Oscars 2021: five things to watch for at Hollywood's biggest night

The 93rd Academy Awards, which were delayed by two months because of the pandemic, are expected to be unlike 'anything that's been done before'

An Academy Awards crew member looks over a background element for the red carpet at Union Station, one of the locations for Sunday's 93rd Academy Awards, April 24, 2021, in Los Angeles. It is guaranteed to be an Oscars like no other: broadcast live from a train station, honoring films few saw in movie theaters, and reuniting Hollywood's A-listers for the first time in more than a year due to Covid-19. / AFP / POOL / Chris Pizzello

Travellers passing through Union Station in downtown Los Angeles on Sunday might notice a slight commotion: for one night only, it is doubling as the venue for the Oscars.

While passengers jumping on a train most likely won't get a glimpse past the tight security, here are five things that movie fans watching the 93rd Academy Awards from home should look out for.

'Nomadland' sweep?

Going into Sunday, Nomadland is the clearest best picture Oscar frontrunner in years.

So barring a dramatic shock, the question may be just how many Oscars Chloe Zhao's road movie can win.

FILE PHOTO: 2018 Film Independent Spirit Awards - Arrivals - Santa Monica, California, U.S., 03/03/2018 - Filmmaker Chloe Zhao. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok/File Photo

If the heavily improvised film lands the prize for Best Adapted Screenplay early in the night, a serious sweep could be on the cards.

And Zhao – who would be the second woman, and the first of colour to win Best Director – could equal another remarkable record.

Nobody has won more Oscars in a night than Walt Disney's four in 1953. Zhao is up for golden statuettes for editing, screenplay, directing and as a producer for best picture.

Eighth time unlucky?

Of course, there is a big difference between landing many nominations and actually winning – just ask Glenn Close.

This image released by Netflix shows Glenn Close in a scene from "Hillbilly Elegy." (Lacey Terrell/Netflix via AP)

From 1983's The World According to Garp to 2019's The Wife, Close has been nominated but failed to win on seven previous occasions.

If she comes up short again on Sunday, she will be tied with the late Peter O'Toole as the Academy's most reliable runner-up.

Unfortunately the odds don't look great for Close – while her transformational performance as a tough-as-nails grandmother in Hillbilly Elegy was praised, the film drew widespread scorn.

#OscarsSoDiverse?

When 2020's nominations were announced, it looked like years of activism and pledges for reform driven by the #OscarsSoWhite campaign had come to nothing – 19 of the 20 actors were white.

But this year's crop of stars have set new records for diversity, including nine actors of colour on the shortlists, and the first Asian-American ever nominated for Best Actor (Steven Yeun of Minari).

Two women were nominated for best director, for the first time ever.

And it is not just the Oscars – earlier in April, the Screen Actors Guild selected non-white winners in all four film categories.

That quartet – Chadwick Boseman, Viola Davis, Daniel Kaluuya and Youn Yuh-jung – could well repeat on Sunday.

McDormand three-peat?

Frances McDormand has long been an Academy favourite, and she anchors this year's frontrunner Nomadland with a characteristically unglamorous portrayal of a grieving widow living in an old van.

This image released by Searchlight Pictures shows Frances McDormand in a scene from the film "Nomadland." (Searchlight Pictures via AP)

If she takes best actress honours on Sunday, she will become only the second woman in Oscars history to bag a trio of wins in that category – after the peerless Katharine Hepburn, who has four.

The Oscar would put her at the pinnacle of a triple-winners actress club also including Meryl Streep and Ingrid Bergman, who each have two lead actress Oscars and one supporting actress prize.

Masks, movie shots and more?

Oscars co-producer Steven Soderbergh and his colleagues held a press conference last weekend where they set out their vision for a ceremony intended to look more like a feature film than a TV show – without saying anything specific at all.

Academy Awards crew member Mike Morrisroe cleans an Oscar statue design on the red carpet at Union Station, one of the locations for Sunday's 93rd Academy Awards, April 24, 2021, in Los Angeles. It is guaranteed to be an Oscars like no other: broadcast live from a train station, honoring films few saw in movie theaters, and reuniting Hollywood's A-listers for the first time in more than a year due to Covid-19. / AFP / POOL / Chris Pizzello

For instance, will the stars wear masks?

"Masks are going to play a very important role in the story of this evening... If that's cryptic, it's meant to be," Soderbergh said.

With so much under wraps, one thing is sure – the night is the first major Hollywood gathering in more than a year, and without pesky journalists and studio executives around to disturb them, many stars will be ready to party.