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7 things you need to know about Sunday’s Oscars

In 1989, the last time the Oscars went without a host, the ceremony kicked off with Merv Griffin crooning “I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts,” Cyd Charisse dancing the tango and Rob Lowe singing a version of “Proud Mary” with a helium-voiced Snow White.

After seemingly everyone in Hollywood passed on this year’s hosting gig — Kevin Hart defiantly backed out after old homophobic tweets were unearthed — there’s literally no telling what to expect from the opening of the 91st Academy Awards (5 p.m. Sunday, ABC).

Christian Bale and Olivia Colman reprising their nominated roles as Dick Cheney and Queen Anne for a duet of “Shallow”? Crazier things have happened.

Here, though, are seven things you should know about this year’s Oscars:

The best picture race is wide open

Traditionally by this point, if a winner hasn’t been preordained via the awards circuit, the field at least has been winnowed to two or three realistic contenders. This year, pretty much anything could take home the top trophy and it wouldn’t be much of a surprise. Not so fast, “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Between the fact that it’s not very good and the continued allegations that director Bryan Singer, who was fired during production, had sex with underage boys, the Queen biopic would be the only true stunner.

Somebody’s going to sing ‘Shallow’ — probably

It may not be Bale and Colman, but Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper are scheduled to perform their smash hit live for the first time aside from Jan. 26, when Gaga pulled her “A Star Is Born” director and co-star onstage during her “Enigma” residency at Park Theater. Then again, considering all the drama surrounding this year’s broadcast — at one point, only “Shallow” and “All the Stars” from “Black Panther” were going to be highlighted in an attempt to save time — nothing is set in stone.

Social climber

It’s not quite as historic as his scaling the face of Yosemite National Park’s 3,200-foot vertical rock known as El Capitan without a rope, but Las Vegan Alex Honnold could climb onstage if “Free Solo,” which chronicled his daring feat, wins best documentary feature.

‘Roma’ makes all sorts of history

Writer-director Alfonso Cuaron’s ode to his childhood in Mexico City could become the first foreign-language film to win best picture. Cuaron already is the first nominee in the directing and cinematography categories in the same year. “Roma” is Netflix’s first nominee for best picture. Producer Gabriela Rodriguez is the first Latina in the best picture race. And “Roma’s” leading lady, first-time actress Yalitza Aparicio, is just the fourth Latina nominated for best actress and the first since Catalina Sandino Moreno for “Maria Full of Grace” in 2005.

Superheroes rising

It took a decade, but after the category was expanded from five to as many 10 nominees following the uproar over the perceived snub of “The Dark Knight.” “Black Panther” is the first superhero movie to vie for best picture. The nomination may not be merely a consolation prize, considering it took home top honors at the Screen Actors Guild Awards and actors make up the Oscars’ largest voting bloc.

So Close but yet so far

With seven career nods, including one this year for “The Wife,” Glenn Close is tied with Richard Burton for second place, behind Peter O’Toole with eight, on the list of most-nominated actors without an Oscar. “Vice” nominee Amy Adams is just behind with six nominations.

Better than fiction

Since 2004, only Jeff Bridges (“Crazy Heart”), Daniel Day-Lewis (“There Will Be Blood”), Jean Dujardin (“The Artist”) and Casey Affleck (“Manchester by the Sea”) have won best actor Oscars for playing a fictional character. Of this year’s nominees, in addition to Bale’s turn as the former vice president, Rami Malek portrayed Freddie Mercury, Willem Dafoe starred as Vincent van Gogh and Viggo Mortensen played Tony Lip, pianist Don Shirley’s driver and bodyguard. Bradley Cooper’s Jackson Maine from “A Star Is Born” is the only holdout to never exist in real life.

Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4567. Follow @life_onthecouch on Twitter.

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