With a big night for Hollywood - and likely "The Revenant" - only hours away, protesters near the Oscars venue in Los Angeles urged a boycott of the Academy Awards over an all-white roster in the acting categories.
As Hollywood's biggest stars began gathering on the red carpet at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on Sunday evening, home of the 88th Academy Awards ceremony, dozens of protesters converged a few blocks away to call for more diversity in film.
Protesters waved signs that included the slogans "Hollywood Must do Better" and "Shame on You," a reference to the #OscarsSoWhite controversy that has dogged the Academy since an all-white group of actors was nominated in January for the second straight year.
Civil rights leader Al Sharpton, the organizer of the protest, has called for a boycott of this year's ceremony and urged viewers to "tune out" the live telecast, set to begin at 5:30 p.m. local time (01:30 UTC).
"No matter how much glitter and how much of pomp they display this afternoon, it's a disgrace to have an exclusionary policy represent American culture," Sharpton said earlier in the day. "This will be the last night of an all-white Oscars."
A Hollywood-wide boycott of the event has failed to materialize, though major players like director Spike Lee and actor Will Smith have said they will not be attending on Sunday night, among others.
Actor and comedian Chris Rock, who is hosting the ceremony, has resisted calls to step down, and remained quiet in the days leading up to the event. He is expected to address the issue in his opening monologue, hinted at in a tweet on Friday.
Best picture up for grabs
Going in to the evening with 12 nominations and previous wins at the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs, snowbound survival epic "The Revenant" is seen as a favorite for best picture - though the award is still considered to be up for grabs.
"All the tea leaves are pointing in a different direction. It could be 'The Revenant', 'Spotlight,' 'The Big Short' or even 'Mad Max: Fury Road'," said Tom O'Neil, founder of awards website Goldderby.com.
The acting awards are less of a mystery, with Sylvester Stallone ("Creed"), newcomer Brie Larson ("Room") and five-time nominee Leonardo DiCaprio ("The Revenant") considered strong favorites for their first Oscars.
And in the unlikely event that DiCaprio doesn't win, he can at least take consolation in the "Yakut Oscar."
Fans of the 41-year-old actor from eastern Siberia, grateful for DiCaprio's dedication of his best actor Golden Globe to the world's indigenous peoples in January, have donated 1.4 kilograms (about 3 pounds) of gold and silver jewelry to produce a statuette for him.
For a full list of nominees, click here.
cmk/gsw (AP, Reuters, dpa)