Oscars back in Hollywood as ‘CODA’ seeks top prize

The cast of “CODA” — (L-R) Eugenio Derbez, Marlee Matlin, Daniel Durant, Troy Kotsur and Emilia Jones — is hoping its triumph at the SAG Awards will lead to Oscars gold

The Oscars return to Hollywood on Sunday, as nominees from top contending films including “CODA,” “The Power of the Dog” and “Belfast” gather in a futuristic, glittering ballroom for the movie industry’s biggest night.

After a year away from the Dolby Theatre due to the pandemic, the 94th Academy Awards are back in the heart of Tinseltown, where A-listers who have passed strict Covid-19 testing protocols will walk the red carpet in their finest gowns and tuxedos once again.

“CODA” — an uplifting drama from Apple+ TV about an eccentric deaf family, and their musical daughter who can hear — has surged in popularity, and is now tipped by many industry insiders as the favorite.

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Kenneth Branagh’s childhood-inspired “Belfast” cannot be ruled out — even if its director is one of several nominees whose presence at the Oscars was thrown into doubt by a positive Covid test last week.

“People have had a very rough last two years. And ‘CODA’ is positive, it’s feel-good. And I think voters are in a feel-good mood.”

“CODA,” which began life as an indie drama, benefits from being perceived as “the underdog,” one voter said on condition of anonymity.

– ‘Smart money’ –

Will Smith is the strong favorite for best actor for his turn as the father of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams in “King Richard.”

Davis agreed that was the “smart money,” but said there was “a lot of love for Penelope Cruz,” who could spring an upset for Spanish drama “Parallel Mothers.”

Troy Kotsur — one of several deaf actors in “CODA” — and former Broadway dancer Ariana DeBose of “West Side Story” are favorites in the supporting categories.

It remains to be seen if Covid will mar the ceremony — while Branagh’s attendance remains up in the air, another popular possible winner will definitely be absent.

– ‘Fun and electric’ –

But television network ABC will hope for a return to the higher ratings of years past.

Efforts to win back viewers include a new “fan favorite” prize voted for by the public — introduced after popular blockbusters such as “Spider Man: No Way Home” and Bond flick “No Time To Die” received only a handful of nominations.

The winners’ speeches will be edited into the broadcast. But the perceived snub has been controversial.

The extra time will be allocated to longer musical performances and comedy skits from hosts Amy Schumer, Wanda Sykes and Regina Hall.

The Oscars televised ceremony begins at 5:00 pm (0000 GMT Monday).

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