Oscars 2021: Lessons Learned

And so the longest Oscar season in history comes to a close. There’s honestly so much to unpack so I gotta resort to my old standby: LISTS ON LISTS ON LISTS.

And it’s been a rough year so let’s start with the positives shall we?

The Good

I always have to start with a celebration of the broken glass ceilings. As much as I disliked Nomadland, Chloe Zhao becoming the first woman of color to win Best Director (and second woman ever) is amazing (and also a little depressing). Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson became the first-ever Black winners for Best Hair and Makeup Styling on behalf of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. H.E.R. is officially halfway to an EGOT with her Best Original Song win for Judas and the Black Messiah’s “Fight for You”. Both Supporting Acting winners were also people of color (Daniel Kaluuya and Yuh-Jung Youn) and bless them both for giving us the best speeches of the night.

Speaking of speeches, I went back and forth a lot on whether I liked the unlimited speech time. I do think the decision slowed the ceremony down a fair bit but at the same time, I like that the winners looked more relaxed and sounded more genuine. You can tell it really makes a difference for them when the pressure is off. While I honestly kept waiting for a winner to get up on stage and filibuster, giving them their full moment at least achieved Soderbergh and co’s goal of making the ceremony feel more intimate and community-centered.

And on a similar note, I have to say I didn’t miss the mismatched presenter pairs with weird awkward banter. I know from my experience working in the industry that more often that not, these pairs are confirmed through a lot of backdoor negotiating and endless rounds of speech drafts that end up flat and unfunny live. While there are always a couple of presenters who kill it, whether it’s through their own comedic chops or duo chemistry, it’s not quite enough to make me miss that particular tradition.

The Bad

Okay I tried to put it off but let’s get this over with. Why in the everliving fudge did they choose to change the order of the last three awards?! Like obviously we know why but… WHY???????? The second I saw Rita Moreno with “Best Picture” on the screens behind her, I knew we were in for another disaster. I immediately guessed they had decided to move Best Actor last to end with an emotional tribute to Chadwick Boseman. Which is so messed up? Please don’t use a man’s death as an emotional ratings boost???? Like????? Add to that the fact that you can absolutely never ever ever be 100% sure of a winner and Boseman’s win was not even in the top five most guaranteed of the night. The whole ending was such a blur, hearing Anthony Hopkins’ name and then almost immediately cutting to black to mark the end of the show because he couldn’t even be bothered to show up and give a speech!!!!

The whole thing was such a disaster for absolutely no reason. The end of the Oscars has always been a moment of celebration for the top award, allowing all those involved to take the stage one more time and close out the night on a note of triumph and joy. And just like the La La Land and Moonlight fiasco, this will be how people remember the 93rd Academy Awards.

It just sucks that Anthony Hopkins absolutely deserved his win and instead it became a punchline.

Very shitty all around. And on the topic of shitty, what the hell was up with the In Memoriam montage?! The song was so inappropriately upbeat and the speed was all over the place. Some names went by so fast I didn’t even have time to finish reading them. Absolutely bizarre.

I also really disliked the decision to not show movie clips for the majority of the categories. At the very least, they should have shown them for the acting categories. There’s so much opportunity to be creative with these intros, and the show has done such an interesting job with them in the past. Instead we got endless rambling about the fact that each nominee *checks notes* liked movies as a kid? Like no shit, they’re at the Oscars. This combined with the unlimited speeches gave the show a rather clunky pace, but I’d much rather let the winners have their moment than hear random not-so-fun facts about every single nominee.

The ??????????

Okay I have to ask. WHY was Soderbergh and co obsessed with marketing the telecast as a movie and promoting the hell out of the “opening scene” that would convince people in 90 seconds that they were about to see something different?

Talk about overpromising and really massively underdelivering. As much as I adore and bow down to Regina King, what exactly about the opener were we supposed to find any different than what a normal host might have done in their monologue? I genuinely did not find anything cinematic about the production. I guess the high-def cameras??? Really grasping at straws though.

Honestly I respect that the producers fully embraced the fact that ratings were guaranteed to be at record lows and took full advantage of their carte blanche to change things up. If ever there was a year to do it, it would be this one. Some things were great, some things not (WHY did they do a random music trivia bit at the very end of the night?! Not only was it totally out of tone with the entire show but when only the three biggest awards are left, no one cares!!! Though we did get Glenn Close dancing to Da Butt so…)

Well it was definitely a memorable night, though not entirely for the right reasons. Here’s to a better and shorter Oscar season next year back at the Dolby Theater (because, in retrospect, having it at Union Station was just inviting the trainwreck).

Until next time peeps!

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