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  • Writer's picturePerrin Faerch

2021 Oscars - Thoughts, Observations and Hot Takes

The Oscars are over and holy shit...what a bizarre night, but also, what a wonderful night for some truly deserving winners. I got some predictions wrong but a lot of the winners I wanted to win actually won, surprising everyone in the process and taking complete left turns from the projected winners. My correct prediction count: 17/23.

Check out my predictions post if you want to read more thoughts on each category. Here is the full list of the winners with some thoughts I had in selected categories:

Best Picture

Nomadland The overwhelming favourite came as no surprise when it won. It is still surprising that the art-iest and niche-st of the films this year managed to resonate so heavily with a majority of the academy voters, even the most frustratingly bitter ones who would avoid these kinds of films. It’s a spiritual experience with gorgeous imagery and a clear love for its subjects. As Frances McDormand, a producer on the film as well, says in her speech: “See it on the biggest screen possible”. She’s right. Such a well-deserved win. Best Director

Chloé Zhao (Nomadland) Another major win that came as no surprise. Zhao’s work on Nomadland is extraordinary. Working outside the confines of a controlled set, Zhao often had to adapt and improvise in real-time with real people in real locations, having her and McDormand working similarly to documentarians in their approach and herculean efforts in constructing a story so seamlessly with real people in the real world. Her work with non-actors has always been her major strength since her debut, and with Nomadland, this ability shines once more, clearly showing her immense love for every one of her subjects and their stories. Yay Zhao. Only the second woman to ever win the Best Director Oscar. It will be very interesting to see what she does with her upcoming MCU film Eternals. Best Actress

Frances McDormand (Nomadland) One of the big upsets of the night is a win that was completely earned. She was my pick for who I wanted to win the award, so naturally, I was beyond excited about this. It’s a performance worthy of a dozen awards, proving once more that she is one of the greatest the medium has ever seen. Like Chloé Zhao, McDormand had to adapt to each situation and scene partner accordingly. Almost all of her scene partners were non-actors, so it’s a challenge to bring a level of believable authenticity out of them, even as the experienced actor in each scene. She is a performer of immense talent and considerable fame, but she still manages to allow those around her to shine, never taking away from their moments of truth. That is a talent that far surpasses the textbook examples of great acting. Yay McDormand. She is now only the second actress to win three Best Actress Oscars, while she also managed to add a fourth trophy to her tally for producing Nomadland as well. Best Actor

Anthony Hopkins (The Father) Most definitely the biggest shock of the night, Anthony Hopkins managed to win the trophy over Chadwick Boseman. This will most likely cause anger in those wanting to see the Academy honour the legacy of Boseman, whose career was only just on its way to being truly special before he sadly passed away. With all due respect to a wonderful Boseman performance, but anyone who has seen Hopkins in The Father will be able to see why this was the only performance to realistically beat him as the favourite (along with Riz Ahmed), delivering what is arguably the best of his career and a true testament to his commitment to the craft. It’s a heartbreaking performance of nuance and frightening believability as a man begins losing his mind to dementia. Jawdropping, to say the least, this win made me jump out of my seat. It was my pick for who I wanted to win and I am so glad it did. Definitely the deserved winner, which will go down as one of the greatest performances ever. Best Supporting Actress

Yuh-Jung Youn (Minari) Another wonderful win for a wonderful actress from a wonderful film. As expected, she delivered a speech that was warm, funny and completely honest. It was such a cute moment of her gushing at Brad Pitt as she gathered her thoughts. We should consider her hosting every award show ever. A bright light in a mostly boring ceremony. Best Supporting Actor

Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah) No surprises here once again. A phenomenal performance from an actor just getting started in his meteoric rise to the top. Best Original Screenplay

Promising Young Woman (Emerald Fennell) Not surprising, but completely earned. A truly original piece of writing that is both funny and a necessarily seething piece of confrontational storytelling that refuses to let the nice guys off the hook. Best Adapted Screenplay

The Father (Florian Zeller, Christopher Hampton) Smart, complex, heartfelt, touching, devastating. The Father is a stunning piece that disorients you in its labyrinth-like structure, putting you in the shoes of someone losing their mind to dementia. Best International Feature

Another Round (Denmark) Another expected winner that was topped off by an unexpectedly emotional speech from Thomas Vinterberg, with him honouring the memory of his daughter, who sadly passed away two months prior to shooting Another Round. Best Documentary Feature

