Back Lot 605’s 2021 Oscar Recap!

If you’re reading this article, there’s probably some part of you that enjoys the Oscars. Despite my beefs and issues with awards season (namely, my intense hatred of the Golden Globes), I still hold the Oscars in high esteem, and look forward to watching the Oscars every year and discussing it with my movie colleagues. And every year, just like clockwork, the Oscar ceremony ends up being a joyous tribute to The Movies that reignites my love for this art form… and hopefully it does the same for you as well!

But without a doubt, 2020 has been a weird movie year… and it only stands to reason that this weird awards season would lead to an Oscar ceremony that was anything but normal! In June, the Academy announced that they would be extending the eligibility period for the 2020 awards ceremony from the typical December 31st date to February 28th, 2021… a move which caused a number of other film awards organizations to push their own awards out by one or two months. (One awards show that didn’t wait to unveil its winners, however, was our very own Schmuckies, which were awarded promptly on January 23rd!)

And admittedly, there are some folks who haven’t been as enthused by this year’s nominees, because of the reduced slate of movies that were released in general. However, the Academy also made an announcement that perked up many film buffs’ ears: Famed director Steven Soderbergh (a Best Director Oscar winner himself, for 2000’s Traffic) would produce this year’s Oscar ceremony, along with his previous producing partner Stacey Sher (Out of Sight, Erin Brockovich) and awards-show veteran Jesse Collins. When COVID first hit America, Soderbergh quickly became the man that all of Hollywood looked to for figuring how to resume film production during COVID, thanks to his expertise in making the 2011 pandemic thriller Contagion… so being hired by the Academy to figure out how to execute a safe ceremony that still captured the glamour and film appreciation that the Oscars is known for is a fitting challenge for him.

So how did this year’s ceremony play out? Most of the ceremony took place at the Union Square train station (yes, a TRAIN STATION) in Los Angeles… a sprawling place that somehow became a much more intimate affair than the Oscars’ usual home, the Dolby Theatre (where Bryan Cranston did a walk-and-talk in before giving out one of this year’s Humanitarian Awards). There, groups of nominees were ushered in and out between commercial breaks, to keep the number of people in the station to a minimum. Another Soderbergh stylistic choice was to present the ceremony as if it was “a movie”… from a letterbox widescreen aspect ratio that was kept throughout the telecast, to using a 24-frames-per-second frame rate.

And how about show length? The show finished at 3 hours and 15 minutes, which was not too bad over the scheduled 3-hour length. This year’s telecast made some bold decisions, such as moving the performances of all 5 Best Original Song nominees to the pre-show. The boldest decision, however, was… well, we’ll get into that. 🙂

But enough about the format and style of the show… let’s talk winners and losers!

Winner: South Dakota 605 represent!!! At the end of the night, the partially-filmed-in-South-Dakota Nomadland secured its status as this year’s frontrunner, winning the big three Oscars of Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actress… once again bringing major cinematic attention to our home state. And when Frances McDormand mentioned in her Best Picture speech for people to see this movie on the biggest screen possible… we couldn’t have agreed more! 🙂

Loser: Movie Clips When the Oscar ceremony finally got to Best Picture (more on that later), it caught me off guard, because for the first time in that 3-hour telecast, we were actually watching clips from nominated movies! Yes, for the most part, the Oscars eschewed showing footage from this year’s Oscar contenders… instead opting to have presenters talk about the nominees in each category and either how they approached the movies (or their personal history with movies). But at the same time, this creative choice also did away with the usually-pointless Montages About Movies, which I was relieved to see… so you win some, you lose some!

Winner: Emerald Fennell The Promising Young Woman writer-director ended up walking away with an Original Screenplay Oscar for her debut feature… and delivered a charming (and very British) acceptance speech in which she invoked her childhood crush Zack Morris, kept asking Soderbergh if she was doing a good job with her speech, and thanked her son, who – and I did not know this – was born just two weeks after she finished filming this movie!!!!! Way to go!

Loser: Netflix Going into this year’s awards ceremony, all eyes were on this finally being Netflix’s year, as it led all the studios in nominees, including this year’s most nominated feature, David Fincher’s Mank. But even though the streamer won 7 Oscars (its most ever), the big prizes still eluded them: Mank only took home 2 technical Oscars (Cinematography and Production Design), as did Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Costume Design and Makeup & Hairstyling)… and the rest of the awards were in the Animated Short Film, Documentary Feature, and Live-Action Short Film categories. Still, you know Netflix is going to keep trying to win that Best Picture trophy, and we’ll see what they come up with for next year’s competitors.

Winner: Thomas Vinterberg Early in the evening, Vinterberg accepted the Best International Feature Film Oscar for his brilliant dramedy Another Round (which you should watch ASAP… it’s free on Hulu!). He proceeded to deliver a speech that was as much of an emotional rollercoaster as the movie he made… basking in the humor of working with his four lead actors, before bringing viewers to tears as he mentioned how his daughter was suddenly killed in a car accident four days into filming, and how he dedicated the film to her. For me, it was the most emotional moment of the evening.

