The Oscars are coming! Film buffs across Europe will be stocking up on caffeine and obscure facts in preparation for the screening of the awards in the early hours of Monday morning.
Final preparations are underway for the 76th Academy Awards ceremony.
Thousands of miles away from the red carpets, the cries of "Nicole, who are you wearing?" and the flash of a million camera bulbs, European film fans will be wrapped up in blankets and pajamas to watch the annual Academy Awards ceremony straight from Hollywood in the early hours of Monday morning.
While the stars wave and smile in the fading sunlight of a Tinseltown Sunday, a completely different audience in a completely different time zone will be waiting with bated breath for the golden envelopes to unveil this year's Oscar winners.
It will be a hardy breed who can withstand the wait and the routine of host Billy Crystal for the whole duration of the televised gala. The good intentions will disappear as fast as a flask of coffee to be replaced by shouts of "Get on with it!" For most Oscar watchers, the cut-off point is somewhere around 2 a.m between Award for Best Caterer and the gong for Best Underwear in a Supporting Role.
The real meat of the event comes towards the end. After Billy Crystal has run out of contemporaries to crack jokes about, those with enough Java juice in their veins will be among the lucky few who will see the most coveted awards handed over to the -- in many cases -- deserving winners. These are the reasons why so many endure the matchsticks on the eyelids and the regular bouts of snowy fresh air from outside their European windows.
Tune in for the best bits
Best film, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress...This is more like it. And this year, there is real competition to add to the expectation. Not this year the bored indifference to Tom Hanks winning yet another award.
No, in the Best Actor category this year, keen eyes will be on whether Hollywood succumbs to the underground charm of Johnny Depp (photo) for his Captain Jack Sparrow in "Pirates of the Caribbean" or whether it leaves U.S. shores in the hands of British leading men Jude Law for "Cold Mountain" or Sir Ben Kingsley for "House of Sand and Fog." And could Bill Murray get deserved attention for his role in Lost in Translation? No one knows yet.
Best Film category hard to call
The Best Film category is also an almost-open contest. Sofia Coppola's "Lost in Translation," Clint Eastwood's "Mystic River," "City of God" from Fernando Meirelles and Peter Weir's "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World" could all grab the glory. However, they face a tough time up against Peter Jackson and his final installment of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings saga - "The Return of the King," for not only would the Academy by honoring that one film but a trilogy that has made movie history. Some competition...
The leading ladies apparently all fall behind Charlize Theron's portrayal of serial killer Aileen Wuornos in "Monster" in the queue for the award for Best Actress. Theron's performance has amazed critics and has already won the South African actress an already enviable collection of prizes. But again, who's to bet against newcomer Keisha Castle-Hughes stealing in for her role in "Whale Rider," or Diane Keaton taking the stage once more for "Something's Gotta Give."
Europeans cheer on their own...eventually
Usually, European fans wait eagerly to see how their own homegrown talents do. The Best Foreign Language film usually suffices unless a rogue European actor or actress breaks through in a Hollywood production. This year, the list includes the French-Canadian production "The Barbarian Invasions," Sweden's entry "Evil," "The Twilight Samurai" from Japan, "Twin Sisters" from The Netherlands and the Czech production "Zelary."
Germany, winner of the award at last year's Oscars with "Nowhere in Africa," is this year represented by Florian Baxmeyer's "Die Rote Jacke (The Red Jacket)" in the Award for Best Short Film category. Baxmeyer will be hoping his tale of a jacket thrown in the trash by a grieving German father which makes its way into the hands of a boy in war-torn Sarajevo can bring another Oscar back to his home country.
So, there is plenty to stay up for. Or alternatively, go to bed, set an alarm clock for around three in the morning and get up to watch the interesting bits when they happen.