An Analysis – 2021 Oscar Reflections

The Academy Awards last Sunday were different in many ways due to the pandemic, with only the nominees and their guests being in the crowd as well as the presenters in a much smaller intimate setting. There was also no host and, beyond one moment near the end, no skits and very few jokes from presenters. I thought it was one of the best ceremonies they have had in years. Instead of skits that went on too long with few laughs that usually slowed the show down for no reason, while winners got played off the stage after barely speaking, this year the winners were allowed to speak as much as they wanted.

Yes, this sometimes did lead to some meandering speeches but it also led to some great emotional moments. Best International Film winner Thomas Vinterberg talking about his daughter who died a few months before the filming, or Scott Fisher accepting for the team of Tenet for Visual Effects mentioning how his father won this award as well. Instead of jokes the presenters told us facts about nominees, usually what got them interested in movies or their chosen field of editing, production design etc. It allowed for people that are just as important to the industry to be given a way for us to feel more connected to them. And some great speeches from the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award winners, the Motion Picture & Television Fund and Tyler Perry.

Tenet Movie Header Image

As for the awards themselves, I was personally very happy with most of the award winners. Emerald Fennell’s win for best original screenplay for Promising Young Woman was extremely well deserved, and Florian Zeller’s win for adapted screenplay for The Father, and his effusive praise for Anthony Hopkins and his joy at getting him for the movie ended up being prophetic for later in the evening, and was also well deserved. The hair and makeup win for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom was also well deserved. I had a chance to interview them earlier in the year for Awards Daily and they were among some of the nicest people to talk to as well as breaking barriers with their win. The true highlight for me was Chloé Zhao’s win for Best Director that was surprisingly given in the middle of the ceremony instead of near the end of the night. That added to the even more surprising Best Picture win for Nomadland as the third to last award given. This still didn’t take away from the joy I felt that a movie that used small moments just following Frances McDormand around built such wonderful emotional beats that it was able to take home these huge wins.

It was near the end of the show that things got weird, despite having no skits up to this point, they needlessly led to a game of guessing if a song was nominated, won or wasn’t nominated that took the momentum out of everything. It led to Glenn Close knowing and dancing to “Da Butt,” which most people found amusing but didn’t really add anything for me and took too long to get to the joke that an old white woman knew about the song. It led into the In Memoriam section, which for some reason was sped through to the point that it was hard to read the names and see the faces, although some were slowed down so that their deaths were made to seem more important, which felt like an insult to the others we have lost.

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom Movie Still 2

Having Best Actress and Best Actor be the last awards of the night when the momentum was gone especially failed with Best Actor being the last on the assumption that Chadwick Boseman would win and receive the big emotional send off. Now I should say up front I wanted Carey Mulligan to win Best Actress more than anything, but I cannot fault the Academy, who loved Nomadland and gave it so many top prizes, to not also give it to Frances McDormand who is that movie in so many ways. While Anthony Hopkins‘ win was only anticlimactic for the night because he was not present (though the shock of his upset was indeed exciting, and he has left a lovely message on Instagram about his win and praise to Chadwick Boseman.) Some are very upset about Chadwick Boseman not winning and he was my choice, but it was not an undesired win for Anthony Hopkins. I admit struggling on who to pick between the two of them. One of our greatest living actors has been given an award for what many are calling his best performance, and it is indeed one of his best. I cannot be upset by that.

The show was, for the majority, really well done and felt like a real tribute to filmmaking and the people who love it. There were awards I personally didn’t like, as always with any awards show. But letting these creative people talk was a true joy to watch and there were so many great wins as well that this has been one of the best Oscar ceremonies for me in years.


Benjamin is a film connoisseur and Oscar watcher who lives in Minneapolis and, when not reviewing movies, works at the Hennepin County Library.

You can reach Benjamin via email or on twitter

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