What to Expect At the 2021 Oscars

By Amit Jagwani  | 

Now that the Golden Globes, the Writer’s Guild of America Awards (WGA Awards), and the SAG Awards have come and gone, an unconventional Hollywood awards season will conclude this month with The Academy Awards (the Oscars) to be broadcast live on April 25. Last year’s Oscars were presented on the ceremony’s typical Sunday night in February, about a month before the Covid-19 pandemic shook the TV and film industry with shutdowns and uncertainty about what lay ahead. This year, the Oscars have been postponed, moving from the original date of February 28, to April 25. Here’s a look at some of the probable storylines and potential winners in this year’s ceremony.

Diversity Rules
Last year, Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite nabbed a surprising Best-Picture win, becoming the first Korean film to win an Oscar and perhaps a start to awarding diverse films from other cultures. Despite the recognized “snub” of Delroy Lindo in the Best Actor Category, for Da 5 Bloods, this year’s Oscars has the most diverse Acting nomination slate ever. Among this year’s nominations are nine actors of color, including the first Asian-American nominated for Best Actor, Steven Yeun in Minari.

Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland has given the writer-director an impressive four nominations for Director, Adapted Screenplay, Editing, and Best Picture and is considered a frontrunner after its Best Drama win at the Golden Globes. The Writers Guild Awards recognized Emerald Fennell with a Best Original Screenplay, Promising Young Woman. If she and Zhao win their respective categories, there could be a sweep, with Fennell’s as the first Original Screenplay win for a woman since 2007. Variety predicts that we’ll be reading about 2021 as the “Year of Women.”

Streaming Rules
The only two categories Netflix wasn’t nominated in this year were Best International Feature and Best Live Action Short Film. The streamer garnered a remarkable 35 nominations across all categories, but is still chasing significant major awards success, having only won a “Big Five” category once (ie Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Screenplay) with Alfonso Cuarón winning Best Director in 2019 for Roma. This year’s popular nominees like The Trial of the Chicago 7 and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom give Netflix a good chance.

And after a year in which Amazon only received one nomination in the foreign film category, the major studios received twelve. Six are for The Sound of Metal, a Best Picture nominee about a heavy metal drummer (Riz Ahmed) who loses his hearing. Sasha Baron Cohen won the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy, for Amazon’s Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, which also received multiple nominations. Disney+ and Hulu are receiving recognition, with Disney+ earning animated feature nods for Onward and Soul, and Best Costume Design and Best Visual Effects for Mulan. Actress Andra Day is nominated for Best Actress in Hulu’s The United States vs. Billie Holiday. Apple TV+ is new to the world of film and has earned its first nominations for Best Animated Feature and Best Sound.

Following The Rules
While we’ll leave the prognostication to the experts, what’s currently filled with much intrigue is the production of the ceremony itself. In a March 18 letter to nominees, the show described its plan to be the first major awards show since last March to forgo Zoom or video-recorded acceptance speeches to “preserve the picture and sound quality” of the presentation. Steven Soderbergh, one of this year’s three show producers and the man behind the Oceans film franchise, describes the logistics as “mind-numbing.”

The original plan involved strict quarantine requirements for attendees, which presented complicated and expensive itineraries for non-LA-based and international nominees, who would have to arrive in LA multiple weeks before the event to begin quarantine. This was met with backlash, which led to a relaxing of these rules, and the creation of a hybrid event — part in-person, part virtual. A satellite venue in London was set up, as well as local-broadcast affiliate studios in various regions, so that attendees can now “attend” virtually, while the event itself aims for a more cohesive feel than some of Covid-19 awards ceremonies. Unlike most other awards shows, the Oscars will again have no host, for the third consecutive year.

While it’s been a strange year for film, the industry is defining itself as it recovers. The pandemic has led to incredible storytelling, improved the reach and equity of some film festivals, given us memorable awards shows, and throughout it all, quality filmmaking. Here’s to a (hopefully) memorable Oscars to cap it off!

Amit Jagwani
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