, probably have the most conspicuous causes for complaint. Only five women have ever been nominated for best director. Kathryn Bigelow remains the only one to triumph.

8. Can a foreign language picture win the big prize? 

History says no. It hardly seems possible, but no film in a language other than English has ever won best picture. The last nominee before Roma was Michael Haneke's Amour in 2012. The film that came the closest – tying Roma's foreign language record of 10 nominations – was almost certainly Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in 2001, but Gladiator beat it to the statuette. Roma would also be the first Netflix release to win best film. Wins at Bafta and massive critical support nudge it ahead of the pack, but…

9. What’s up with the professional guilds?

Scroll by if you are allergic to the full-on Oscar nerdery. One golden rule of Oscar predictions has long been: pay close attention to awards from the professional bodies. This year something unprecedented happened. The five major guilds – representing actors, directors, producers, writers and editors – give out seven gongs to films. Each went to a different title: Green Book, Roma, Black Panther, Eighth Grade, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite. So, Roma is not safe.

10. Will there be an Irish winner?

There certainly could be. Neither of the domestic nominees in the short film categories is the favourite – Louise Bagnall's Late Afternoon is up for best animated short; Vincent Lambe's Detainment competes in live-action – but those competitions are famously unpredictable. Almost anything could happen. Robbie Ryan will struggle to get past Alfonso Cuaron (shooting his own film) in cinematography and Ed Guiney, nominated as producer on The Favourite, is also up against it in best picture. But neither is out of the race.