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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

The Academy Awards have gotten tons of press this year for things not going right, but there's reason to believe Sunday's show will be an all-around surprise.

The big picture: Ratings have been on the decline, there's no host and producers have taken grief for the show's 3+ hour runtime.

  • “We’re good! We’re good!” producer Donna Gigliotti told the AP yesterday. “Did we look like cadavers yesterday?”
  • “I think that the show is in very good shape,” Gigliotti said. “We feel good about the way it is flowing, looking (and) our presenters.”

Behind the intrigue:

  1. No host means more star cameos, including Barbra Streisand, Michael B. Jordan, Tina Fey, Charlize Theron and Michael Keaton, the AP notes. Expect cameos from Serena Williams, Rep. John Lewis and chef Jose Andres.
  2. And don't forget politics: Those celebrity cameos mean more opportunities for commentary on President Trump and the 2020 presidential election.
  3. There's a slew of historic nominations on the table, including "Black Panther" (first action movie nominated) vs. "Roma" (first Netflix film to get a nod) in the Best Picture race.
  4. And women have snagged a record-number of nominations this year, although Diane von Furstenberg lamented the lack of nods to female directors and cinematographers.

Between the lines:

  • This year's ratings should be better than expected because the pictures with the most nominations were box office gold, Comscore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian told Axios' Sara Fischer.
  • "Black Panther," "A Star is Born" and "Bohemian Rhapsody" collectively pulled more than $1 billion in revenue at the box office.
  • "Many more people have seen this group of Oscar contenders than is typical in any given year."

P.S. "Will seven times be the charm for Glenn Close?" Variety asks.

  • "With this, her seventh nomination for a stunning turn as a long-suffering spouse in 'The Wife,' will Close finally get the recognition she deserves? Odds-makers say yes, but she faces stiff competition from Olivia Colman ('The Favourite') and Lady Gaga ('A Star is Born')."

Go deeper

Updated 6 hours ago - World

Mexican President López Obrador tests positive for coronavirus

Mexico's President Andrés Manuel López Obrador during a press conference at National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico, on Wednesday. Photo: Ismael Rosas/Eyepix Group/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced Sunday evening that he's tested positive for COVID-19.

Driving the news: López Obrador tweeted that he has mild symptoms and is receiving medical treatment. "As always, I am optimistic," he added. "We will all move forward."

7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Sarah Huckabee Sanders to run for governor of Arkansas

Sarah Huckabee Sanders at FOX News' studios in New York City in 2019. Photo: Steven Ferdman/Getty Images

Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders will announce Monday that she's running for governor of Arkansas.

The big picture: Sanders was touted as a contender after it was announced she was leaving the Trump administration in June 2019. Then-President Trump tweeted he hoped she would run for governor, adding "she would be fantastic." Sanders is "seen as leader in the polls" in the Republican state, notes the Washington Post's Josh Dawsey, who first reported the news.

Coronavirus has inflamed global inequality

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

History will likely remember the pandemic as the "first time since records began that inequality rose in virtually every country on earth at the same time." That's the verdict from Oxfam's inequality report covering the year 2020 — a terrible year that hit the poorest, hardest across the planet.

Why it matters: The world's poorest were already in a race against time, facing down an existential risk in the form of global climate change. The coronavirus pandemic could set global poverty reduction back as much as a full decade, according to the World Bank.