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John Legend performs on stage at last year's Oscars. Photo: Mark Ralston / AFP via Getty Images

Ahead of tonight's 8pm ET show, read a debate in today's L.A. Times Calendar section on whether Hollywood's biggest night still matters.

Yes ... L.A. Times film critic Kenneth Turan:

  • "Having a more representative [Academy] electorate undoubtedly contributed to this year's nominations. In years past, it is hard to imagine as creature feature-based an item as 'The Shape of Water' leading all comers with 13 nominations."
  • "And equally hard to imagine having the thoroughly genre 'Get Out' and the scathing 'Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri' gradually emerging as possible upset winners."
  • Why they matter: "Having top contenders that are plugged into the zeitgeist has given the Oscars as much relevance as they have ever had in recent years."

No ... L.A. Times senior writer Jeffrey Fleishman:

  • "They are not hip or clever enough to draw in the young, and they don't honor enough blockbuster titles to entice the popcorn set. The show's political asides, ... fail to capture, even though they will jab at them, the deeper currents of our visceral #hashtag times."
  • "The decline in viewership is in part a symptom of an atomized entertainment universe that has grown from a handful of channels to Netflix, Amazon, YouTube."
  • If you only read one paragraph: "There has been a shift ... in the cult of celebrity. Selfies, Instagram and YouTube have made us our own celebrities; the real ones posing beside us at film premieres and restaurants have become extras in our videoed romans à clef. They don't seem as otherworldly as they once did. Notions of fame have been reinvented, and the audience has become the star in an endless loop of blurred lines."

Go deeper

Former D.C. Guard alleges Army Generals lied about Jan. 6 response

Members of the National Guard and Capitol police keep a small group of pro-Trump demonstrators away from the Capitol following the insurrection on Jan. 6. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

A former D.C. National Guard official has alleged that top Army generals "lied" to Congress in their testimony on the U.S. Capitol riot, Politico first reported Monday.

The big picture: Col. Earl Matthews, who was serving on Jan. 6, alleges in a memo that the official version on the military response is "worthy of the best Stalinist or North Korea propagandist" and that the Pentagon inspector general's November report on it features "myriad inaccuracies, false or misleading statements, or examples of faulty analysis."

Toyota to build $1.3 billion U.S. battery plant in North Carolina

The all-electric Toyota bZ4X, the company's first battery-electric vehicle, at the Los Angeles Auto Show in Los Angeles, California on Nov. 17. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

Toyota announced Monday it's investing $1.3 billion to construct an electric vehicle battery "megasite" near Greensboro, North Carolina, set to open in 2025.

Why it matters: Toyota's Prius hybrid won environmental plaudits when it launched in 1997, but it has since lost ground to electric vehicle world leader Tesla, per Axios' Joann Muller. This battery plant will be the first to produce automotive batteries for Toyota in North America.

5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Congress hunts for shortcut to pass defense funding, debt limit combo

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer returned to his office Monday. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The scramble in Congress to pass the National Defense Authorization Act is being complicated by an effort to tie it to a needed hike in the federal debt limit.

Why it matters: The House and Senate are rapidly coming up against a series of deadlines they must address before the end of the year — or risk disrupting crucial military funding and upending the economy. Congressional leaders are now hoping they can knock out both "must-pass" priorities in one, complex swoop.