All About the Oscars
By Artine Malyan |
In keeping with a year defined by oddities, the 93rd annual Academy Awards will look different from celebrations we’ve seen in the past. To start, the show’s been pushed from its standard February airdate to April 25, in the hopes that spring will bring a drop in coronavirus cases. Here’s what else we know—and what’s yet to be determined—about the upcoming gala film event.
Oscars in Flux
The ceremony traditionally takes place at Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, which can seat 3,400 guests. Oscars organizers did a walkthrough of the space in early December to consider safety protocols that might be put in place should the show go live, as opposed to a hybrid model as used for the Emmys last September. At that event, host Jimmy Kimmel delivered remarks to an empty Staples Center populated by cardboard cutouts of a few nominees, while others joined from home via Zoom. It’s still unclear how many Oscar contenders would agree to in-person attendance, especially since several of this year’s nominated actors are in their 70s and 80s, including Anthony Hopkins, Meryl Streep and Sophia Loren.
New Eligibility Rules
When movie theaters shuttered and film production halted during last March’s lockdown, the film industry was temporarily shut down. In response, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has extended the eligibility period for feature film consideration from December 31, 2020 to February 28, 2021. That means new 2021 entries have the potential to upend the race, as latecomers often remain fresh in Oscar voters’ minds. Those entrants include Land, a drama about a woman who goes into the wild following the loss of her husband and son. Starring Robin Wright and marking the actress’s directorial debut, it could win her a Best Actress Academy Award. Actress Zendaya is likewise competing for that coveted distinction while earning praise for her part in Malcolm & Marie, which was filmed in black-and-white during the pandemic and tells a couple’s unraveling love story over the course of one long night. A few additional second-wave movies generating buzz are The White Tiger (for Best Adapted Screenplay), The Little Things (for Best Actor Denzel Washington) and Supernova (for Best Supporting Actor Stanley Tucci).
To further complicate voting matters, the pandemic forced a redefinition of what constitutes a valid 2020 Oscars entry. Prior to last year, a film could only enter the race if it had premiered in a New York or Los Angeles theater. Streaming and video-on-demand features never made the cut until theaters closed and awards shows were forced to relax their rules. Current regulations accept movies that debuted on VOD and streaming platforms and paid a $12,500 entrance fee to the Academy Screening Room. In light of these allowances, The Trial of the Chicago 7, which aired on Netflix last October, is now seen as a safe bet for Best Picture win. It would have to beat out Nomadland, a Searchlight Pictures film made by indie director Chloe Zhao. Additional critics’ picks for top pic include Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, also from Netflix; One Night in Miami, which premiered on Amazon; and Minari, a Sundance Film Festival winner set for theatrical release next month by independent entertainment company A24.
The rules changed this year and awards season may never revert to how it looked during pre-pandemic days. Future ceremonies could continue incorporating virtual elements, while top streaming services certainly won’t stop making feature films. Much remains unknown about the upcoming Oscars, but one thing is for certain—the show must go on.