How to watch the 2021 Oscars: Everything you should know about Sunday's Academy Awards

Brian Truitt
USA TODAY

That golden guy is back, but this time with social-distancing guidelines.

After a pandemic-plagued past year and the weirdest awards season ever, Oscar returns like never before on Sunday with the 93rd Academy Awards. Amid COVID-19 protocols and probably a lot of masks, awards will be handed out to the best of the best in Hollywood. Chloe Zhao's road-trip "Nomadland" leads a wide-ranging field of best picture candidates, a diverse crop of acting contenders is a positive shift away from the #OscarsSoWhite scandal of years past, and late beloved actor Chadwick Boseman seems poised to receive a posthumous Academy Award.

While the Oscars usually have some surprises in store, let's dig into what you need to know for the anticipated telecast.

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What time are the Oscars and where can I watch?

Sunday's Academy Awards air on ABC at 8 EDT/5 PDT and also are viewable on the ABC app. (Be warned: Access is only granted if you can authenticate your cable or satellite service.) There are other streamable options as well, including The Roku Channel, YouTube TV and Hulu with Live TV. 

If you want even more Oscar content, the Academy’s Facebook page will offer live interviews with Oscar winners fresh off the stage, while the Academy's Instagram feed will feature content from exclusive photo sessions and the Oscars red carpet.

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A sketch shows how an outside patio at LA's Union Station will be turned into a location for pre- and post-show activities as well as nominee hobnobbing at Sunday's Academy Awards.

Where are the Oscars taking place?

Produced by Steven Soderbergh, Jesse Collins and Stacey Sher, the eventis changing locations this year. Itwill primarily be held at Los Angeles' historic Union Station, with additional events at the show's traditional home, the Dolby Theatre, and international locations via satellite.

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Will the Oscars be in person?

They will indeed. Only nominees, their guests and presenters will be in attendance – having gone through multiple rounds of testing and a required quarantine period.

What will it look like? Nominees and their guests will be seated at tables for two inside Union Station's Ticketing Hall, surrounded by a photo gallery of the nominees. Outside patios at the train station are also being used, including one that will be a hub for pre- and post-show activities where nominees can hobnob. Production designer David Rockwell said the patios have special floors throughout since “we all know high heels don’t work on grass.”

Is there going to be a red carpet?

Yes! Red-carpet coverage will be part of an "Oscars: Into the Spotlight" pre-show special (ABC, 6:30 ET/ 3:30 PT). But like everything during COVID, it's not the norm. Gone will be the crowds and crowded press lines. "It’s not a traditional (Oscar) red carpet, it’s a teeny-tiny red carpet," said Sher, revealing more show details with Soderbergh over the weekend. "It’s a very small footprint for safety reasons, obviously."

And in terms of dress code, think gowns rather than the pandemic-era hoodies and pajamas that have dotted awards shows like the Golden Globes. Oscar organizers, in an email to attendees, said they are "aiming for a fusion of Inspirational and Aspirational," where "formal is totally cool if you want to go there, but casual is really not."

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Who is hosting the Oscars?

For the third year in a row, the show's going hostless, a move that so far has been pretty successful. In 2019, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph cracked jokes while insisting to the global audience that they were not hosting, and last year's Oscars leaned into musical appearances from A-listers like Elton John, Billie Eilish, Janelle Monae and Eminem.

Who is nominated at the Oscars?

"Nomadland" is the favorite for best picture going in, though Aaron Sorkin's courtroom drama "The Trial of the Chicago 7" and Korean family story "Minari" loom as potential dark horses. Boseman is likely to win a posthumous best actor for "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom," but "The Father" star Anthony Hopkins could be an upset pick. Daniel Kaluuya ("Judas and the Black Messiah") and Yuh-Jung Youn ("Minari") are expected to prevail for supporting actor and actress, respectively, while best actress is a tossup between Viola Davis ("Ma Rainey"), Carey Mulligan ("Promising Young Woman") and Frances McDormand ("Nomadland").

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H.E.R. performs the nominated song "Fight for You" from "Judas and the Black Messiah" on Sunday during the “Oscars: Into the Spotlight” pre-show.

Who is performing at the Oscars?

All five nominated songs will be performed in their entirety as part of the Oscar pre-show. And there's some name acts on the bill: Grammy-winning artist H.E.R. is performing a version of the song "Fight for You" from "Judas and the Black Messiah" and Leslie Odom Jr. – also a nominee for supporting actor – is singing "Speak Now" from "One Night in Miami." The Academy's hooking up fans of "Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga," too: Swedish singer Molly Sandén is performing "Husavik" on location in actual Húsavík, Iceland.

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Who will present awards?

So far, the "cast" list is pretty Oscar-worthy itself, from three of this year's nominees, Riz Ahmed and Viola Davis, to all of last year's acting winners: Brad Pitt, Laura Dern, Joaquin Phoenix and Renee Zellweger. Viewers will also get to see fellow A-listers Angela Bassett, Halle Berry, Don Cheadle, Bryan Cranston, Harrison Ford, Regina King, Marlee Matlin, Rita Moreno, Reese Witherspoon, Zendaya and 2020 best director winner Bong Joon-ho ("Parasite"). 

“In keeping with our awards-show-as-a-movie approach, we’ve assembled a truly stellar cast of stars,” Oscar producers said in a statement last week.  “There’s so much wattage here, sunglasses may be required."

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Contributing: Bryan Alexander