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Tight best picture race gives this year's Oscars real suspense

Welcome to the Gold Standard, the newsletter from the Los Angeles Times that helps guide you through the ins and outs of the awards season, leading to the Oscars. I'm Glenn Whipp, The Times' awards columnist and your newsletter host.

The 88th Academy Awards will be held Sunday at 5:30 p.m. PST. We know host Chris Rock is going to address #OscarsSoWhite in his opening monologue. (We also know he has picked a great entrance song ... but we can't divulge the details just now.) How far is he going to go? And how will Hollywood react? Those are just a couple of questions surrounding this year's ceremony. Let's look at what's dominating the conversation leading up to the show.

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Best picture winner: 'Spotlight,' 'The Revenant' or 'The Big Short'?

The weeks leading up to the Oscars saw "The Big Short," "Spotlight" and "The Revenant" each win major awards, splintering this year's best picture race in a way we haven't seen in years. Which movie will win? I look at the race here, along with predictions in the other major categories.

Watch the scenes that might win the actors the Oscars

Need a refresher on the moments that might win this year's acting nominees an Oscar? You can watch the key scenes from all their movies here, and read comments from their collaborators on what makes the acting so special. It's a great collection, a reminder of the high quality of this year's celebrated work.

Defending DiCaprio

Times' theater critic Charles McNulty has Leonardo DiCaprio's back in this piece that asks people to stop holding his popularity against him. (OK, but only if he stops talking about what a challenge it was to make "The Revenant.")

The year's most meaningful Oscar nomination?

spoke to Pakistani filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy about her Oscar-nominated documentary short about honor killings, "A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness." The movie is making waves in her home country and may spur the closure of a legal loophole that allows these murders to continue.

23 totally awkward Oscar moments

Because, really, it's those weird, "Adele Dazeem" bits that we remember and talk about the most from the show, right? Here's the hall of fame of Oscar embarrassment.

L.A. Times live Oscar coverage begins Sunday at 11:30 a.m. PST

Yes, you read that right. We're starting our Oscar coverage bright and early Sunday, including commentary and play-by-play of the red-carpet arrivals and the ceremony itself. You can follow it here. And if you're throwing your own Oscar viewing party and need a few tips, we've got you covered here.

Feedback?

I’d love to hear from you. Email me at glenn.whipp@latimes.com.

Can’t get enough about awards season? Follow me at @glennwhipp on Twitter
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