RANDOM THOUGHTS: The 2021 Oscars

oscarsthoughts

After a crazy year impacted by a pandemic and following a long extended awards season, we finally get to put 2020 to rest with the Academy Awards. Much like the 2020 movie year, Oscar night was unusual – really weird actually. It was a hodgepodge of highs, lows, and downright bewilderment. There were some major surprises, a couple of expected bummers, and some of most baffling production decisions in Oscar broadcast history. As you can probability tell, Hollywood’s big show left us with plenty to talk about. So as I do every year, here are a few random thoughts on this year’s Academy Awards.

  • First off, I do appreciate the effort of everyone who made sure an Oscar ceremony happened. It wasn’t easy and it was never going to be “normal”. Still I gotta say, this entire show was unbelievably dry and lacked some much needed energy. I can’t imagine anyone sticking with it other than us die-hards.
  • This year’s Oscars was produced by Steven Soderbergh and let’s just say his ‘big’ ideas blew up in his face. The most baffling was the decision to move Best Picture from the final award of the night and stick it ahead of Lead Actor and Lead Actress. I get that there was a vague theme spotlighting individual achievement, but this isn’t a made-for-TV movie. Best Picture is last for a reason (aside from being BEST FREAKING PICTURE). It acknowledges the MANY people (many who don’t have an individual Oscar category) who come together to make a movie great. Moving it not only lessened the buzz around the winner, it also opened the door for a MUCH bigger fail (more on that later).
  • “Nomadland” continued its incredible awards season run by taking home Best Picture. It was the clear frontrunner and a deserving winner. Sadly it’s big moment was undercut by its nutty placement in the show which is a shame.
  • Speaking of weird placement, there was really no rhyme or reason to Soderbergh and company’s order of things. Was he just shaking things up for the heck of it? Take Best Director that just randomly came up early in the show. Chloé Zhao won for “Nomadland” which was great moment.

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  • Zhao is only the second woman to win Best Director in 93 years. Let that sink in for a minute.
  • The night’s biggest and best surprise coincided with the show’s biggest flub up. The producers made the misguided choice to end the show with Best Actor, clearly anticipating a Chadwick Boseman win and shamelessly hoping to tap into the emotions of that moment. One problem with that – Anthony Hopkins won and the 83-year-old Welshman wasn’t able to be there. So it ended with Joaquin Phoenix accepting on his behalf and then show over! A major face-plant for the show and a disservice to everyone involved including the viewers.
  • As for the actual winner, I let out a jubilant scream when Hopkins’ name was announced. Not a knock on Boseman who was quite good in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”. But Hopkins gives one of the best performances of the last ten years. And when you look past the emotions, the greatness of that Hopkins performance becomes clearer. Boseman wasn’t “snubbed” as some outlets are already crying. This is the case of a worthy performance winning over a ‘moment’ the show runners were banking on.
  • Anthony Hopkins becomes the oldest person to ever win an Academy Award.
  • This show made me realize how much I missed those super weird YouTube destined Oscar moments. You know, like John Travolta introducing “Idell Dazeem” (whoever that is).
  • Best Actress gave us yet another surprise – Frances McDormand won for “Nomadland”. It’s such a well-deserved win and one of my favorite performances of the year. But I had written her off considering how little buzz she had been getting. This category could have went several ways – Carey Mulligan or Viola Davis. The Academy got it right.
  • I (and many others) were astonished by the lack of clips from nominated movies or individual performances. A couple of seemingly arbitrary categories had them, but overall they were rare and the show could have really used them.
  • Up until last night I had never heard of “Da Butt”. With all due respect to the great Glenn Close, after last night I really don’t care if I ever hear of it again.
  • Speaking of Glenn Close, she has now been nominated for an Academy Award eight times without a win. No, that doesn’t make her the Oscar’s Susan Lucci but eight is a lot.
  • Instead Youn Yuh-jung wins Best Supporting Actress for “Minari”. Not only did she deserve the win but she gave us the second best speech of the night. She was happy to win the award and even happier to have it presented by none other than Brad Pitt. It was both sweet and hilarious.

VINTERBERG

  • “Another Round” wins Best International Film which I LOVED seeing. It’s a tremendous movie that also deserved a Best Picture nomination. But at least it wins something.
  • Thomas Vinterberg, the director of “Another Round”, gave the speech of the night. He was happy, humble, and genuinely emotional, especially when talking about his late daughter who died just weeks into the film’s production. I’m not sure how many people knew about her connection to the movie, but Vinterberg’s words were from a thankful yet aching heart. And as a dad with a 16-year-old daughter, they really struck a chord.
  • Daniel Kaluuya wins Best Supporting Actor for “Judas and the Black Messiah” which is no surprise considering he’s won everywhere. That doesn’t make this a particularly great performance. Kaluuya nails the moments of powerful intensity but is carried by Dominique Fishback in the quieter and more intimate scenes (where was her nomination?).
  • The annual In Memoriam tribute is a pretty easy thing to get right. You honor those lost over the last year by showing a montage playing to soft heartfelt music. But my gosh the producers even botched it. They literally sped through segments so fast that it felt as if the video were randomly kicking into another speed. To make matters worse it was accompanied by an upbeat Stevie Wonder tune that only made matters worse.
  • Maybe they thought if they sped through it people would miss the yearly omissions they’ve become notorious for. Still, names like Connery, Boseman, de Havilland, Von Sydow, Tyson, Morricone, and Plummer deserved better.
  • In perhaps the most predictable win of the night, “Soul” takes home Best Animated Feature. Lots of online buzz for “Wolfwalkers” but Pixar had this one in the bag.
  • “Mank” entered as the most nominated film of the night. I loved the movie but it’s chances of winning big never felt very high. It didn’t go home empty-handed, winning well-deserved awards for both Production Design and Cinematography.

