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When you wish upon the stars: My 3 big hopes for Oscar night

The Oscars are nigh! Here are <a href="">our predictions</a>, some party <a href="">menu ideas</a>, and guides to <a href="">six major categories</a>, plus <a href="">international films</a> and <a href="">documentaries</a>.
Kevin Winter
Getty Images
The Oscars are nigh! Here are our predictions, some party menu ideas, and guides to six major categories, plus international films and documentaries.

It's almost here: what I hope will be one of the most audience-friendly, well-rounded Oscar ceremonies in a long time. There are big, big movies nominated, and there are little, intimate movies nominated. There are a ton of first-time nominees. There are films people ran out to see. Other than the ongoing reluctance to engage with horror, this is a pretty decent representation of the year in film — not only as critics experienced it, but as regular audiences experienced it.

When you're so satisfied with the nominees, it can be challenging to even figure out what to hope for as you watch, but that doesn't mean I won't do it. In fact, I have three pretty specific wishes for Sunday night's ceremony.

I wish for Lily Gladstone to win best actress.

I bow to no one in my admiration of Emma Stone, nominated for Poor Things, who has generally been considered the other frontrunner in this race. Stone's range is impressive and her work in this particular film is blissfully weird. But Gladstone, despite having been in the business for many years, just exploded this year after people saw her in Killers of the Flower Moon. That performance, like Stone's, is curious and complicated, even if it's much (much) quieter. Her character, Mollie, has to be smart but subject to manipulation, and has to retain her cleverness and independence even as her husband schemes under her nose. It's a tremendously tough balance, and Gladstone handles it expertly.

And honestly, even apart from her history-making nomination as the first Native American woman nominated as best actress, the Oscars need new faces. They need to recognize and celebrate people who weren't big stars a year ago. Given a choice between two excellent performances, one from an established person and one from perhaps the breakthrough performer of the year, I will choose the latter every time.

I wish to see good performances and not too many Kimmel bits.

I have come to appreciate Jimmy Kimmel as an Oscars host. I think he solidly walks the line between enough respect and enough irreverence, and he knows how to keep the thing moving when he's on stage. I will always admire the fact that he got us through La La Land-no-wait-Moonlight-gate.

However. Kimmel has also sometimes subjected the Oscars audience to what feel like self-indulgent extensions of his late-night show, and because the Oscars are not his late-night show and everybody in the room has business they want to get to, those segments usually feel awkward and much too long. I hope to see him host primarily via ... you know, regular hosting. Not bits.

And while we're talking about elements other than the handing out of awards, I always hope for strong performances of the original songs. It's a strong field this year, with no real duds. I am excited to see Ryan Gosling take on "I'm Just Ken" live, but honestly, I bet they'll all be fun. Even the one I think is the least musically interesting, Diane Warren's "The Fire Inside" from Flamin' Hot, is probably going to be a shot in the arm for a long ceremony as performed by Becky G.

I wish for speeches that take their cues from the recent Emmys.

At the Emmy Awards in January, winners were given the opportunity to have pre-submitted thank-yous show up at the bottom of the screen. That removed some of the pressure to remember or read a list of names, which allowed the speeches to be more heartfelt. As far as I know, the Oscars do not have this option on tap for winners. But I do hope that, having seen how well this worked for the Emmys, winners will feel freed up to speak from the heart. It may help that the ceremony is starting an hour earlier this year, meaning it's scheduled to run four hours instead of three. One would certainly hope that at least some of that time will be devoted to keeping those who are being honored from being rushed off the stage to make room for montages.

This piece also appeared in NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour newsletter. Sign up for the newsletter so you don't miss the next one, plus get weekly recommendations about what's making us happy.

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Linda Holmes is a pop culture correspondent for NPR and the host of Pop Culture Happy Hour. She began her professional life as an attorney. In time, however, her affection for writing, popular culture, and the online universe eclipsed her legal ambitions. She shoved her law degree in the back of the closet, gave its living room space to DVD sets of The Wire, and never looked back.