Hollywood is girding for an onslaught against Donald Trump in what is expected to be the most politically charged Oscars in living memory.
Instead of squirming at the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite, which has highlighted Hollywood’s lack of diversity in recent years, industry figures are gearing for a collective liberal howl against the perma-tanned president, prompting predictions the 89th Academy Awards will be remembered as #OscarsSoOrange.
The White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, himself the target of Hollywood ridicule, has said that the president will not be watching Sunday’s ceremony, but the prospect of Tinseltown’s most glamorous night doubling up as a political spectacle is expected to boost global viewership.
The jittery, partisan mood has overshadowed the expected sweep for La La Land, which has a record-equalling 14 nominations, with the romantic musical cast as escapist fare for troubled times.
Anticipation over who will use the winner’s podium to assail the White House over policies on immigration and transgender rights, among other issues, has overtaken speculation about whether critics’ favourite Moonlight, about a gay black man’s coming of age, will nab the award for best picture or whether Arrival, about communicating with aliens, or Hidden Figures, about African American women working for Nasa in the 1960s, can stage an upset.
Cinephiles will also be watching to see if Denzel Washington’s performance in Fences pips Casey Affleck’s turn in Manchester By the Sea for best actor, and whether Viola Davis will take a first and arguably overdue Oscar for her role in Washington’s film.
Resentment at the Trump administration’s travel ban may tilt a tight race for best foreign language film towards The Salesman, a drama from Iran by Asghar Farhadi, a previous Oscar winner who has refused to travel to LA in protest against the ban.
Jimmy Kimmel, who will host the ceremony, said he would go light on politics during the three-hour broadcast but defended the right of award winners to speak out. “You hear people say, ‘I’m sick and tired of people talking politics at awards shows,’” he told the Los Angeles Times. “Well, I’m sick and tired of people talking about how sick and tired they are of people talking about politics at awards shows.”
George Clooney swung the cudgels earlier this week by accusing Trump of being part of the Hollywood elite he has regularly criticised and branding his chief strategist, Steve Bannon, “a failed film writer and director”.
At the Golden Globes last month, Meryl Streep made a speech excoriating the president for mocking a disabled reporter. Trump responded on Twitter by calling her an “over-rated actress” and a “Hillary flunky”.
Celebrities have piled on the president. In October, Robert De Niro said he would like to punch the then presidential nominee in the face. The producer Judd Apatow has said Trump’s administration made him feel as if he had been raped. “I just don’t know if I’m going to get murdered.”
ABC, who will broadcast the ceremony in the US, will hope that advertisers’ willingness to pay $2m (£1.6m) for a 30-second slot – a hefty boost from last year – indicates that viewership will mark a rise on last year’s 34.4m, which was an eight-year low.
Some Hollywood figures, notably Jon Voight, support Trump but it is unclear if any will take the opportunity to defend him on Sunday.
There is consolation for the president outside the theatre: his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which was defaced with a pickaxe and sledgehammer in October, has been repaired. James Lambert Otis was put on probation for three years on Wednesday after he pleaded no contest to felony vandalism.