A Celebration or a Clusterfuck? My Thoughts on the 93rd Academy Awards

In honor of Thomas Vinterberg’s extremely moving acceptance speech last night, allow me to open with a reference to arguably his most famous film. There is a moment in Thomas Vinterberg’s Cannes Awards-winning Dogme-film Festen (international title: The Celebration), where the main character Christian (played by Ulrich Thomsen) asks his father, whose birthday is being celebrated, what speech he would like Christian to read for him — the green speech or the yellow speech? His father chooses the ‘green’ speech, and, as a result, the events of the unforgettable film take place. Sometimes a single decision can change everything. And, in the case of the 93rd Academy Awards’ ceremony, a decision was made that ultimately destroyed an otherwise decent ceremony.

THE UGLY What Were You Thinking?!

Because the producers of the Oscars ceremony, including Steven Soderbergh, also had a choice to make. On the one hand, they could go with a more traditional structure, announce Best Picture last, which, as it turned out, would’ve allowed for Chloé Zhao to have a historic moment in the spotlight. But, on the other hand, they could also opt for an untraditional and risky structure, which, if they managed to guess the winners right, would have the show culminate with the Best Actor-category and an emotional tribute to Chadwick Boseman’s life, career, memory, and family.

Soderbergh and co. opted for the untraditional and risky approach. But Oscar producers absolutely should leave the predicting for the pundits, because they ultimately got the Best Actor-category wrong. Chadwick Boseman, who had been the clear and obvious frontrunner for so long, didn’t get to win an Oscar posthumously, and thusly, as a direct result of the structure of the show, the 93rd Academy Awards ended up feeling like an upsetting clusterfuck instead of the celebration that so many of these people deserved. 

It is important to remember that the Oscar producers, in theory, absolutely do not know who wins each award. The producers can only read the same tea leaves as pundits do, and choose to either ignore rumors and frontrunners or not when it comes to structuring the show, which probably should never be structured based on any assumptions.

In the coming days, I’m sure some people will try to spin their way out of this debacle. Perhaps they’ll insist that they didn’t try to predict that Chadwick Boseman would win. Perhaps they’ll insist that they put Best Actor at the end of the night to shake things up. No matter what they say, it’ll probably take some time before we find out exactly why they did what they did. Who knows, maybe it wasn’t even a producer who was responsible. Perhaps this was all ABC/Disney or Netflix’s idea? We may never know.

Ultimately, Sir Anthony Hopkins won the award that most people — seemingly including AMPAS — expected Chadwick Boseman to win. Unfortunately, Sir Anthony Hopkins was not at the ceremony, or able to give a speech on Zoom, and so the show ended in the most anti-climactic way possible. The ceremony ended up undercutting the significant historical achievements earned by Chloé Zhao and her film by putting the Best Actor-category at the end of the ceremony instead of Best Picture, and, since Hopkins didn’t attend the ceremony, the night ended without an acceptance speech for the very last award. It was awkward, embarrassing, and upsetting.

There was a lot of anger and frustration online in the next hours. Like many others, I was sad that Chadwick Boseman’s family didn’t get to experience him be honored on arguably the grandest stage of all of cinema. In the end, though, remember that an award is just an award. You don’t need to win to be memorable, you don’t make art to win trophies, and these statuettes are just statuettes. Chadwick Boseman was more than just a good actor, he was an unforgettable icon, and one of the best actors of his generation.

Also, please remember that none of this Oscars drama has anything to do with the lovely Sir Anthony Hopkins or his film. If you want to be angry, then you need to be angry with the presentation and structure of the show and absolutely not with the winners. It was perfectly understandable that Hopkins wasn’t there to give a speech. He is an 83-year-old man, and he was probably sleeping safely in his bed at home in Wales. It was 4:15 AM when his name was read out-loud. He shouldn’t be expected to travel to Los Angeles in the middle of a global pandemic. Sir Anthony Hopkins and Chadwick Boseman are both legends of their field, period.

THE BAD Don’t Forget to See the Movies!

In general, the 93rd Academy Awards will be remembered for its sometimes puzzling presentation and structure. In the lead-up to the ceremony, people have suggested that it would be ‘like a movie,’ and, indeed, it did feel like a movie at the very start of the show. But that feeling is by no means what the ceremony will be remembered for. Here are some of my other problems with the show:

  • Bafflingly, all of the Best Song-nominees had been relegated to the pre-show. There were some really good songs this year, and they could’ve really used them to liven up the actual ceremony.
  • For some unknown reason, there were only clips of the nominated movies for less than a handful of the twenty-three categories. Sometimes it felt like AMPAS and the show producers had forgotten that they were selling the show both to people who obsess over these kinds of ceremonies, as well as people who need to be incentivized to actually seek out these films. I’m sure some viewers were lost.
  • While I’m sure the music quiz that Glenn Close partook in will be TikTok-able, GIF-able, or memeworthy, it was completely unnecessary and awkward. This was one of those kinds of moments that you would think wouldn’t happen when the show didn’t have an actual host. Also, I am shocked that anyone OK’d the sped-up In Memoriam montage that they used. That was almost disrespectful.

THE GOOD“For Ida” / “Til Ida”

I think, however, that it is also important to remember that this was one of the first in-person awards ceremonies since the start of the pandemic. This was always going to be different and awkward, and we should probably be a little bit understanding. Admittedly, there were a lot of things that I liked about the presention. I really liked the venue, since it made the entire ceremony feel intimate and like you had been invited into ‘the clubhouse.’

And I loved that the show didn’t try to force people off of the stage during acceptance speeches. I hate when they play music to speed up the winners’ speeches on stage. People deserve their moments in the spotlight. Let them take their time. I liked the long speeches. I really liked Youn Yuh-jung’s acceptance speech. I thought Daniel Kaluuya’s acceptance speech was ultimately really funny when he mentioned his parents.

If you’ve been following me on social media, or on my website, then you also know my favorite moment of the night. I was so happy when Thomas Vinterberg’s Another Round won Best International Feature Film. That was all I wanted from the 93rd Academy Awards ceremony. I wanted my favorite film of 2020 to win the award that, I thought, it really deserved to win. It did. I wanted Thomas Vinterberg to dedicate the award to his late daughter Ida. He did. And it was a beautiful and incredibly emotional acceptance speech. I think a lot of people were moved by it. It was an Oscars moment. An actual Oscars moment. Now the whole world knows about Thomas and Ida, and, in a way, that is really beautiful. This was easily the best moment of the night for me.

Although the ending of the ceremony was a bit of a clusterfuck, I think this would’ve been a decent and memorable Oscars ceremony if they hadn’t switched up the structure of the show, because pundits pretty much all agree that the group of winners all deserve recognition. It’s just a shame that the producers structured the show in the way that they did.

– Article Written by Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.

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