My Octopus Teacher An expected win, but arguably the safest pick of the lot. It’s a lovely film with a heartwarming center, but it would’ve been better to see a film winning that is more timely and important in its purpose. Apart from some observations on conserving nature, it didn’t reach the same levels of urgency and timeliness of confrontational fury contained within as the other documentaries in this category, which is often the biggest factor in picking the winner over the years. Best Animated Feature

Soul Best Production Design Mank Best Costume Design Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom Best Makeup and Styling Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom Although very impressive, it still shocks me how no one seemed to pay attention to the genuinely revolutionary work of Pinocchio, which is still mind-blowing to learn that no CGI was used in transforming each actor’s appearance into the puppets and creatures they were portraying. Best Cinematography Erik Messerschmidt (Mank) This was an upset considering that Joshua James Richards of Nomadland was the clear frontrunner for his exemplary work that had him winning every award leading up to the Oscars. Messerschmidt’s moody black and white photography that blended both modern and 30s-era techniques proved more than enough in winning another technical award for Mank. Best Editing Sound of Metal Best Sound Sound of Metal I mean, this was an absolute no-brainer. Best Visual Effects

Tenet Best Original Score Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, Jon Baptiste (Soul) It was always going to be Oscars number two for Reznor and Ross, with a first win for Baptiste, who contributed the jazz compositions to the film. A cute moment of them hugging in a huddle was topped off by an infectiously charming speech from John Baptiste. If I could time travel, I’d go to 1994 and tell a diehard goth NIN fan that Trent Reznor will win an Oscar for scoring a Disney film in 2021 just to see the visceral reaction from them. Best Original Song Fight for You (Judas and the Black Messiah) Best Live-Action Short Two Distant Strangers Yikes. The obvious choice from the get-go, but it will be interesting to see the backlash of this considering, it completely rips off the short film Groundhog Day for a Black Man, which was released in 2016. Best Animated Short If Anything Happens I Love You Best Documentary Short Colette An unexpected win over A Love Song for Latasha, but still a deeply moving film about a former French resistance fighter who visits the death camp her brother was sent to during World War II.

Just some additional thoughts... It was a truly bizarre night in its structure and approach. Changing its location from the grand, massive Dolby Theatre that we're used to, to a more intimate and smaller setting felt really disorientating. It had a promising start with a tracking shot on Regina King, but it just petered out from there, never quite managing to really keep the show alive. It doesn't help with the far smaller crowd and less than grand setting, but this is where a designated host could've helped by keeping it light, fun and far more engaging for the audience. There were also no musical performances, further lowering the energy in the room. They eventually introduced an Oscar music trivia game to try liven up the room, but it genuinely felt like a last-ditch attempt at trying to raise the energy levels. It fell completely flat for the most part, but Glenn Close showed why she is a national treasure in a moment that was most likely scripted, but still pretty fun and pretty cringe all at once. The hostless approach last year worked as it kept things moving, but other factors kept it alive. The inconsistencies of the show had some nominations accompanied with clips for context, but most of them didn't. So if you're unfamiliar with the films, or just need reminding of who is against who, you'd be lost in the dark, not getting any context in the level of competition as well as seeing examples of their craft and why they are nominated. This kept things moving faster, but made things feel a lot less interesting. This seemed to allow more time for speeches to go on longer, but this meant speeches reeeeaaaalllllyyyyy dragged, and it felt like the show was trying to play catch up at points as they ended up going well over time. This, unfortunately, led to an extremely strange and somewhat disrespectful In Memorium montage that was so sped up at points that your eyes literally couldn't register the information of who died fast enough. It also didn't help when the strange mood was set up by Angela Bassett's bizarrely hammy introduction to the montage that felt like a walk-on performance in a mediocre local theatre play. The biggest flurry of WTF moments came from the baffling running order of the awards. The first award was Best Original Screenplay. One of the major awards that is often saved towards the end of the show. Best Director was placed somewhere before the middle, which is saved for the fourth last award. But, the most baffling "huh?" moment came when they placed Best Picture third last. This is the most important award at any film festival and awards ceremony. The centerpiece of every Oscar year. By placing it here, you're killing the anticipation of that big award, effectively sucking the air out of the finale of the night. I think they did this to save The Best Actor award for last, which it seems fairly obvious they did this so they could end the night on what was the expected Best Actor win for Chadwick Boseman. It didn't pan out that way, ending with Hopkins winning, and the fact that he wasn't there to receive it, ended the show abruptly.

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