COVID and the Oscars

The 93rd annual Academy Awards, held Sunday, April 25, saw changes in both the event and its nominations and awards. 

COVID’s effect has been seen continually throughout this past year, sparing not even the most notable of award ceremonies. One of the most noticeable differences in this year’s show was the missing audience. The Oscar’s home audienced totaled somewhere around 9.8 million, according to Statistica, which is a steep decline from last year’s 23.6 million. This could be due partly to the relative lack of excitement for the awards, the show itself still somewhat of a mystery until it began.

The Golden Globes, held February of this year, set a casual wear precedent that the Oscars refused to meet. Sunday’s event took a firm stance against both Zoom and casual wear, holding the professionalism normally seen from both presenters and nominees. Critics site past Academy Awards as impersonal and rigid, so there was change to be made while still maintaining such professionalism. Steven Soderburg, a co-producer of the Oscars told the Tampa Bay Times he saw the event as a three-hour movie, saying “We want you to feel like you’re watching a show that was made by a small group of people that really attacked everything that feels generic or unnecessary or insincere.” 

The never ending battle that has been COVID-19 was also difficult due to various nominees restrictions in their remote locations. All nominees were encouraged to come in person with strict rules set in place to avoid any unnecessary interaction between productions crews, nominees, and presenters. Masks were only allowed to be taken off by nominees when cameras were on them but otherwise had to stay on. Talk between presenters and winners was also limited. Some events were also prerecorded, including the performances of best song nominees. There was also a great reduction in the number of sketches and skits.

Since 1929, there has been a number of criticisms regarding nominations, with the diversity of them consistently lacking. This year nominations included the first ever all-Black producing team, the first year two women were nominated for best director, and the first year two actors of Asian descent were nominated for best actor. One of the most notable wins of the night was Chloe Zhao (pictured above), winning best picture for “Nomadland.” “Soul,” Pixar’s first film to have a black character in the lead, won best animated feature as well as best original score. 

One of the biggest issues both viewers and critics had with this year’s Academy Awards was Chadwick Boseman’s posthumous nomination for best actor for his role in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Many felt the show used Boseman’s presence, Twitter user @verymimi saying “In all seriousness it is very, very gross that the academy used Chadwick’s likeness to get coverage for the swag bags, used the anticipation of his win to retain viewership, and then gave him nothing.” Boseman’s role had been recognized by the Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild Award and Critics Choice Award. When Anothony Hopkins, one of the five nominees for best actor, won for his role in The Father, he acknowledged Boseman in his acceptance speech delivered a few days later. “Thank you. I want to pay tribute to Chadwick Boseman, who was taken from us far too early.”

Next year’s Oscars will hopefully sport an excited audience and another round of talented nominees.

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