Oscars 2021: A Flash in the Midst of a Pandemic
Rachit Raj gives a review of the 93rd Academy Awards ceremony. He is telling how this year’s Oscars were historic in many ways… Rachit prefers to be called a film critic by accident, an academician by design, and a storyteller by choice.
Like everything else, this years’ Oscars was marred by the COVID-19 pandemic, giving us one of the shortest, most intimate Oscar evening in years. Having said this, this one had plenty happening that would go down in the history books. For most of its three-hour runtime, the Academy Awards for 2021 ran quite like the movies that were nominated this year.
With theaters locked for the better part of 2020, a lot of the films that made the final cut this year were critically acclaimed indie films. These were films that – in another year – would be snubbed for a fancier, more Oscar-esque line of films. This time, though, these peripheral gems rose to the occasion, and conveyed a tale of cinema pioneering over production value, and studio politics.
Much like these films, that are personal stories of trauma, prejudice, resilience and storytelling, the awards night was an intimate, somber event. With a limited guest-list things carried a repetitiveness that was both a little dry, but also an odd achievement of giving the time and attention to the victors, who make this evening possible.
Like every year, there were some beautiful stories in these moments, crafted in the design of how the Oscars were presented this time. There were trivia introductions to each nominee, an interesting approach that sadly became a little too much after a point.
The biggest award of the evening was strangely not the final announcement. In a strange case of Oscars emulating Filmfare, the Best Film award was the third in line, followed by the Best Actor and Actress, which dampened the end of the end as we have come to expect from an Oscar Best Film winner.
Having said that, there was nothing short of beautiful in Nomadland winning the top title of the year. It was made better by Frances McDormand channeling her inner she-wolf on stage in one of the many memorable moments of the night. In many ways this win was an easy, early prediction, and yet a satisfying one.
Same goes for Frances McDormand’s piercing performance in the film that won her a third Academy Award, equaling the legendary Daniel Day-Lewis. Her towering performance was only briefly challenged by others in the nominations, but McDormand came out as the deserving winner of what was an extremely challenging category this time around.
While Emerald Fennell won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, the story behind her screenplay of Promising Young Woman is far more exciting than the film itself. She took a sabbatical from the revered The Crown, and wrote the screenplay seven months pregnant. It is a story for the ages, that made her win a little more beautiful than it would have been otherwise.
The same is true for Thomas Vinterberg winning the Best Foreign Film for Another Round. Vinterberg lost his daughter to a terrible car-crash mid-shoot, and somehow the fact that a vibrant film came out of such a massive loss marked his win and in extension his speech as one of the most emotional moments of the evening.
Nothing matched the charming enthusiasm of Chloe Zhao, though. The Chinese filmmaker was an image of success, making history by becoming the first woman of color to win the Best Director award and just the second woman in the history of the Oscars. Her win is a towering achievement, and one that became sweeter as it was Bong Joon-Ho, who passed on the golden trophy to Zhao, a moment that would have been a historic one on stage had this been a regular ceremony.
Another prominent win came in the Best Supporting Actor and Actress category. While Daniel Kaluuya became the first African-American to win an Oscar in this category, Yuh-Jung Youn’s win for Minari was made special and comical with the presence of the irresistibly charming Brad Pitt, one of the producers of the film.
However, in an insipid albeit incredible end to the evening, Anthony Hopkins became the oldest winner of an acting award in the history of Oscars, edging past an award that many had locked in the cabinet for the late Chadwick Boseman. However, Hopkins won for a performance that deserved to be celebrated as the best of the year. Sadly, the 83-year-old was not present and last years’ winner Jaoquin Phoenix accepted the award on his behalf, ending the ceremony quite abruptly.
Thus ended a unique Oscar ceremony that was defined as much by its pandemic-marred limitations as with a rare occasion of good, deserving winners in a year when films, and filmmakers who rarely hold the front seats of the Academy Awards Night went away with all the deserving wins under their belt.