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Los Angeles -Workers were putting the finishing touches to the Oscar set as Hollywood prepared for its biggest night of the year: The 84th annual Academy Awards on Sunday.
But the preparations were overshadowed by a scandal engineered by comedian Sasha Baron Cohen, who blasted the decision of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to ban him from parading down the red carpet as the lead character from his upcoming film The Dictator.
“They have until midday on Sunday to give me my tickets back. If they do not, they will see and face unforeseen and unimaginable consequences,” said the provocative actor in an interview Friday on the Today show, in character as Admiral General Shabazz Aladeen, a fictional Middle Eastern dictator.
Asked what those consequences might be, Baron Cohen replied: “Let's just say oil prices might be raised.”
Hosted by veteran comedian Billy Crystal, the Oscar ceremony will be broadcast live to more than 100 countries, where movie fans will tune in to see most of Hollywood's biggest stars strut the red carpet and make their way to the stage to present and receive the most glittering prizes in the US movie industry.
While Hollywood has been dominated in recent years by digital advances and 3D movies, this year's Oscar night has an overriding theme of nostalgia. The cavernous theatre where the event will take place has been redecorated to look like an old-fashioned movie hall, while many of the best-picture contenders hark back to past times.
Oscar favourite The Artist is set in 1920s Hollywood, as the film industry transitions from silent movies to talkies. The nearly silent, black-and-white movie has 10 nominations and is strongly tipped for many of the night's top prizes, including best picture, best actor for Jean Dujardin and best director for Michel Hazanavicius.
Hugo, the leading nominee with 11 Oscar nominations, is Martin Scorsese's first children's film and first 3D film. Set in the Paris of the early 20th century, it tells the story of an orphan whose quest to honour his dead father inspires a cinematic pioneer to rediscover his passion.
Other prominent nominees include George Clooney's The Descendants, Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris and civil-rights drama The Help. Other Oscars in which the Artist is strongly favoured include best score and costume design, while Hugo is tipped for art direction and Tree of Life for cinematography. Viola Davis from The Help has a virtual lock on the best-actress prize, while her co-star Octavia Spencer is a strong contender for best supporting actress. Chrisopher Plummer, 82, is tipped to win his first Oscar as best supporting actor for his role as an elderly gay man in The Beginners.
Among the presenters announced by the Academy are Meryl Streep, Colin Firth, Natalie Portman, Christian Bale, Halle Berry, Tom Cruise, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Michael Douglas, Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Zach Galifianakis, Tom Hanks, Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Lopez, Chris Rock, Ben Stiller and Emma Stone. - Sapa-dpa