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Oscars for a Pandemic

This year’s Academy Awards were… different. Obviously Covid has changed every awards show this year, and the Oscars adjusted as well as they could. They pre-filmed the nominated songs, socially distanced the attendees, and held the ceremony at the gorgeous Union Station in Los Angeles.

In some ways, it felt like any other Oscars.

Actors dressed to the nines

Can we talk about Leslie Odom Jr. in his golden suit? It had a matching gold shirt and tie! This guy always strikes me as so quiet and self-effacing, but he still shows up dressed as an Oscar. He says it’s made of actual gold, and I can’t even tell if that’s true but I’ll spread that rumor anyhow. He’s been killing it with the fashion this awards season, and I’m here for it.

Regina King looked like a butterfly.

Zendaya looked like a goddess.

The pre-show was cringey

Why must we still be subjected to pre-show interviews? It’s like watching awkward small talk between distant family members at a wedding. You look great! No, YOU look great! NO, YOU!

At one point Reese Witherspoon took over the interview to provide information because poor Ariana DeBose was obviously not being given good notes through her earpiece. Why? Why do we need all this embarrassing puffery? Give me a bunch of stars roaming around drunk like at the Golden Globes any day. Or just have the red carpet interviewers ask each actor to solve an algebra equation and let us watch the fallout.

There were some moving moments

This morning, Best Actor winner Anthony Hopkins gave his acceptance speech from the UK, paying tribute to Chadwick Boseman.

On the red carpet, Angela Bassett described Chadwick Boseman’s laugh as “amazing and easy,” and I think that’s such a lovely way of putting it.

Another Round won Best International Feature Film. In a beautiful tribute, director Thomas Vinterberg dedicated the award to his daughter, who died in an accident shortly before filming, and who had loved the script.

“People at birth are inherently good.” Chloé Zhao, as expected, won Best Director for Nomadland. She dedicated her Oscar to anyone who has the faith and courage to hold onto the goodness in life. Zhao herself seems like an example of inherent goodness, doesn’t she?

Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, and Jon Batiste won gold for their score to Soul. Batiste’s speech was terrific, and the other two let him have the mic for the whole time. The music is gorgeous; go listen to it here: Tidal on Plex

If Anything Happens I Love You won Best Animated Short Film. I’ve been volunteering with Moms Demand Action for years, and it’s amazing to hear gun violence being discussed from a stage as big as the Oscars.

Tyler Perry received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award and gave a heartfelt speech about the lessons his mom taught him: “Refuse hate, refuse blanket judgement … it’s my hope that we teach our kids [to] refuse hate.” Perry asks us all to meet him in the middle, because that’s where change happens.

There were a few laughs

Yuh-Jung Youn, Best Supporting Actress for Minari, who was presented the award by everyone’s favorite golden boy, began her speech with, “Mr. Brad Pitt, finally! Where were you when we were filming in person?” Her speech was the funniest of the night, and included a thank you to her sons, who made her go out and work to support them.

Chloé Zhao’s glee at hearing Harrison Ford say her name in a list of nominees!


Glenn Close doing Da Butt. I hope she didn’t hurt herself.

It went too long

This is the big one, as always. Why is this show so long? This particular Oscars, slimmed down and sparsely attended, felt more like the typical industry awards ceremony that it is–which is to say, much too long and really freaking boring. It might as well have been the yearly awards at a convention of salespeople. (Except for the couture.) The producers seemed to have decided there would be no time limit on acceptance speeches. As obnoxious as the orchestra playing a winner off is, apparently it really is the lesser of two evils.

Written By

Laura J. Burns writes books, writes for TV, and sometimes writes TV based on books and books based on TV. She's the managing editor of The Gist.

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