The 2021 Oscar winners and the future of film
By: Julia Barth, Assistant Features Editor
The 93rd Academy Awards aired on Sunday, approximately two months after its usual February time slot, and brought a cinematic feel to Hollywood’s biggest night of the year.
Stars walked the red carpet and attended the event in Union Station in Los Angeles while other nominees tuned in virtually from places all around the world. However, the virtual aspect was not as catastrophic as it was during the Golden Globes, and transitions between pre recorded segments, virtual speakers and live acceptance speeches were surprisingly seamless.
Despite the smooth go of it that previous award shows have struggled to nail down, this year's Oscars felt very boring and bland. Unlike most years, there were no clips of the best picture nominees sprinkled into the ceremony, there weren’t any laughs or jokes, and viewers found themselves most looking forward to what the winners might say in their speeches.
“Nomadland,” swept the Oscars winning major categories like best picture, best director (Chloé Zhao became the second woman and first woman of color to win this award) and best actress for Frances McDormand’s performance as Fern in the film.
Some winners were predicted by most analysts, and followed closely to winners from previous award shows this season. Among those include Daniel Kaluuya for best supporting actor in “Judas and the Black Messiah,” and Yuh-Jung Youn for best supporting actress in “Minari.”
Sweeping costume design and makeup and hairstyling was “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” and picking up cinematography and production design was Netflix’s “Mank.” Despite not winning any of their nominations in the bigger categories, “Sound of Metal” took home wins for sound and editing.
The biggest upset and most awkward moment of the night occurred right at the end during the best actor announcement. While this award was presumably saved for last to honor the late Chadwick Boseman, an overall favorite to win for his role in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” the award was instead given to Anthony Hopkins for his role as a man with dementia in “The Father.” With Hopkins not in attendance at the ceremony, announcer Joaquin Phoenix uncomfortably accepted the award for him and the credits began to roll.
But most people would agree that the real and unseen winner from this Oscars night was streaming services. Although a few of these movies were shown in some theaters that were open, almost all of these films were available on streaming services ranging from Netflix to Hulu to Amazon Prime. The experience of watching these films on the big screen was lost on viewers this year and ultimately, many viewers felt disconnected and uninterested in this year’s awards.
With just over 10 million viewers, this year's Oscars became the least watched and lowest rated in history. By contrast, the 92nd Academy Awards amassed over 23 million viewers, and that was an all time low at the time.
Most of this can be attributed to the pandemic, but the way we watch movies has been shifting for many years now. The pandemic highlighted the question of whether movie theaters are dying or not, and if we should even save them.
Streaming services have grown more powerful as they multiply in number and gain access to popular movies while simultaneously making deals to produce new and award-worthy films. Movie theater attendance has dropped in general, and was increasingly worse with the pandemic.
However, an encouraging sentiment is the fact that after big busts in Hollywood underscored by lack of interest in viewers, a big change could be coming to the film industry as we come out of the pandemic and years of theater decline.
People might actually start going to theaters with friends and family again, and with the beautiful and hard-hitting films coming out of 2020 that were honored on Sunday, film might see an astounding revamp in the coming years.
Echoing Frances McDormand’s acceptance speech for best actress, I would encourage everyone to, “one day very, very soon take everyone you know into a theater, shoulder-to-shoulder in that dark space, and watch every film that’s represented here tonight.”