Another year, another bizarre Oscars award show. The 93rd Academy Awards just wrapped, and while I know I watched an award show, I’m not really sure what I watched. Ranging from strange to uplifting to exhilarating to disappointing is not new when tuning into this annual event, but this form of uneasiness is never comforting no matter how many times you experience it. Before I bury the lede in a collection of complaints like an Oscar winner buries their final thank you’s in the moments when they’re getting yanked from the microphone, here are my winners and losers.
Winner: Chloé Zhao
Chloé Zhao is already a star, and she hasn’t even made a big Hollywood movie yet. Tonight, her third film “Nomadland” picked up wins for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actress in a Leading Role, and was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography and Best Film Editing. Zhao’s Western spectacle about a woman in search of home while constantly on the road captured the soul of the United States nomad community, and uniquely featured real people playing tweaked versions of themselves. Apart from her movie, Zhao is only 39 and became the first woman of color to win the award for Best Director. If she was a rising star before the award’s season, then now she’s a hypergiant. Speaking of which…
Winner: Marvel Studios
The first thing a friend texted me after seeing Zhao racked up the aforementioned accolades was, “Marvel probably got her on a steal contract.” I responded that Kevin Feige, the face and lead producer on all Marvel Cinematic Universe properties, is one of the greatest talent identifiers of all time. Under his watch, the comic book movie factory has consistently tapped up-and-coming directors to steer parts of their ever-expanding IP with largely successful results. Zhao’s first stab at a superhero epic comes this November with “Eternals,” and she’ll join the already incredibly talented roster of MCU directors, which includes other auteurs such as Taika Waititi and Ryan Coogler. While some of the Hollywood elite are quick to throw shade at the validity of superhero pictures, some of the best directors in the businesses are zigging that zag.
Loser: Weird Timing?
Normally, the Oscars end with the reveal of the year’s Best Picture. However, for whatever reason, the 93rd Academy Awards ended on a still photo of Anthony Hopkins’ face (we’ll get to that in a bit). When the screen flashed the words “And the nominees for Best Picture are,” I legitimately questioned whether I had been abducted by aliens, probed and then dropped back into my chair because I knew for a fact I’d yet to see the two major acting awards get handed out. Instead of little green men in a spaceship, the change was presumably made by the producers for reasons unknown to me. Hell, we didn’t even have a chance for live controversy in the form of a weird speech or an incredible blunder. That being said, Hopkins at least gave them a nice headshot to use.
Winner: Everyone Who Listened to Youn Yuh-Jung’s Speech After Winning Best Actress in a Supporting Role
“Mr. Brad Pitt, finally, it’s nice to meet you.”
Losers: People Wanting New Stuff
I have no qualms with Frances McDormand (Best Actress in a Leading Role recipient), or Anthony Hopkins (Best Actor in a Leading Role recipient). Both are acting royalty and deserve all the praise they probably receive in local acting classes around the world. Each is a master of their craft, and every time either is in a film, the viewer can rest assured the picture reached a certain threshold for quality. That being said, I don’t know why the Academy did this. Both McDormand and Hopkins were equally great in their roles for “Nomadland” and “The Father,” but c’mon man, let someone else have some fun. This year’s group of nominees for both awards was stellar, stacked and full of worthy recipients, so did we have to give the award to two people who had already won for these categories in previous years? Not to mention, Chadwick Boseman’s passing means he’ll never be nominated again, and he was certainly stellar in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” What about Steven Yeun in “Minari“? How about Andra Day in “The United States vs. Billie Holiday“? Oscars are extremely difficult to win (ask Leo), which is why people get so pissed off when movies they love don’t get the shine they feel they deserve. When the field is so talented and the performances so good, shouldn’t we at least consider whether someone has already touched one of the coveted golden statues? Also: Frances complained about a lack of Karaoke and Hopkins didn’t attend, in person or via Zoom, so ending on his mugshot was anticlimactic…
Winner: The Location
Unlike in past years, this year’s ceremony wasn’t held in a ballroom, but instead what looked like a huge lobby. The vibe was very 1950s, cigarettes and cocktails.
At one point we went from Glenn Close dancing to an In Memoriam presentation, and we already mentioned the swapping of the acting awards and best picture, which provided a “Sopranos”-like ending. Also, the show decided to cut most of the snips from nominee films, in favor of weird vignettes of backstory, which was interesting, I guess.
Winner: E.U. and Da Butt
Never challenge Glenn Close to a game of movie-themed Trivial Pursuit. During Questlove’s Oscar Trivia hosted by actor Lil Rel Howery, Close stunned the crowd with her movie music knowledge rattling several facts about the D.C. go-go band E.U. and their song Da Butt, which was recorded at the request of director Spike Lee for his 1988 film “School Daze.” Not only that, Close then got up to do the Da Butt dance, which will likely be a gif I’ll see for the rest of my life now. Shoutout to these local legends for the Glenn Close love.
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