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Student Blog: Theatre Kid Reacts to the 93rd Oscars

Somehow an Oscars ceremony during a pandemic was weirder than I thought it would be.

Last Sunday, after a year that turned the entertainment industry (and the entire world) upside down, Hollywood's biggest night finally happened. The 93rd Academy Awards closed out this awards season in the strangest way, and I have several thoughts. And complaints. You might want to stop reading, so I'll give you a minute to find a better article.

Oh, you're still here? Cool, then let's get started.

I look forward to the Oscars every year, but after this year's nominations were announced, I really wasn't too excited. Sure, this year's nominees were deserving of the praise that they've received, but compared to the nominees last year- which included 1917, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and Bong Joon-ho's best picture winner Parasite- the list seemed pretty dull. 2020 just wasn't the best year for film, and understandably so. Still, I managed to find some nominees to root for at this year's ceremony, including some Broadway favorites.

There were a few film adaptations of plays up for awards this year: Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (five nominations, including Best Actress for Viola Davis and Best Actor for Chadwick Boseman), The Father (six nominations, including Best Picture), and One Night in Miami... (three nominations, including Best Supporting Actor for Leslie Odom Jr.). Of the three, both Ma Rainey's Black Bottom and The Father won two awards each.

I think everyone knew that this year's Oscars would feel a little bit strange, especially after the year we had. Little did we know that the show's producers had so much weird stuff in store that it would exceed our expectations by a lot more than we'd anticipated.

Right off the bat, I noticed something strange about the presentation of the live telecast. Rather than broadcasting in the usual 30 frames-per-second and 16:9 aspect ratio, the ceremony was broadcast in 24 frames-per-second with an anamorphic aspect ratio, giving the feeling that the ceremony itself was a film. I appreciate the bold choice, but at the same time I found it incredibly distracting. The frame rate was definitely a major issue; any time the camera would pan or move in the slightest, there would be a judder. In other words, the video looked really choppy. It was a misguided choice, but it wasn't the worst decision the producers made that evening.

It was obvious before the nominations were even announced that Nomadland would win Best Picture, so I was expecting a very predictable and anticlimactic end to the evening. I say anticlimactic because as the end of the night drew near, I wasn't expecting any major surprises. Then the producers went and upped the weird factor even more.

The time had come to announce the Best Picture of the year... only we hadn't heard the winners of Best Actress or Actor yet. As Chloé Zhao and the producers of Nomadland accepted the award, many were confused, myself included. Then I began to think of all the possible reasons the producers would choose to break from the tradition of saving Best Picture (the biggest award of the night) for last. Then it hit me: they wanted to end the evening by posthumously awarding Chadwick Boseman the Oscar for Best Actor and paying tribute to the late star, who passed away in August 2020.

This is where the producers really messed up.

At this point we've gotten past the biggest award of the evening, and now everyone seems to know where this is heading. Renée Zellweger presented Frances McDormand the award for Best Actress for her performance in Nomadland (not the choice I would have gone with, but okay). Next, Joaquin Phoenix took to the stage to present the award for Best Actor, and although I was still weirded out by the category change, I was certain that in a few moments I'd be celebrating. I sat on my couch as Phoenix opened the envelope, thinking: "They switched the categories, right? So there's no way they won't give the award to... Anthony Hopkins???"

In a major upset, Anthony Hopkins won the award for Best Actor for his portrayal of a dementia patient in The Father... and he wasn't even there.

Hopkins wasn't able to attend the ceremony in person and the producers wouldn't allow him to accept his award via Zoom, so at the moment he was announced as the winner, Hopkins was asleep in his bed. Phoenix accepted the award on his behalf and exited the stage, bringing the 93rd Academy Awards to an abrupt and anticlimactic end.

I've said it before, but I really didn't care who won. From what I've seen, Anthony Hopkins gave an incredible performance and was very deserving of the award. Still, I was rooting for Chadwick Boseman, and after the way he swept this awards season, I was certain that he was going to win. Apparently the producers were, too. As it turns out, the producers don't actually know who the winners are until they're announced, so their plan backfired when they switched the categories around. That's what upset me the most, but I understand that the producers didn't know what was going to happen. They just acted based on their assumptions and made a questionable decision (one of several, actually).

It wasn't all bad though. We got to see trailers for Steven Spielberg's West Side Story, as well as In the Heights. Several films that I really enjoyed took home awards. Jon Batiste's (Best Original Score co-winner for Soul) acceptance speech was inspiring and my favorite of the evening. Chloé Zhao became the first woman of color to win the Oscar for Best Director, as well as being only the second woman in Oscars history to win the award. It was a weird night full of firsts, but it just shows that we're well on our way back to normalcy. I'm looking forward to seeing all the films heading to screens this year.


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