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  • About cinematography, how on earth was “Tenet” not nominated? It did win for Best Visual Effects, but DP Hoyte van Hoytema at least deserved a mention.
  • Ok, the odds of “Husavik” winning Best Original Song were slim but I still believe it to be the best of the nominated bunch.
  • “My Octopus Teacher” wins the Best Documentary Oscar! Here’s a film with little buzz that I had heard practically nothing about until it was nominated. And then it surprises everyone with a big win. I’m actually ok with this. It’s a beautiful, weird, and moving story.
  • In yet another of the night’s out-of-left-field choices, the show kicked off with the two Screenplay awards. Best adapted went to “The Father”, Best Original to “Promising Young Woman”. No problem with either, but to start off the show?
  • The Academy really spread the wealth around with almost all of the major players winning something. The lone exception was “The Trial of the Chicago 7” which won nothing and didn’t really deserve most of the nominations it received.
  • Netflix entered the evening with 36 total nominations and managed to take home 7 statues. Not bad for a studio once shunned by some of Hollywood’s biggest and most powerful names. I think everyone realizes now that the streaming giant is set to be a force in the industry (and on Oscar night) for years to come.

So with that comes the end of the 2020 movie year. What did you think of the show? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below!

27 thoughts on “RANDOM THOUGHTS: The 2021 Oscars

  1. I didn’t see the show but it does sound like some bad decisions were made with the format. They didn’t have an actual audience did they? Skimming through and missing so many in the memorial is shameful. What movie did Hopkins win for? I need to make sure to see it.

    • They had all of the presenters and all of the nominees present. It was a relatively small venue and around 200 people I think. Hopkins won for THE FATHER and it was absolutely the right choice. He left me utterly speechless. See it as soon as you get the chance and let me know what you think. I gave it a pretty high score! 😁

  2. I’ve never really cared for these award shows. I understand their significance in the industry, but there are a million other things that I’d rather be spending my time doing or watching. From the sounds of it, this particular show wasn’t particularly thought out very well. It makes it very hard to take shows like this seriously.

    • I love the Oscars mainly because of their esteemed history. Plus I just love talking about movies. All of that said, I don’t fall into the trap of taking them too seriously. I love a good debate, but these things don’t always get it right. This particular show had some really good wins. But the format was horrible. Easily one of the worst structured Oscar shows I have ever seen.

  3. Spot on recap Keith!

    I have been an avid Oscar watcher for about 35 years (since i was 12 or so) and really miss the spectacle of the show.
    This year it all felt dumbed down and tried too hard to be “hip” the Oscar “game was a waste of 5 minutes and they only had 3 songs to guess from.
    The lack of clips or montages was really missed also.
    You are so right abt the In Memorium, they sped thru that in double speed, that i had to watch carefully to catch every one we’ve lost over the year.
    We might disagree abt Chicago 7, but Its still too bad it didn’t get at least one award for ether Baron Cohen or Editing (Cant believe Mank got 2 awards)

    I’m really glad that Hopkins win and it was quite thrilling to hear that as the final award despite the producers expecting something else.
    The show was good, but will not go down as being anywhere near being the best.
    In the 90’s I videotaped probably abt 10 years of shows and would rewatch them over and over every year, but over the past few years, the show just doesn’t have the energy that it used to and that’s a real shame.

    keep up the excellent work my friend!

    • Thanks so much for the kind words. This was such a weird show on so many levels. And now I’m reading that Olivia Coleman was set to accept Hopkins Oscar in case he won but they abruptly shut the show off! Sighhhh

  4. “About cinematography, how on earth was “Tenet” not nominated? It did win for Best Visual Effects, but DP Hoyte van Hoytema at least deserved a mention.”
    Who would you not have nominated instead?

  5. Pingback: RANDOM THOUGHTS: The 2021 Oscars – Kisafilms.com

  6. I loved Anthony Hopkins’ performance, and it’s well deserved, he was only second to Riz Ahmed’s turn in Sound of Metal, in my opinion. All the nominees in that category were certainly deserving of it. But I agree, not having the Best Motion Picture award last was an incredibly poor choice. It would have been a poor choice even in the event that their “prediction” as to who win Lead Actor was correct. That last award is to represent the many efforts – as you said so well – put into bringing a story to the screen. I just can’t wrap my head around some of their production choices.

    • Thanks for the thoughts. I’m with you, some of the production choices left me speechless (and not in the good way). Just saw where their ratings were abysmal. I mean we all expected them to be bad, but under 10 million viewers is worse than I ever expected. Whew!