Loser: The In Memoriam Reel This year’s remembrance of the talent we lost ended up being a rushed sprint, with names whizzing by with furious speed in a montage (without any film footage, mind you) that only lasted 150 seconds. Usually, this section of the show is a great sentimental moment… but here, it just happened lickety-split, not giving it time to breathe.

Winner: West Side Story Yes, I know, I know… this movie was not up for any Oscars tonight! (Don’t @ me!) But, to finally see a trailer for Spielberg’s long-awaited entry into the world of movie musicals was extremely exciting… and it looks visually stunning as well! Besides, if the Oscars are somewhat predictable, it seems likely that we’ll be seeing a lot more from this movie during next year’s ceremony… 🙂

Winner: Terminator 2: Judgment Day I’ve just gotta say: Having Minari‘s Steven Yeun regale us with the tale of how his first trip to the theater as a little kid was to see the violent T2 was awesome… and I wouldn’t have minded if more presenters tonight told us their T2 stories as well!

Loser: Harrison Ford Now, let me be clear: This is not a diss on the man in general. The man’s a legend, full stop! But his attempt at a comedy bit, by reading original audience feedback from Blade Runner with awkward delivery, made me think, “Uhh, is he gonna be able to film Indiana Jones 5 in a few weeks?” Don’t get me wrong, Ford can be funny (that Force Awakens performance is something else!), but here, I was just cringing.

Winner: Glenn Close Look, folks… going into tonight’s show, I was not looking forward to the possibility of Glenn Close winning Best Supporting Actress for her role as the Terminator-speech-giving grandma in Hillbilly Elegy. And while that fortunately didn’t come to fruition tonight, she somewhat made up for it with a hilarious bit in which she not only regaled Oscar triviamaster Lil Rel Howery with a plethora of information on E.U.’s “Da’ Butt” from Spike Lee’s 1988 musical School Daze… but ended up doing the titular dance herself!

Loser: Whatever The Heck the Oscars’ Ending Was [deep sigh] Okay… Let me preface this by saying: I mean, if you’re going to experiment with the structure of the Oscar ceremony, this is the year to try it… and was there any world where Steven Soderbergh wouldn’t do something like this? But in the end, his gamble to have the Oscar telecast end not with the Best Picture award, but with Best Actress and Actor, completely fizzled. Seeing Nomadland take the Best Picture prize was no doubt exciting; we talked about that above. But to follow that up with a incredibly brief Best Actress speech from Frances McDormand (who, admittedly, “[had] no words”), which in turn was followed by an abrupt Anthony Hopkins no-show upset over Chadwick Boseman, ended this unusual evening on a bizarre note that DJ Questlove’s outro could not even begin to fix. Granted, nothing will ever be as bizarre as the 2017 ceremony’s La La Land/Moonlight Best Picture mix-up… but this finale was something that could have easily been salvageable if you had stuck to traditional structure.

The full list of all the winners can be found below:

Best Picture: Nomadland
Best Director: Chloe Zhao, Nomadland
Best Actor: Anthony Hopkins, The Father
Best Actress: Frances McDormand, Nomadland
Best Supporting Actor: Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah
Best Supporting Actress: Yuh-Jung Youn, Minari
Best Original Screenplay: Promising Young Woman
Best Animated Screenplay: The Father
Best Cinematography: Mank
Best Editing: Sound of Metal
Best Production Design: Mank
Best Costume Design: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Best Makeup & Hairstyling: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Best Sound: Sound of Metal
Best Visual Effects: Tenet
Best Original Score: Soul
Best Original Song: “Fight for You”, Judas and the Black Messiah
Best International Feature: Another Round
Best Animated Feature: Soul
Best Documentary Feature: My Octopus Teacher
Best Documentary Short Subject: Colette
Best Live-Action Short Subject: Two Distant Strangers
Best Animated Short Subject: If Anything Happens, I Love You

Finally, here’s the summary of how many Oscars each movie won tonight:

Nomadland: 3 (Picture, Director, Actress)
The Father: 2 (Actor, Adapted Screenplay)
Judas and the Black Messiah: 2 (Supporting Actor, Original Song)
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom: 2 (Makeup & Hairstyling; Costume Design)
Mank: 2 (Production Design, Cinematography)
Soul: 2 (Animated Feature, Original Score)
Sound of Metal: 2 (Sound, Editing)
Promising Young Woman: 1 (Original Screenplay)
Another Round: 1 (International Feature)
Minari: 1 (Supporting Actress)
Tenet: 1 (VIsual Effects)
My Octopus Teacher: 1 (Documentary Feature)
Two Distant Strangers: 1 (Live-Action Short Film)
If Anything Happens, I Love You: 1 (Animated Short Film)
Colette: 1 (Documentary Short Film)

The Shameless Plugs

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About the Author
Derrick Veurink has been consuming anything and everything movie-related since he was 5, and is an encyclopedic fount of random movie information. He is an avid physical media supporter, and sees nearly every major theatrical release. (Yes, even "Playmobil: The Movie".)
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