LOS ANGELES (AP) — After a blustery few days of torrential downpours, Hollywood appears ready for smooth sailing at Sunday's Academy Awards. But things got off to a soggy start as lingering showers persisted through midafternoon, soaking portions of the red carpet that had been uncovered in anticipation of clearing skies.
Hollywood counted down the hours Sunday as stars gathered for the most fiercely contested Oscars show in decades, with three movies leading the field for Tinseltown's most highly coveted prizes. They awoke to gray skies but no downpours for the first time in three days, and a canopy protecting the Hollywood Boulevard runway leading into the Dolby Theatre was finally removed. Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs told AFP: "This has been an incredible year for films. On the acting front, Cate Blanchett is favorite for her turn in Woody Allen's "Blue Jasmine," while Matthew McConaughey is widely fancied to strike Oscars gold for his portrayal of homophobic HIV-positive AIDS activist Ron Woodroof in "Dallas Buyers Club."
By Mary Milliken LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - In true Hollywood fashion, the Academy Awards on Sunday promised a cliffhanger finale to the tight race for best picture Oscar between favorites "12 Years a Slave" and "Gravity" and a big gamble on rain and the red carpet. After three days of heavy downpours soaked parts of the red carpet along Hollywood Boulevard, workers removed the plastic tenting and unwrapped the golden Oscar statues hours before hundreds of movie stars in designer dresses and tuxedos begin arriving for Hollywood's biggest night. And while it was still drizzling outside the Dolby Theatre as TV crews from around the world went live from Hollywood, organizers were confident that the most glamorous of red carpet shows would go off without a hitch.
By Ronald Grover and Chris Michaud LOS ANGELES/NEW YORK (Reuters) - "Non-Stop", a thriller starring Liam Neeson as a U.S. air marshal trying to stop a string of murders on an international flight, collected $30 million in ticket sales to soar into the lead at the domestic box office. It swept the week's other new film, "Son of God", into second place with $26.5 million in sales during a strong box office weekend which coincided with Sunday's bestowing of its annual Oscars, Hollywood's biggest night. The voice of the 61-year-old Irish former amateur boxing champion is also featured in the animated "Lego Movie," which "stars" characters based on the colorful plastic toy blocks. "This was a great result for the weekend," said Nikki Rocco, president for domestic distribution at Universal Pictures, which released "Non-Stop".
The searing historical drama also earned prizes for British director Steve McQueen, supporting actress Lupita Nyong'o, best cinematography and best screenplay. The film, inspired by the true story of Solomon Northup, recounts the harrowing tale of a black violinist from New York state who was kidnapped and sold into slavery before the US Civil War. Brad Pitt -- who starred in and co-produced the film -- said he had been touched from the outset by the story of a "man trapped in completely inhumane circumstances and trying to maintain his dignity." To be part of that doesn't come along that often," Pitt, who braved the rain to attend the laid-back ceremony in Santa Monica with his partner Angelina Jolie, told reporters.
By Piya Sinha-Roy LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Big budget sci-fi flop "After Earth" and ensemble comedy "Movie 43" led the Razzie Awards on Saturday while annual favorite Adam Sandler went home empty-handed at the ceremony that mauled Hollywood's worst films and performances of the year. "After Earth," starring Will Smith and his teenage son Jaden, picked up three gold spray-painted raspberry accolades: Jaden Smith for worst actor, Will Smith for worst supporting actor and worst screen combo for the father-son stars. The $130 million film, co-written by Will Smith and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, was a major flop for Sony Corp's Columbia Pictures last year, grossing just $60 million at the U.S. and Canadian box office.
Jamie Dornan may have fought off loads of competition to land one of the most buzzed-about roles this year, but the handsome actor has revealed he has a weakness: walking. In an appearance on the UK's "Graham Norton Show" on Friday, the 31-year-old, who will play Christian Grey in "Fifty Shades of Grey," admitted he's never been a sexy walker - but has had to learn how to improve his gait to play the billionaire.
By Piya Sinha-Roy LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Gritty slavery drama "12 Years a Slave" leads the race for the Independent Spirit Awards on Saturday, as the film community gathers to honor smaller-budget and art house movies that are often strong contenders at the Academy Awards the next day. Directed by Steve McQueen, "12 Years a Slave" earned seven Spirit Awards nominations including best feature, director, best actor for Chiwetel Ejiofor and best supporting nods for Michael Fassbender and Lupita Nyong'o. It has become the frontrunner for Sunday's Oscars, where it will vie for the top races including best picture, actor and director. The Spirit Awards, held in a giant tent on California's Santa Monica beach and hosted this year by Patton Oswalt, is a more casual affair compared to the glamour and glitz of the Oscars.