LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Stars arrived on the Oscars red carpet on Sunday under sunny but breezy skies for an Academy Awards ceremony filled with suspense over which will win the best picture, and whether the Hollywood sexual misconduct scandal will steal the spotlight.
Jane Fonda, I, Tonya nominees Margot Robbie and Allison Janney, veteran Rita Moreno, Get Out star Daniel Kaluuya,Mudbound singer and actress Mary J. Blige and Christopher Plummer were among the early arrivals.
Women sported flowing blue, lavender and white gowns, often embellished with sequins and crystals, in contrast to the black worn en masse at award ceremonies earlier this year to show support for victims of sexual harassment.
The best picture Oscar - presented at the end of the three-and-a-half-hour show - is anyone's guess this year.
Fox Searchlight fantasy romance The Shape Of Water with a leading 13 nominations, Fox Searchlight dark comedy Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, and Universal Pictures racial satire Get Out all have a fighting chance.
Three Billboards, the tale of an angry woman seeking justice for her daughter's killer, scooped multiple honours earlier this year, but Get Out, a bold horror movie that became a talking point around modern-day race relations in America, appears to have gained momentum in the last two weeks, awards pundits say .
Get Out director Jordan Peele, who also wrote the screenplay, said the film's message was that "we are never done with the conversation about race." "I hope it plugged some hole and has helped inspire more conversation that is needed today," Peele told reporters on the red carpet.
The sexual misconduct scandal that has rocked Hollywood and led to dozens of powerful men being fired or forced to stand down was also a hot topic on Sunday's red carpet.
Actress Salma Hayek, one of more than 70 women who accused film producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual impropriety, is among the Oscar presenters. Weinstein has denied having non consensual sex with anyone.
"Here we are to celebrate the fact that women will not have to struggle as hard together," Hayek said on Sunday. "I know that future generations will have it easier." The Time's Up campaign against sexual harassment in the wider workplace, spearheaded by celebrities including Reese Witherspoon and Ava DuVernay, is expected to be recognised in some form during Sunday's ceremony.
History could be made when the awards, chosen by some 8,000 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are handed out.
Peele could become the first black man in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' 90-year history to win a directing Oscar, while Lady Bird director Greta Gerwig could be only the second female to take home that prize.
Host Jimmy Kimmel is expected to turn into a running joke last year's embarrassing best picture envelope mix-up that saw musical La La Land being declared winner instead of Moonlight. In the main acting races, Frances McDormand is heavily favoured to win for Three Billboards and British actor Gary Oldman's performance as wartime leader Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour is widely expected to bring his first Oscar.