Over the past several years the Academy Awards have fallen into bland and forgettable tropes. Since I’ve started watching the show in 2010, they all shared eerie similarities that proved the “spectacle” was going downhill. For the 2021 Academy Awards, no one knew what to expect from the show. We knew it wasn’t going to be held at the infamously popular Dolby Theater and not all of the nominees were going to be in one place. For many film fans, (myself included) had reservations about what the show was going to be. Now take into consideration a year with a huge loss like Chadwick Boseman, and it’s safe to say that all eyes were on the show.
Like any year, the awards delivered a few surprises and plenty of absolutely cringey jokes. The Academy doesn’t seem to understand “comedy” in the way audiences do. Having watched the pre-show, Lil Rel Howery interviewing celebrities was offering me a surprising amount of laughs. It wasn’t until Howery was going through the crowd having guests guess if a particular song was a past Oscar nominee that my problems began. When Glenn Close, a multiple Oscar nominee, proceeded to dance to “Da butt” it just explained how out-of-touch the Academy is. This is definitely surprising when you hear about the talent involved behind the scenes.
Steven Soderbergh, a prolific Hollywood director, took a role behind the scenes directing the show. His intent was all about making a show that felt like audiences were watching a film filled with celebrities. That’s admittedly an impressive feat, but one that simply made room for more jokes that completely misfired. From the get go, the one thing that caught my attention was how the awards were presented in an unexpected way. Starting with the best original screenplay which went to “Promising Young Woman” writer and director Emerald Fennell was fantastic. She gave a meaningful and substantive speech that set a precedent that I at least felt was going to be met.
We got several funny speeches, such as Daniel Kalyuua for supporting actor and Yuh-Jung Youn for supporting actress. What was surprising was when the show jumped directly to giving the best picture, before best actor or actress. It was a serious shift that was quite jarring before I realized what the intent was. The big awards went to Chloe Zhao for director and her film “Nomadland '' for best picture which was a deserved win. The show overall included a great speech involving Tyler Perry’s humanitarian award, showing the Academy having an earnestness. With the ending set for best actor, most everyone expected to see Chadwick Boseman getting his posthumous win.
When Anthony Hopkins was announced, there was audible gasp from film fans across the world. While many (like myself) thought Hopkins delivered the year's best performance in “The Father,” people expected Boseman to win. It was as the show progressed that audiences felt like the show was being tee’d for his win. As Joaquin Phoenix took the stage and announced Hopkins as the winner, the show ended abruptly. It was a massive disservice to audiences who watch the three-and-a-half hour show (with commercials) that tried to be different. The unfortunate final result was a massive amount of disrespect to those we lost this year.
Even a completely inappropriate in-memoriam section with upbeat music showed how out of touch the academy is. It made for a show that completely misunderstood what audiences want to see. What I want to stress is that I was actually quite pleased with everything that took home the big prizes. Frances McDormand winning best actress and Anthony Hopkins winning best actor were earned wins. The problem was that audiences were manipulated to believe one thing and something else occurred.