For the most part, I found this year’s Oscars to be a refreshing change up. Obviously they could not have done them in the same fashion as before, as that would have been unsafe and tone deaf. Still, Steven Soderbergh produced a pretty great event for the 93rd Annual Academy Awards. Save for one glaring issue, neither he nor whoever else involved in the production of the event could predict the future.
Typically, the structure of the night is a slow build up to the best picture winner, this year was Nomadland. However, coming off his posthumous win at the golden globes and following the pattern of odds, the night seemed geared up to award Chadwick Boseman best actor for his performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.
This would have been a lovely end to the evening and a great way to honor Boseman and his family, who were in attendance. The only small hiccup is that the Academy voting is secret and only a select number of people know the results beforehand. None of them must have worked for production. If you did not get a chance to watch it live, imagine watching a football game that ended in a punt as time expired, it was somewhat like that.
Not only did Boseman not win, the winner, Anthony Hopkins, was also not present, presumably because it was past his bedtime and he had already had his chamomile tea and recited his nightly Dylan Thomas as any good Welshman would. The result was Joaquin Phoenix awkwardly presenting the award, waiting a few seconds, accepting it on behalf of the Academy, and bidding us allagood night. Roll Credits.
Let me add here that I am happy Hopkins won and thought his work as masterful in The Father, but it made for a less than compelling ending to the night with him not being present. I actually think it was refreshing that a lot of this year’s acting awards went to older actors, considering how often we as culture treated our elders as disposable in the pandemic. On a similar note, Youn Yuh-jung winning best supporting actress was a highlight of the night.
Quest Love did a terrific job as a DJ subbing in for the typical orchestra, and the presenters mingling in the audience with microphones gave it the feeling of a reception rather than a ceremony. Spreading the hosting duties around allowed the night to have different beats, but they could have rehearsed Lil Rel’s music quiz section a few more times. At least the censors at ABC got to exercise their finger muscles a little bit during the responses.
Acceptance speeches from Emerald Fennell (Original Screenplay, Promising Young Woman), Chloe Zhao (Adapted Screenplay, Director, Best Picture, Nomadland), and Frances McDormand (Best Actress, Best Picture, Nomadland) were terrific, even though many of Zhao’s Chinese fans had to get creative to celebrate as her acceptance speech was censored for them for some undisclosed reason. Frances McDormand’s howl during the acceptance of best picture was awesome and her third best actress win puts her one step closer to tying the late legend Katharine Hepburn at four.
And, of course, congrats on the sex to Daniel Kaluuya’s mum and dad.
Overall, to borrow a metaphor Pete Docter (director of best animated feature Soul) used last night, the 93rd Annual Academy Awards were a lot like a jazz performance. There were times it was atonal and arrhythmic, but Soderbergh’s crew managed to find the groove more often than not. It’s just a shame that it ended slightly out of key.