HOLLYWOOD's award season reaches climax at Sunday's Oscars, with a cliff-hanger over the top prize after a season marked by dark horses., renewed anguish and diversity, and a South Korean underdog that could snatch victory from the biggest names in show business.

While dark comic book film JOKER goes into the ceremony with a leading 11 nominations, it's the immersion of World War One hit 1917 that has emerged as the film to beat in the best picture race after winning a slew of accolades in the last five weeks.

Yet a win for 1917 is far from a forgone conclusion, with South Korean social satire PARASITE and sentimental favorite  Once Upon A Time in Hollywood from Quentin Tarantino also jostling for attention from the  8,000 voters of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

''Right now, it's looking like  '1917's to lose,'' said Alisom Willmore, film critic at pop culture website  Vulture.

''I can see a world where  Parasite  could be a dark horse candidate. It's so beloved. Once we get past that, there is probably a chance for Once Upon A Time in Hollywood,'' she said.

Korean-language film Parasite seems certain to take the renamed best international feature Oscar and would make history if the black comedy about haves and have-nots in modern Seoul also takes home the best picture statuette.

Taking place without a host for second year, Oscar organizers have given few details of the ceremony, other than to announce live performances by original song contenders Elton John, Idina Menzel,  Randy Newman, Chrissie Metz and Erivo.

Five-time Grammy winner Billie Ellish will also take the stage for what is billed as a special performance that could see her debut her theme song for the upcoming James Bond film No Time To Die. [Reuters]


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