So I Watched the Oscars

I had a long debate with myself if this year’s Oscars are worth watching. I wasn’t sure if I want to while barely watching any of the nominated films. It hasn’t happened for a while; it was strange. My film experiences dropped dreadfully since the pandemic began. That included both my film numbers and the choices of what I’m watching. With that, I couldn’t tell if the Oscars gala was worth breaking my sleep cycle, staying the whole night and being barely focused the next day.

It was.

The Academy Awards lost their importance, they say, Oscars aren’t a pointer of quality anymore. I don’t think so. We can see how much it matters to each “small” victor; to people who aren’t recognized and this is their 30 seconds of glory. We can see how big a nomination can be even when you are well aware you’re not gonna win with Disney. This is the most important or at least the most popular film award in the world. No matter how blunt it may look, it still has its power.

Last year cut us from many things, but my most painful goodbye was the cinema. I couldn’t bear missing my favourite local ones or not seeing the IMAX screen. I still can’t. This has hurt the whole production business and the future of the blockbusters is unknown. The only one we got was Tenet. The rest of the films are still waiting for a better time to premiere. Perhaps it is the reason why the Oscars weren’t getting as much recognition as they usually do. Even people following the film news and covering premieres had a hard time watching the nominated films. Others who watch only what appears in their feed (or Netflix homepage) weren’t even aware of most of the nominated pictures.

And no wonder, none of these had a big promotion budget. It was pointless and impossible. With the world frozen by pandemic, you can barely give your film any sort of extra recognition. Netflix had it easier, they fed us their original productions for long enough and they didn’t even have to spend money on making their films viral. They simply adjusted the algorithm.

Netflix was a silent winner of this year’s gala. Although Mank scored just two awards, they also received the best documentary and both shorts. Their productions crowded nominations and I checked – the only nomination without Netflix was International Film. Award or not, it’s still huge how easily the streaming world changed the rules of the Oscars.

I’d thought the Academy won’t make the live gala. I expected a lot of streaming from nominees’ homes and a lot of bad quality Zoom calls. I expected something that would fail tremendously. The reality was truly surprising. 

They made this event as normal as possible. They found some inspiration in the past and held no expenses to make it safe – at least from the viewer perspective. Of course, once or twice someone forgot about the whole world while bursting with happiness, but all the guests did try to show the best example possible while spreading hope for normality in the future.

In some ways, it was one of the nicest galas. Instead of short pieces of films, the presenters talked about the nominees, choosing a subject close to the category. The speeches weren’t focusing on anything that happens outside of Dolby Theatre. It was emotional and truly surprising. And obviously, Glenn Close stole the show.

The speeches were long but in many cases incredibly touching and personal. Thomas Vinterberg mentioned his daughter who was killed in an accident while he was working on Another Round. The supporting actress went to Minari’s Yuh-Jung Youn who gave this terribly adorable speech with her not so perfect English. Chloe Zhao asked to find a way to be closer to nature. Just as the producers of “My Teacher Octopus” (which is a touching documentary by the way).

I am truly happy “Promising Young Woman” won the Best Original Screenplay. Emerald deserved it so much. I rooted for Carey Mulligan for best actress but the competition was too strong this year.

Sound of Metal got the sound award, as expected. There was no other way. I loved that we had sign language and the deaf person presenting. Some things should be reminded from time to time and it was a great way to do so.

I can’t even say much if someone deserved something or not, because I couldn’t have watched these films pre-Oscars. I hope it will never happen again. It’s way more emotional if you know what they’re talking about.

I agree with all the awards for Nomadland, though. It was a dream journey that I wholeheartedly recommend having in the cinema. Just grab your trusty companion and discover cinema anew with Frances as a guide and Chloe behind the wheel.

In the very end, they did the strangest thing possible – giving the best picture before best actress and actor. The idea was noble but didn’t exactly work out. After the last break ended, Nomadland scored the main prize, of course. A little surprising was maybe Frances McDormand howling on stage. But was it really?

Right after that, the best actress went to… Said howling actress and she gave the fastest speech of the evening, completely dismissing the award and wanting to be done with it, I suppose. After all, the main mystery of the evening was already behind us.

And then it all came to Joaquin Phoenix announcing the best actor. I assume the idea was that Chadwick Boseman would’ve received it post-mortem but the Academy decided something else. It went to Anthony Hopkins who not only didn’t attend the gala but was asleep in his bed in Wales. So Joaquin ended with a short statement about who will take the Oscar on Anthony’s behalf and… That was it. Awk-ward.

But to sum this all up I can only say it was a good idea to stay up. Maybe I have a soft spot for Oscars or maybe it’s the need to experience history where an Asian director wins the award twice in a row. Or maybe it’s not for us to judge if this is important or not. Future generations of film studies will tell if the choices were right or wrong. 

I can only say that the films chosen by the Academy are only a tiny percentage of the films that exist. There’s so much to discover and the nominees aren’t as indie as some people think. Cinema holds many mysteries and even more wonder. Praise the filmmakers, they show the world you’d never seen with your own eyes.

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