LOS ANGELES, Feb. 28 (UPI) -- The survival drama The Revenant is going into Sunday's 88th Oscars ceremony in Los Angeles with a leading 12 nods, including mentions for Best Picture, Best Director for Alejandro G. Inarritu and Best Actor for Leonardo DiCaprio.
But the suspense of who will go home with a statuette has been eclipsed in recent weeks by the media's and entertainment industry's obsession over what host Chris Rock will say about the fact no artists of color are among the 20 acting nominees for a second year in a row.
Rock has remained largely silent about the matter since Oscar nominations were announced in January -- even after prominent, black celebrities Spike Lee, and Will and Jada Pinkett Smith said they would be sitting out the event in protest of the omission of critically acclaimed, African American-led films such as Lee's Chi-raq, Smith's Concussion, Creed and Straight Outta Compton from this year's major categories. However, dozens of people of color, including Whoopi Goldberg, Morgan Freeman, Quincy Jones and Michael B. Jordan, have been confirmed to appear as presenters at the gala, which will be broadcast on ABC.
Among the high-profile, white stars unexpectedly snubbed when the nominations came out last month were directors Ridley Scott, Robert Zemeckis, Steven Spielberg and Quentin Tarantino, screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, and actors Johnny Depp, Michael Keaton and Tom Hanks.
The debate over the lack of diversity amongst the nominees led the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to announce sweeping changes to dramatically increase the number of female and non-white people in its membership. While some have applauded the move, others have argued that changing the racial makeup of the academy isn't as necessary as convincing movie studios to make more films with diverse casts.
Although Leonardo DiCaprio of The Revenant, Brie Larson of Room, Sylvester Stallone of Creed and Alicia Vikander of The Danish Girl are the favorites to win the Oscars for Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress -- based on the outcomes of previous prize presentations this season -- what movie will win the top prize is anyone's guess since The Big Short, Mad Max: Fury Road, Spotlight and The Revenant have all earned prestigious honors from other organizations.
Along with those titles, the other contenders for the Best Picture Oscar are Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, The Martian and Room.