UPDATED: The greatest suspense surrounding Sunday’s Academy Awards may surround questions of not “if” but “when.” When will the traffic backups near Hollywood Boulevard begin? When will “La La Land” win its first Oscar? When will the first statuette-holder unload on President Trump?
The 89th edition of Hollywood’s most important celebration comes during a time of unusual political turmoil and stark challenges for the entertainment industry. For one, the bulk of ticket sales are going to fewer films, the blockbuster sort that almost never get awarded on Oscar night.
For the second straight year, Hollywood Boulevard in front of the Dolby Theatre will be tented. While last year’s spring-like temperatures made the covering merely cosmetic, this year’s expected sub-60-degree temperatures and and possibly drizzling conditions will make the roof a welcome addition.
Before they get to the red carpet, the 3,300 guests will have to make their way through a three-tiered security perimeter. Though the LAPD won’t say this year how many officers they have deployed for the event, it is expected to be about 500, the number that secured the awards zone in 2016.
Cmdr. Blake Chow, overseeing the security operation for the LAPD, said that the department has gamed out multiple scenarios and is ready. “We have planned for all contingencies, from protests to even a potential terrorist attack and that is all built into the security plan, which is built on concentric rings of security,” Chow said.
The department’s Major Crimes Division and Intelligence Division have been on the lookout for threats against the Oscars and had not detected any as the weekend approached, Chow said.
The city has expects at least two groups to hold demonstrations on Sunday. One will be just north of the security zone and the other just south of the zone – at Highland Avenue and Franklin Avenue and Highland Avenue and Sunset Boulevard, respectively.
The Sunset and Highland gathering beginning at 2 p.m. is organized by Project Islamic Hope and Najee Ali. About 100 demonstrators plan to gather at the northeast corner of the intersection, according to a permit application filed with the city.
Organizer Ali said that his group will be speaking out about the need for Hollywood’s studios to continue to diversify the makeup of the people who appear in front of the camera as well as behind the scenes. Ali said that multiple Oscar nominations for African-Americans this year did not correct the lack of recognition, and job opportunities, for Latinos, Asians and members of other minority groups.
“There is a black-white narrative that ignores all the others who are not represented,” Ali said. He also noted that one year of strong nomination showing for blacks did not mean they would find more jobs, or more awards recognition, in the years to come.
The second event, at the northwest corner of Highland and Franklin, is billed as a ““Pro-Trump Celebration” and expects about two dozen participants. The organizer is a woman from Hawaiian Gardens.
The social/ political dynamic also should be lively inside the Dolby. After the homogeneous 2016 nominations led to the #OscarsSoWhite protests, a half dozen black actors have received nominations this year. Now eyes will be on the outcomes to see how many of them win. The surge in black nominees did not eliminate the under-representation among many other groups – including women, Latinos and Asians. That also could become a topic on the Dolby stage.
But the surest bet for Sunday evening is that someone — or several someones, will speak out against Trump. The show comes at the end of an awards season in which the new president has been a frequent punching bag.
Meryl Streep helped set the tone with a Golden Globes speech that hit Trump for his mocking of a disabled New York Times reporter. Streep is nominated for an Oscar for lead actress in “Florence Foster Jenkins,” so she could get another shot at the president — though it’s unlikely the evening will make it to the big awards without someone speaking out earlier.
That’s not to say that all of the worldwide audience for the show, which host Jimmy Kimmel will kick off at 5:30 p.m., Pacific Time, will be welcoming beatdowns of the president. A campaign has been launched on social media to boycott the Academy Awards ceremony, to protest what one activist called the “arrogant hypocrites” in the industry, who slam Trump and his supporters. These protesters say they represent half of America and resent being stereotyped “as racist, sexist, and bigoted for voicing our political choice through Donald Trump.”