Twelve questions about the Oscars

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If you want to be the smarty-pants at your Oscar party -- or just dazzle your spouse or golden retriever -- here are some questions and answers about the 85th annual Academy Awards.

1. What time do the Oscars start?

The ceremony begins at 8:30 p.m. today and will air on ABC. However, the network plans a red-carpet special, outside the Dolby Theatre (formerly the Kodak Theatre), from 7 to 8:30 p.m. with actress Kristin Chenoweth, Entertainment Weekly managing editor Jess Cagle, "Good Morning America" anchor Lara Spencer and singer Kelly Rowland.

E! will have coverage starting at 1:30 p.m. but go live from the carpet with Ryan Seacrest and Giuliana Rancic at 5:30 p.m. Chris Harrison will start reporting at 6 p.m. for TV Guide Network. As always, check your cable listings for channel numbers or availability.

2. How many people vote for the Academy Awards?

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has 5,856 voting members (1,178 are actors) although it never reveals actual tallies. Ballots, cast by mail or online, were due Feb. 19 so they could be tabulated and verified by the accounting firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers.

3. If "Argo" wins best picture and anyone but Ben Affleck wins best director, will that be an Oscar first?

No. For example, "Driving Miss Daisy" was named best picture of 1989 and Bruce Beresford was not nominated for best director. Oliver Stone took the directing prize that year for "Born on the Fourth of July," edging aside Woody Allen, Peter Weir, Kenneth Branagh and Jim Sheridan.

Unlike Mr. Beresford, Mr. Affleck is a producer of "Argo," which means he can bound to the podium with fellow producers George Clooney and Grant Heslov if the movie takes best picture.

4. When did Barbra Streisand, scheduled to sing tonight, previously perform on the Academy Awards?

She sang "Evergreen," the love theme from "A Star Is Born," on the March 28, 1977, show at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion hosted by Richard Pryor, Jane Fonda, Ellen Burstyn and Warren Beatty.

She won the best song Oscar and enthused that in her wildest dreams, she never thought she would win for writing a song. Her diminutive collaborator Paul Williams quipped: "I was going to thank all the little people, and then I remembered I am the little people."

5. What is the seating capacity of the Dolby Theatre on Oscar night?

3,300.

6. I realize you cannot beg, buy or steal a ticket for the Oscars, but can you get a look inside the Hollywood venue?

Yes. Guided tours will resume at the Dolby Theatre on March 3, and they run daily from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tours depart every half-hour and last approximately 30 minutes. Cost is $17 for adults, $12 for those 65 and over or 17 and under, with children under 3 admitted for free. Strollers must be checked at the door.

Go to www.dolbytheatre.com for details and a $3 coupon good only for full-price adult admission. Just don't expect to photograph yourself in the front row; use of cameras or other recording devices inside is prohibited.

7. Party hosts realize it's crucial to know how many guests are coming so they can provide the proper number of glasses, plates and other essentials. How does that translate for the Governors Ball, which happens right after the ceremony?

Organizers expect 1,500 guests, and that means 12,000 glasses for beverages, 4,000 small plates, 4,500 ramekins and verrines (glasses for layered savories or desserts), 6,000 cocktail forks and 4,500 bamboo skewers.

That's just for starters, with an extensive menu that requires 7,500 individual shrimp, 400 pounds of Snake River Farms New York steak, 6,000 mini-brioche buns, 5,000 mini-chocolate Oscars and 30 pounds of edible gold dust.

8. Given the eight nominations for "Les Miserables," what was the last musical nominated for best picture?

"Chicago," directed by onetime Pittsburgher and nominee Rob Marshall. The inventive 2002 adaptation had 13 nominations and won six Oscars, for picture, supporting actress Catherine Zeta-Jones, art direction, costume design, film editing and sound.

9. During the Golden Globes, a few folks huddled around the television wondered how old Sally Field is (given the length of her career and how great she looks). What is her age and what about Emmanuelle Riva from "Amour" and little Quvenzhane Wallis from "Beasts of the Southern Wild"?

Ms. Field, a two-time winner for "Norma Rae" and "Places in the Heart," turned 66 in November. Ms. Riva's 86th birthday is today and she is the oldest best actress nominee while Quvenzhane is the youngest at age 9.

10. If Daniel Day-Lewis wins a third Oscar for "Lincoln," will he be the only actor to accomplish that feat?

Katharine Hepburn retains the crown with four wins, and Meryl Streep, Jack Nicholson, Walter Brennan and Ingrid Bergman each have three statuettes. However, Mr. Day-Lewis would be the only man to have three Oscars for leading roles.

If Denzel Washington is a surprise winner for best actor for "Flight," he also would join the elite three-peat ranks. He won a supporting Oscar for "Glory" and was honored for his lead in "Training Day."

What about Robert De Niro, in contention for his supporting role in "Silver Linings Playbook"? His first Oscar was for his supporting role in "The Godfather Part II" and his second for his starring turn in "Raging Bull." He hasn't been nominated since 1991's "Cape Fear," which leads many to suggest he's overdue for a win.

Ms. Field, a supporting actress nominee for "Lincoln," previously won for her leading roles in "Norma Rae" and "Places in the Heart." She could join the exclusive club if voters love "Lincoln."

11. Were any of the acting nominees at the big dance last year? And who were the big winners in February 2012?

Only Jessica Chastain, a best actress nominee for "Zero Dark Thirty," received a nomination last year. It was for a supporting role in "The Help."

A year ago, "The Artist," director Michel Hazanavicius and leading man Jean Dujardin danced to victory along with Ms. Streep for "The Iron Lady," Octavia Spencer for "The Help" and Christopher Plummer, "Beginners."

12. Who, in addition to host Seth MacFarlane (see Rob Owen's story) is expected to appear on tonight's show?

A celebration honoring movie musicals of the past decade -- notably "Chicago," "Dreamgirls" and "Les Miserables" -- will feature Jennifer Hudson, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne, Aaron Tveit, Samantha Barks, and Helena Bonham Carter.

The most recently announced presenters to a long list include actors Michael Douglas, Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Aniston, Paul Rudd, Salma Hayek Pinault, Melissa McCarthy, Liam Neeson and John Travolta. After the best picture award is given, Mr. MacFarlane and Kristin Chenoweth will perform a musical number the producers suggest will be a "can't miss" moment.

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Movie editor Barbara Vancheri: bvancheri@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1632. Read her blog: www.post-gazette.com/madaboutmovies.


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