LOS ANGELES – Keeping TV ratings from dropping to alarming lows while celebrating movies that, for the most part, have little audience reference. Trying to start the theater when most of the world has been out of habit for more than a year. Integrate live camera feeds from 20+ locations to comply with coronavirus security restrictions.
This is going to be a hard working Academy Awards.
The surreal 93rd edition – a televised stage show about films mainly distributed on the Internet – will finally be out on Sunday evening. The Academy of Arts and Sciences for Feature Films delayed the event, which usually takes place in February, in hopes of escaping the pandemic. Nevertheless, the red carpet had to be radically reduced in size and the extravagant parties canceled.
The night could go down in Hollywood history for happier reasons, however. The famous “And Oscar’s To” envelopes could include these names: Chadwick Boseman, Viola Davis, Daniel Kaluuya, and Yuh-Jung Youn. If so, it would be the first time black people swept the reigning Oscars, as some award winners have predicted – an indication that the film industry has kept its promise in response to the #OscarsSoWhite movement and implemented significant reforms.
Of course, voters could always go in other directions. Is this the year Glenn Close, a nominee for supporting actress in “Hillbilly Elegy,” finally gets to take a little gold pal home with him? Or will it tie Peter O’Toole’s sad record for eight nominations without a win? Carey Mulligan (“Promising Young Woman”) or Frances McDormand (“Nomadland”) could get past Davis (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”) and win the best actress. And a posthumous win as best actor for Boseman (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”) has been less certain of late, thanks to the academy’s increasing support for Anthony Hopkins (“The Father”).
In other words, it could be another moment when Lucy pulls the football away for those hoping the film academy is about to reveal itself as a definitely progressive organization. (Kaluuya is considered a ban on the supporting actor during his appearance in “Judas and the Black Messiah”.)
Here are three more things to consider before the ABC broadcast starts at 8 p.m. East Coast time.
Will Netflix miss the best picture again?
Netflix received its first Oscar nomination in 2014 for The Square, a documentary about the Egyptian revolution. Since then, the streaming giant has dominated the nominations, in large part due to the high spending on price campaigns. It has amassed 36 more than any other company this year with its black and white love letter to Old Hollywood, “Mank,” directed by David Fincher, and received 10 more than any other film.
But Netflix and its astute price warriors keep snooping in the end.
Last year the company’s hopes were based on The Irishman. Not even one of his 10 nominations was able to convert into a win. In 2019, Netflix pushed “Roma”. It won three Academy Awards, including one for Alfonso Cuarón’s direction, but lost the Grand Prix.
On Sunday – despite the pandemic that is accelerating the rise of streaming services – Netflix faces the three-peat loser as a best-picture loser. The two nominees “Mank” and “The Trial of the Chicago 7” are expected to be overshadowed by “Nomadland” about a grieving woman who withdraws to the margins of society. It comes from Searchlight, a division of the Walt Disney Company.
It could be a big night for Chloé Zhao and Emerald Fennell.
Chances are women might shine in both writing categories.
Emerald Fennell is the Oscar favorite for Best Original Screenplay for Promising Young Woman, a visceral revenge drama that won the Writers Guild Awards. Fennell, a first-time nominee, would be the first woman to win solo in this category since Diablo Cody (“Juno”) in 2007. As far as the adapted script is concerned, Chloé Zhao (“Nomadland”) is in a close race with Florian Zeller (“The Father”). If Zhao joins Fennell in the winners column, it will be the first time two solo women win the writing awards in the same year.
However, Zhao’s big moment will come towards the end of the ceremony when she is expected to win the Oscar for best director. In 93 years of the Oscars, only one woman, Kathryn Bigelow, has ever won. The category has also been dominated by white men over the decades, adding even greater significance to the recognition of the Chinese Zhao.
Don’t expect your usual Oscar broadcast.
Steven Soderbergh is no ordinary Oscar producer, which may make him the perfect choice for this very unusual year.
As a director who constantly pushes boundaries in terms of form, subject and scope, he is apparently always looking for a new challenge. And what could be a bigger hurdle than producing the Oscars in the middle of the pandemic? He and his production partners for the event, Stacey Sher and Jesse Collins, avoided zoom and implemented enough protocols to allow nominees a mask-free environment.
Mr. Soderbergh continues to refer to the show as a three-act film. The broadcaster’s staff include filmmaker Dream Hampton “Surviving R. Kelly” and veteran writer and director Richard LaGravanese (“The Fisher King”). Moderators are referred to as “performers”. (These include Zendaya, Brad Pitt, and Bong Joon Ho, last year’s best director winner.)
The Dolby Theater, home to more than 3,000 people and which has hosted the Academy Awards since 2001, won’t be the epicenter of the television show. This year, with just the nominees and their guests, Union Station – the Art Deco, Mission Revival transit hub in downtown Los Angeles – will serve as the main venue.
And if it’s the song performances that you love the most, then be sure to tune in to the pregame show, as those five performances were kicked out of the main event.