Chris Rock Hosting Oscars 2016
Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

Chris Rock hosts the 88th Academy Awards ceremony Sunday night with 57 films in contention for an Oscar, following one of the most controversial awards seasons in memory.

The show begins at 5:30 p.m. PST at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood with Oscars presented in 24 categories. ABC will televise the ceremonies in the U.S.

But along with the question of whether “The Revenant,” “The Big Short” or “Spotlight” will take the best picture award, the overriding theme for this Oscars will be over the awkwardness of the Academy’s failure to recognize non-white actors for the second year in a row in its Jan. 14 nominations announcement. On Saturday, “Beasts of No Nation” actors Abraham Attah and Idris Elba took the acting trophies at the Independent Spirit Awards in a clear rebuke to the Academy.


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It’s the second Oscars hosting gig for Rock, who previously hosted in 2005, and was faced with pressure to step down. He’s certain to address the #OscarsSoWhite controversy throughout the show.

Jada Pinkett Smith, Will Smith, Spike Lee, best original song nominee Antony Hegarty, “Creed” director Ryan Coogler and “Selma” director Ava DuVernay have all have promised to be no-shows. Coogler and DuVernay are headlining a #JusticeForFlint event in Michigan to bring attention to the economic and racial issues that led to that city’s water contamination crisis.

For its part, the Academy has responded with a plan to increase the number of women and minorities in membership by 2020 — partly by changing the lifetime voting rights rules to a requirement of three ten-year terms of active status unless a person has won or been nominated for an Oscar.

As for the trophies, “The Revenant” has the most chances, having received the most nominations with 12, followed by “Mad Max: Fury Road” with ten. The awards season that followed saw “The Revenant” win the top award for Alejandro G. Inarritu at the Directors Guild of America, while “The Big Short” won at the Producers Guild of America and “Spotlight” won at the SAG Awards and the Spirits.

As usual, the Southern California weather is cooperating with the threat of El Nino storms remaining largely a no-show. Already-tight security around the Dolby will be even more intense than usual.

Sunday’s Academy Awards will be produced by David Hill and Reginald Hudlin and directed by Glenn Weiss. The event will be protected by a massive security presence that includes federal, state and local law enforcement, including 500 officers from the Los Angeles Police Department.

Attendees will be required to pass through three security perimeters before they can reach the red carpet outside the Dolby. Formal red carpet arrivals begin at 4 p.m. PST.

The Dec. 2 attack in San Bernardino, Calif., which killed 14 people, remains front and center for law enforcement as a reminder of the possibility of terrorist violence in Southern California. Variety reported Friday that local police have put extra patrols since then to try to keep an eye on public places with little or no security.

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