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Oscars 2022: What to watch for


And finally today, the Academy Awards are happening tonight in Hollywood. NPR's Mandalit del Barco is there, and she says this year's Oscars may well include some history-making moments.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: Jane Campion's "The Power Of The Dog" is one of the frontrunners as this year's best picture Oscar. It has 12 nominations, including one for Ari Wegner. She could become the first woman to win for cinematography. The cowboy movie she shot is competing for the top awards with "CODA," a film whose main character is the only hearing member of her family. She loves to sing.


EMILIA JONES: (As Rubi Rossi, singing) All that I need...

DEL BARCO: Actor Troy Kotsur, who plays her father, could become the first man who's deaf to win an Oscar for best supporting actor. His co-star, Marlee Matlin, was the first deaf actor to win an Academy Award in 1987. In this year's best supporting actress category, Ariana DeBose, an Afro-Latina who identifies as queer, was nominated for playing Anita in "West Side Story."


ARIANA DEBOSE: (As Anita, speaking Spanish) Or you will have to go away, and you will have to go with him.

DEL BARCO: And Germaine Franco, who wrote the score for Disney's "Encanto," might make history as the first Latina composer to receive an Oscar. "Encanto" is nominated for best animated feature award. Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote the film's songs, and he could earn EGOT status, having won Emmy, Grammy, Oscars and Tony Awards. His song "Dos Oruguitas" is up for best original song. It will be performed on stage during the ceremony, as well as another of his songs from "Encanto" that was not nominated but is a hit.


UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Singing) We don't talk about Bruno, no, no, no. We don't talk about Bruno, but...

WILL PACKER: People of all stripes, ages, color, ethnicities, backgrounds around the world were singing that song ad nauseum. And we're going to help them out so they sing it a little bit more. Our apologies to the parents.

DEL BARCO: Oscars show producer Will Packer says he wants to shake things up on the show and boost TV ratings, so it will include results of a Twitter vote by fans on their favorite movies. And Packer didn't rule out the possibility that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy could make an appearance. He also defended a controversial decision to have the winners of eight categories cut from the telecast - original score, film editing, documentary shorts, production design, sound, animated short, live action short, makeup and hairstyling.

PACKER: Just like any other live show that makes decisions about what's going to be on the air and what's going to make the cut. But make no mistake; we're going to make sure that everybody has their moment.

DEL BARCO: He says the telecast does include edited clips from their acceptance speeches. Some audience-goers planned to protest what they say is a disrespectful move.

This year's Oscars could have some other memorable moments - for instance, a possible win for the animated film "Flee," a Danish documentary about the life of an Afghan refugee.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Kabul is attacked. The Mujahideen (unintelligible).

DEL BARCO: Flee was nominated for best animated feature, best documentary film and best international feature film. And Kenneth Branagh already made history for having the most nominations, including best picture, best director and best original screenplay. "Belfast" is his semi-autobiographical film about growing up in the Irish city torn apart by sectarian violence in the late 1960s.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) Mama says if we went across the water, they wouldn't understand the way we talk.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) If they can't understand you, they're not listening.

DEL BARCO: There's still war and a pandemic in the world, but the Academy Awards are back, COVID tested and face masked, at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. Mandalit del Barco, NPR News.


SEBASTIAN YATRA: (Singing in Spanish). Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As an arts correspondent based at NPR West, Mandalit del Barco reports and produces stories about film, television, music, visual arts, dance and other topics. Over the years, she has also covered everything from street gangs to Hollywood, police and prisons, marijuana, immigration, race relations, natural disasters, Latino arts and urban street culture (including hip hop dance, music, and art). Every year, she covers the Oscars and the Grammy awards for NPR, as well as the Sundance Film Festival and other events. Her news reports, feature stories and photos, filed from Los Angeles and abroad, can be heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, Alt.latino, and npr.org.