It began with excitement, anticipation, and awe.
It ended in confusion, disappointment … and more confusion.
On Sunday night, the top movie stars and talent of the past year gathered around the world for the 93rd Academy Awards. In a year filled with violence, loss, and tragedy, there was more pressure than ever before on the show to produce a high-quality ceremony, even in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
They aimed for an eccentric, modern, and flashy awards show.
The end results were anti-climactic to say the least.
The first major change in this year’s ceremony was the fact that all the nominees were not under the same roof. Though the logic behind this is clear due to the circumstances surrounding COVID, it made room for several uncomfortable acceptance speeches. When individuals in both the main, Los Angeles location and another part of the world won, the former would take up all the speaking time, leaving those abroad to linger behind the screen in an awkward manner.
Situations such as these occurred numerous times throughout the night, nodding towards a huge mistake the Academy made this year: there were no time limits on acceptance speeches. Each winner essentially had free reign to speak for however long (or short, see Ms. McDormand below) they desired.
This led to both supporting acting winners Daniel Kaluuya and Yuh-jung Youn giving three-minute speeches that were, while insightful and emotional, needlessly long-winded.
It was nice seeing Yuh-jung Youn fangirl over Brad Pitt, though.
Yet again, the Oscars went hostless, relying on celebrities such as Regina King, Laura Dern, and Zendaya to keep the show moving forward as they presented their designated categories. Production used this time to experiment with new cinematography, using horizontal pans and sharp side angles to give the show a fresh look.
Unfortunately, this new style was more distracting than anything.
The show lacked authenticity. It seemed more like a sugar-coated Broadway production than a prestigious award show. There was much more focus on the entertainment and “wow” factor of the program and not enough attention toward producing a show that actually took the time to celebrate the movie magic of the past year.
To top it all off, this is the first time I have ever been unable to watch Glenn Close on my screen. Her “Da Butt” sketch with Lil Rel Howery was overwhelmingly unbearable and instantly cringeworthy.
All in all, it was nothing like a typical Oscars show.
Are you beginning to see the problem here?
The Oscars have built a fanbase and reputation based on the structure, order, and pacing of their show. Viewers and the nominees know what to expect as the show progresses, and it helps keep everything streamlined and organized.
Changing the core basics of the program, like giving unlimited time for acceptance speeches and switching the order of certain categories throws off the whole show, especially when the logic behind these changes doesn’t actually make any sense.
Which leads us to the last half-hour of the ceremony. Buckle in.
It began with the “In Memoriam.” This annual tradition of the Academy Awards honors actors, filmmakers, and Hollywood legends who passed away in the last year. Typically subdued and emotional, this year’s presentation was almost comical in a sense. The odd musical choice of “I’ll Be Loving You Always” coupled with the fast-paced slides of those we lost made for a very uncomfortable four minutes.
At this point in the show, everyone was thrown for a loop when Rita Moreno walked onstage to present the award for Best Picture. Typically, this award is presented last due to its status as the “top prize of the night.” However, the show decided to move it third-to-last, bumping the Lead Actress and Lead Actor awards down to second-to-last and last, respectively.
Following an unsurprising win for the underwhelming critical darling Nomadland, Frances McDormand somehow managed to snag her third Oscar win, her second in a span of just three years. Her speech was short and sweet.
And weird. Very weird.
Many viewers deduced that the ceremony’s order was moved around so that it would end with the late Chadwick Boseman winning the award for Best Actor. It would have been his first and only Oscar, and even though it would have been posthumous, it would have been a great way to honor his legacy and his short yet stellar career.
And then the winner was announced: Anthony Hopkins.
At this point, even the Academy’s most die-hard defenders were scratching their heads. There is simply no clear reason as to why these changes were made to the ceremony.
In fact, there is.
The Academy has long been accused and discredited for favoring industry connections and campaigns over deserving performances and filmmakers that are nominated. Many feel that high-profile nominees like Leonardo DiCaprio, Amy Adams, Carey Mulligan, and now Chadwick Boseman, have been exploited for ratings and are not given legitimate attention from the Academy.
Now, that exploitation has reached the viewing public.
The only thing that can be gathered from this bizarre change of plans is that the Academy wanted people to continue watching the show to the end, so they threw in a curveball to give a false narrative that they would be ending on a sweet, uplifting note.
Instead, we got Joaquin Phoenix in a hoodie reading the winner, a man who didn’t even show up to the ceremony in-person or remotely.
What did we learn from this?
The Academy, like many other award shows, needs to get it together.
As we look ahead to upcoming films in 2021, we already have several big players on the field, including Ridley Scott’s House of Gucci, Adam McKay’s Don’t Look Up, and Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story, among many others.
Hopefully, by the time these exciting new releases reach award season, they will be rewarded with a classy, respectful celebration of the masterful art and contribution to the film industry.
I leave you now with one of the few bright spots of the night: Chloe Zhao becoming the second woman and first woman of color to win Best Director.
Alex Prince is a pop culture critic for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the Howl