Jamie Lee Curtis accepts the Oscar for best supporting actress for "Everything Everywhere All at Once"

Hollywood (United States) (AFP) - The Oscars began Sunday with a thunderous “Top Gun” flyover and a flurry of jokes about “The Slap,” launching a night in which sci-fi flick “Everything Everywhere All at Once” leads the pack with 11 nominations including for best picture.

Host Jimmy Kimmel was lowered onto the stage after jets flew over Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre, and he quickly launched into a monologue which laid into Will Smith’s infamous attack on Chris Rock at last year’s Oscars.

“If anyone in this theater commits an act of violence at any point during the show – you will be awarded the Oscar for best actor, and permitted to give a 19-minute-long speech,” joked Kimmel.

The specter of “The Slap” has hung over the Oscars since Smith assaulted Rock on stage for cracking a joke about his wife. Smith was allowed to stay at the gala, and accept Hollywood’s top male acting prize soon after.

The memory of Will Smith's slap of host Chris Rock at the 2022 Oscars is hovering over the 2023 Academy Awards

Producers promised Sunday’s show would address it, and Kimmel did not hold back.

“Seriously, the Academy has a crisis team in place” this year, he said.

“If anything unpredictable or violent happens during the ceremony, just do what you did last year. Nothing.”

Hollywood’s A-listers turned out in force Sunday.

Rihanna will perform at the Oscars

Oscar winner Jamie Lee Curtis, who snapped up one of the first prizes of the night for best supporting actress for “Everything Everywhere,” was also among the first to walk the red carpet – which is actually a champagne color.

Singers Rihanna and Lady Gaga – both nominated for best original song – were also in attendance, and expected to perform.

The night’s first award, for best animated film, went to “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio.”

Best supporting actor went to Ke Huy Quan, the former child star of “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” and “The Goonies,” completing a comeback story for the ages.

- Best picture race -

Ke Huy Quan accepts the Oscar for best supporting actor for "Everything Everywhere All at Once"

“Everything Everywhere,” a wacky sci-fi film featuring multiple universes, sex toys and hot dog fingers, is the highly unorthodox frontrunner for best picture.

Academy bosses hope audiences will tune in to see whether the zany $100 million-grossing hit can claim Hollywood’s most coveted prize.

Leading the overall nominations count at 11, it follows a Chinese immigrant laundromat owner locked in battle with an inter-dimensional supervillain who happens to also be her own daughter.

Michelle Yeoh’s heroine Evelyn must harness the power of her alter egos living in parallel universes, which feature hot dogs as human fingers, talking rocks and giant dildos used as weapons.

The film has dominated nearly every awards show in Hollywood, with its charismatic, predominantly Asian stars becoming the feel-good story of the season.

But although the quirky movie is widely expected to dominate Oscars night, and indeed notched two early wins, it could hit a stumbling block for best picture.

The Screen Actors Guild award-winning cast of 'Everything Everywhere All at Once' (L-R) -- Ke Huy Quan, Stephanie Hsu, James Hong, Michelle Yeoh and Jamie Lee Curtis -- are expected to soar on Oscars night

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences uses a special “preferential” voting system for that award, in which members rank films from best to worst.

The approach punishes polarizing films.

If any rival can benefit, it is likely “All Quiet on the Western Front,” Netflix’s German-language World War I movie that dominated Britain’s BAFTAs.

Another potential beneficiary is “Top Gun: Maverick,” the long-awaited sequel from Tom Cruise – no less a figure than Steven Spielberg recently said the actor and his film “might have saved the entire theatrical industry” from the pandemic.

The race for the best actress Oscar is tight -- nominees are (L-R) Ana de Armas, Michelle Yeoh, Andrea Riseborough, Michelle Williams and Cate Blanchett

While the best picture race has a clear favorite, the remaining acting contests are incredibly tight.

For best actress, Cate Blanchett had long been favorite to win a third Oscar for “Tar,” but “Everything Everywhere” love could propel Yeoh to a historic first win by an Asian woman in the category.

Best actor is a three-horse race between Fraser (“The Whale”) , Austin Butler (“Elvis) and Colin Farrell (“The Banshees of Inisherin”).

- Blockbusters -

Oscars host Jimmy Kimmel is tasked with keeping the show rolling -- and avoiding any major drama

Partly thanks to “The Slap,” last year’s Oscars TV ratings improved from record lows, but remained well below their late 1990s peak, as interest in awards shows wanes.

This year, organizers have brought back Jimmy Kimmel as host for a third stint, and hope that nominations for popular blockbusters like “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Avatar: The Way of Water” will bring viewers back.