The best and worst of the weirdest Oscars ever
“Nomadland” was the biggest winner of the night and won three of the most important prizes.
Chloé Zhao won the Oscar for best director.
The pandemic made the 2021 Oscars the strangest gala in awards history. Aside from the fact that it was postponed to April 25, it all happened at a train station converted for this purpose in place of the imposing (and usual) Dolby Theater, also in Los Angeles, USA.
Contrary to what usually happens, practically only the nominees had access to the room – and some of them went live from other countries, from the UK to France, via Ireland or Sweden, also because of the pandemic restrictions.
The result, of course, was a very minimalist, welcoming, familiar or domestic ceremony, with Questlove replacing an orchestra as a DJ. Directed by Steven Soderbergh, the credits and first post promised a more cinematic approach to the world’s greatest film awards – and this could have happened to some extent, with more diverse plans than those who spoke on stage, though nothing revolutionary about it was, or very surprisingly, somewhat fraudulent expectations.
What is certain is that some of the best things were missing from the Oscars. The sense of spectacle and grandeur was missing, the moments of comedy were missing (and quite a lot), the tension in the room that an initial monologue and provocative jokes in the middle would normally bring was missing. The academy’s decision was made in light of the difficult and dark moment we are living in even though we are in a recovery phase.
Without a moderator, it was up to several actors to present the various categories. They were the only exceptions for nameless professionals who were there – although they didn’t sit in the common room with the rest of the guests as they only showed up for their presentation. To keep her distance, the statuette also waited alone on the stage. There was no interaction between presenters and winners which made it cooler too.
What was also strange, and it goes without saying that it can be quite controversial, was that some of the nominees presented other categories. For example, actress and now director Regina King made her debut with a brief on-stage introduction from the pulpit before introducing the nominees (and winners) of the evening’s first categories. Now Regina King is playing “Once Upon a Night”, which was nominated for three Academy Awards in that ceremony. And so many others played the same role throughout the gala.
Additionally, some of the category moderators made personal comments – and not proportionally – on each nominee before opening the envelope and revealing the winner, which also seemed inappropriate.
The funniest and most curious thing about this year’s Oscar script was the fact that the vast majority of nominees were introduced or performed for the work they started: often insignificant to their careers – and not even related to the cinema field. Perhaps the goal was to somehow inspire those watching at home. Make it clear to them that they are normal people and that we can all make our dreams come true – even if this is obviously a very romantic vision.
Something that also caused something weird – and obviously unrelated to the pandemic – was the fact that the order of the categories presented was changed. The award for the best film was not, as usual, the last category to be announced. Graduation was left to the awards for best actress and best actor. Since Anthony Hopkins, who won the role on “The Father”, was absent from the show or was from the UK, there was a very unsatisfactory ending.
But we had the same feeling throughout the ceremony because – certainly because of the almost grieving context in which it took place – there were practically no flashy speeches or a lot of emotions. It all seemed like a grand formality that wasn’t particularly pleasant. The themes with the name Best Original Song were also not interpreted on stage within the station, but before (and in Portugal we could not see the interpretations due to the decision of the RTP broadcast).
As is well known, the Oscar audience has declined over the years – and it seems obvious that in 2021 it won’t be possible to reverse the trend by gaining more audiences. In addition to the fact that the ceremony was weird and bad in many ways, many of the winning and nominee films in many countries have yet to open in theaters, which can cause the excitement to wear off as well. Finally, meet (or remember) all of the winners of the night. And get to know the tragic story behind Thomas Vinterberg’s emotional speech after “One More Round” won the Oscar for best international film.