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Dark horse Saoirse hopes to upset odds at tonight's Oscars


Saoirse Ronan: Actress is in the running for Little Women

Saoirse Ronan: Actress is in the running for Little Women

Saoirse Ronan: Actress is in the running for Little Women

Oscar winners should be decided only by Academy members who have seen all longlisted films, it has been suggested, amid deep resentment at the "snobby" institution rejecting actors whose "brand" they don't value.

Tonight's Oscars have been overshadowed by controversy, after Jennifer Lopez was ignored for her role in Hustlers, and Adam Sandler snubbed for Uncut Gems.

The rejection of their work was put partly down to snobbery, and partly down to Academy members not bothering to watch the films.

"First of all, Hustlers is not an 'Oscar movie'," one Academy member said. "It's a little too rough around the edges, and I'm assuming some other people in the acting category didn't see it. Actors tend to think of Jennifer Lopez as a phenomenon more than an actress, per se. Lady Gaga lost the Oscar to Olivia Colman - a real actor's actor."

The voter added that an actor's reputation in Hollywood can decide a category more than their performance, and that many Academy members will not watch all the films up for nomination.

"Unfortunately, actors become brands. Sandler's brand doesn't scream 'Oscar!' - but Leo DiCaprio's and Jonathan Pryce's do."

Actress Carey Mulligan agreed and argued that the 8,000 members of the Academy should have to prove that they had seen the films in their category. Each member is allowed to vote in their section - be it acting, make-up, editing and so on.

Unlike the Tony Awards, for Broadway shows, there is no requirement to prove you have seen the films.

Mulligan, nominated for an Oscar in 2010 for An Education, said forcing all voting members to watch the films would mean more recognition for female directors.

"I don't think you can watch those films and not think they deserve recognition," she said. "Maybe you shouldn't be allowed to vote unless you can prove you've seen every single one. The films that did get left out are indisputably brilliant."

No women were nominated for best director, and only one non-white person received recognition for acting. The situation is not new. In 92 years, only five women have been nominated for best director, and only one has won - Kathryn Bigelow, in 2010, with The Hurt Locker.

Women made up 10.6pc of the directors of the top 100 grossing movies of 2019 - the highest figure since 2007 when academics began tracking such data.

The favourites to win best director are Sam Mendes (1917), Martin Scorsese (The Irishman), Todd Phillips (Joker), Quentin Tarantino (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) and Bong Joon-ho (Parasite).

Some races appear to be already locked up. Brad Pitt is favourite for best supporting actor for his role as a laid-back stunt double in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. "Like Clark Gable, Pitt has an aura, just an effortless zen, macho thing," said one reviewer.

Joaquin Phoenix is tipped as best actor for his portrayal of an isolated loner in Joker, while Renee Zellweger may have locked up best actress for playing an aging Judy Garland in Judy - though Saoirse Ronan is still in with a chance for Little Women.

Five-time Grammy winner Billie Eilish will also take the stage for a performance that could see her debut her theme song for the upcoming James Bond movie, No Time to Die.

The Academy Awards ceremony takes place tonight in Hollywood and highlights are on Network 2 at 9.35pm tomorrow.

Sunday Independent