The Oscars may make history in multiple ways this year

(CNN) -- The 92nd Academy Awards have the potential to make history on several fronts, depending on which way the best picture race plays out, on a night where the acting honors seem pretty well preordained.

In terms of firsts, a Netflix movie ("The Irishman" or "Marriage Story") or a foreign language film (South Korea's "Parasite") could be anointed best picture.

"Joker," starring Joaquin Phoenix as the Batman villain, could also become the first film based on a comic book to win, entering the evening with more nominations than any other movie. And Quentin Tarantino -- a two-time screenwriting champ -- could have his first movie recognized if Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voters choose a film set in their world, "Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood."

A bit more obscurely, director Sam Mendes could set a record for the longest lapse between Oscars in that category if he wins for the World War I film "1917" -- generally perceived to be the front-runner -- two decades after his debut feature, "American Beauty."

Suspense over the best picture race remains at the heart of this year's event, based on the consistency among acting honors handed out in the run-up to movie industry's biggest night.

The awards have also reignited the debate about inclusion and diversity within the academy, which birthed the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag five years ago. Despite academy efforts to address the issue, only one person of color -- actress Cynthia Erivo, for the Harriet Tubman biography "Harriet" -- is among the 20 nominees for best and supporting actor and actress.

Ratings for the Oscars will be watched closely, amid a general decline for the major ceremonies leading up to it, including the Golden Globes -- which kicked off this year's truncated awards season in early January -- and the Grammys two weeks ago.

The ceremony again opted to go without a designated host, after employing that approach in 2019. While that served as something of a novelty, it will be interesting to see whether it generates similar curiosity the second time around.

The awards are being televised live at 8 p.m. EST on ABC 57, with the red carpet show starting at 6:30 p.m. 

The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2020 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

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