  7. I didn’t watch this at all as my reason was because having not seen the majority of the films nominated. What was the point for me to watch the awards when I had little to root for? Now I’m glad I didn’t watch it but I did read Brittani’s live-tweet and oh shit… that was more entertaining than the award show itself.

    How the fuck do you not end with Best Picture? That was stupid.

    I feel bad for Anthony Hopkins. Him not showing up is one thing but then to find out at your own house and you win it and realize “wait a minute! I don’t want this! I was rooting for Chadwick!” That fucking sucked. It was so anti-climatic and ends on a whimper.

    The parties must’ve been a real downer for some. This was probably the worst show since the infamous Alan Carr-produced show of 1989 with Rob Lowe doing a duet with Snow White and other awful shit.

    • It was rough mainly because of the format and mind-boggling decisions made that I still can’t figure out. Personally I’m thrilled Hopkins got it. Completely deserves it. As for ending with that??? What on earth were they thinking.

      I gotta say I tweeted more during the show than any past Oscars. It was constantly giving me something to gripe about! LOL

  8. Normally I’m very excited to watch the Oscars but we had so much going on, as did everyone in 2020, that I didn’t see hardly any of the movies, so I didn’t have the same enthusiasm. While we did turn it on for a bit, I’m afraid we didn’t last long with how odd the format felt. Although I do appreciate the Academy trying to give us at least some sense of normalcy in an incredibly challenging time.

  9. Great thoughts as always. Pretty much agree with you on all, outside of Kaluuya. I thought the performance was phenomenal and very deserving of a win. I’ve loved everything he’s appeared in since Sicario. He just has a way of slinking into any character in my eyes; he’s climbed to that status in my eyes where I’ll automatically watch anything he appears in from now on, sort of like Jake G from 2012-2018.

    I had a feeling this year’s was gonna be lackluster at best, laughable at worst. But the aftermath does have me wondering if this is something that can be recovered from, especially since the show has been trending poorly for years now.

    • Kaluuya is a puzzle to me. He is great when it comes to intensity. In fact that’s what he is in practically every role – Get Out, Widows, Judas, even Black Panther. It’s when he steps outside of the super-seriousness that I find him less convincing. But then you see his interviews and hosting SNL and I start yelling “THAT’S THE GUY I wanna see more of.” 😂

  10. I didn’t actually watch the show this year, I think that’s the first since I’ve been blogging about movies. I was completely out of sync with the movies this year (for reasons obvious and otherwise) and so I just could not muster much enthusiasm. Sounds like I ended up not missing much at all.

    I don’t know what this says about me or the state of the Academy or what, but I had Frances McDormand pegged as a winner (actually and Nomadland for Picture), along with Soul for Animated Feature and Hopkins for actor. The incredible outpouring of adoration for the latter aside, I find it a little disheartening that the big results end up being so predictable.

    I also am amazed Hollywood — Hollywood, people!!! — could not have concocted a better remedy for the coronavirus-infused circumstances surrounding the big show. Do you remember early on in the pandemic during the lockdown, when there was a united effort from musicians around the world who put on a show to lift people up during those days? That was accomplished on a global scale! Musicians from all over the place managed to coordinate this rather complex event, with some obvious assistance from the Bus Driver of all Humanitarian related Events himself, Bono, who concocted the idea (I think?). Musicians were able to dazzle us in our own homes using limited setups. The Academy could barely rub two sticks together to make a fire

    • I need to borrow your crystal ball! 😂

      I think most people had moved towards Chadwick Boseman and Viola Davis taking the Lead Acting categories. But Hopkins started picking up steam right around when voting opened and people finally were able to see THE FATHER. I think Actress was tough considering the talent and that different nominees had won at different awards shows.

      As for Hollywood, this was a major face-plant for Soderbergh and company. He tried waaaaay too hard to be cool and he ended up missing out on his central task – make the show entertaining. Instead of doing that he started tinkering with parts of the show that didn’t need adjusting. And after seeing the horrible TV ratings, I’m thinking next year you’ll see them scrap everything they did Sunday night, blame it on COVID, and go the more traditional route. And not sure if you saw my tweet earlier, but I sarcastically said this:

      Projected Best Picture nominees at next year’s Oscars in light of last night’s record low ratings:

      Black Widow
      F9
      Godzilla vs Kong
      The Matrix 4
      Top Gun: Maverick
      Jungle Cruise
      No Time to Die
      Dune
      Halloween Kills
      Eternals
      😂

      • Yeah, what I meant to say vis a vie the predictions was I kinda suspected the moment I saw the trailers drop for Nomadland. It just had the kind of feel that I know the Academy likes. Meanwhile, Meryl Streep is sitting somewhere, keeping a diligent eye on Frances McDormand’s trophy tally. Not to say she isn’t deserving, but she’s an almost automatic lock when she’s in the right vehicle. And Nomadland absolutely looked like the perfect one for her. I’m looking forward to seeing that some time this week perhaps.

        I love the “picks” for next year! Haha, and heck man, you might not be that far off!

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