The 93rd Oscars: They were not kidding. In a recent interview, the 93rd Oscar producers Stacey Sher, Steven Soderbergh, and Jesse Collins said they had full creative control over how the ceremony played out. It’s hard to doubt them, considering the relevant structural changes on the order the awards were given.
Historically, Best Director and Best Picture are among the last, if not the last two awards presented. The producing team changed that, presenting Best Director much earlier and, more crucially, not awarding Best Picture last.
Yes, Best Picture is the crown jewel, but every single award matters and this choice is a good reminder of that. There was a method to this madness: Best Picture was considered a fait accompli and the two leading acting awards were likely a source of good drama: Best Actress was considered to be wide open, and Best Actor was, with good certainty, going to be a chance to commemorate the life and career of Chadwick Boseman, gone too soon. Well, best-laid plans and all that: the eventual winner, Anthony Hopkins, was not even present and the ceremony ended very suddenly. Yes, the irony of being sure of a result. It was a major gambit that didn’t pay off as expected. But it paid off, since memorable it was. It was brilliant in all its anticlimatic glory.
That aside, the sober tone overall was a good choice (considering how 2020 was), as it was the choice to not have a host. In recent years, hosts (and producers) have gotten into the trend of trying to overdo each other with some elaborate set-pieces that have nothing to do with the awards themselves. To me, those moments (pizza deliveries, clueless tourists, etc) always felt like interrupting a scene to show penalty shootouts in the Bulgarian soccer league: they may even be exciting on their own, but does it help to advance the story? Hell no!
In any case, the greatest success as far as format goes was the decision to focus on the people that make movies, with a brief introduction of them and, more relevantly, allowing their thank-you speeches to play out. It’s always distressing to see the professionals, who make the movies we love, being cut by a rude orchestra (while the stars, that don’t need this particular stump, generally get a pass). Everything (almost) in the ceremony was designed to let the speeches run free (the best song nominees were not performed on stage, the absence of a host, the lack of presenters crossing a mile to reach the mic). I hope this concept continues to be used in years to come.
As for the awards themselves, well, it was the first time in a couple of decades I was unable to see all the best picture nominees, let alone the so-called favorite. That’s a pandemic for you. It puts a dent in how excited I could be, but many of my personal favorites won, sometimes unexpectedly. A second win by a female director was overdue, and we can only hope that going forward the voters won’t feel they have done enough. More diversity and more voices make for a more engaging set of films.
Now let’s watch some movies, social distancing and health protocols allowing!