Oscars 2015: What to watch for
Willie Grace | 2/20/2015, 7:47 a.m. | Updated on 2/20/2015, 7:47 a.m.
(CNN) -- In honor of the Oscars, this story will be 7,633 words long, padded out with flowery phrases and belabored metaphors, leavened with a surprise adjective or two and summed up by a yawning and expected conclusion.
Just kidding. Well, at least about the number of words. We can't promise anything about the rest.
But that's the thing about the Oscars. So much of what they present (and represent) is predictable: amusement and pageantry, self-importance about the role of movies and occasional stretches of dullness. (Well, there ARE 24 awards to give out.)
Still, you never know when the show will surprise -- and even entertain.
This year, for the 87th Academy Awards, the "entertainment" portion will be helped immeasurably by the inclusion of host Neil Patrick Harris, who has proven himself to be an all-star performer with his turns at the Tonys and Emmys.
And a number of award categories -- including best picture -- are still undecided, unlike recent years when many top winners seemed preordained.
So grab some popcorn and an Oscar ballot. Here's what you can expect from this year's show.
The red carpet
Joan Rivers is gone.
The comedian and longtime red-carpet maven died last September, and love her or hate her, she always added some zip to the red-carpet procession, from popularizing the question "Who are you wearing?" to calling out faux pas on "Fashion Police."
This year's red carpet -- coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET -- is less colorful for her loss. Nevertheless, plenty of color (and color commentary) will remain. Ryan Seacrest and Giuliana Rancic are hosting on E!, while ABC will trot out Robin Roberts, Lara Spencer and Michael Strahan.
The weather forecast calls for a partly cloudy day with temperatures in the mid-60s and a 10% chance of rain. Sparkling Oscar weather, in other words.
When Neil Patrick Harris hosts your show, you know you're in for a good time.
His song-and-dance moves at the Tonys -- which he's hosted four times -- have earned raves. And though the 2013 Emmys proved unexpectedly dull, he wasn't blamed.
So now Doogie Howser is hosting the Oscars. It won't be Harris' first time on the Academy Award stage -- he opened the show in 2010 -- but it's his debut as the show's emcee.
He's aware of the challenges. Ellen DeGeneres did a good job last year, but all anyone remembers is her selfie. And Hugh Jackman, another ace song-and-dance man, hosted the show in 2009. He got nice reviews. Recall anything else?
"In many ways, it's lose-lose," Harris told the Los Angeles Times. "There's so much scrutiny. And so much anticipation, and so many (Oscar-viewing) parties where people are hoping that things go wrong. It's not really an audience wanting you to win."
The 42 people scheduled to hand out awards Sunday range from 80-year-old Shirley MacLaine to 18-year-old Chloe Grace Moretz, from perennial nominee Meryl Streep to newcomer Ansel Elgort.
Perhaps in an effort to appeal to younger viewers, only five of the presenters are over 50.