BEHIND THE SCREEN: 93rd Annual Academy Awards – A Night to (NOT) Remember

Well, thank God that’s over. The final film award ceremony of 2021 is over, and not a minute too soon.

Viewers who tuned in to the 93rd Academy Awards ceremony (guilty, but I have a website. What’s your excuse?) were treated to un-enthusiastic presenters, amazingly long speeches (I’m guessing Questlove wasn’t told he could play people off) and an “In Memoriam” segment that looks like it was thrown together at the last minute. And can someone tell me how a show with no host, opening monologue and zero musical numbers – unless you count the embarrassing “Oscar Music Trivia” game that featured Glenn Close shaking her ass to E.U.’s “Da Butt” – ran almost 3 1/2 hours??

On a positive note, there were some great achievements rewarded. A woman of color (Chloe Zhao) was named Best Director, only the second time a woman has won that Award. Think about that. Out of 465 nominees only SEVEN women have been nominated: Lina Wertmuller, Jane Campion, Sophia Coppola, Kathryn Bigelow (who won), Greta Gerwig, Ms. Zhao and Emerald Fennell, who with Ms. Zhao was nominated this year. Which means such female directors, like Penny Marshall and Barbra Streisand, have been totally ignored, even though in the past they had directed films nominated for Best Picture!

Daniel Kaluuya and Youn Yuh-jing took home the Best Supporting Actor and Actress awards, respectively, putting a slight dent into the #OscarSoWhite reputation.

Frances McDormand became the second actress to receive (3) Best Actress awards when her name was announced last night, putting her right behind the immortal Katherine Hepburn, who won (4). Meryl Streep does have (3) Oscars, but one was for Best Supporting Actress. Ms. McDormand picked up a 4th Oscar as one of the producers of the evening’s Best Picture, “Nomadland.” And whose idea was it to give the Best Picture award out early? Normally it’s the last award of the night, but on this night it was awarded before Best Actress and Actor were named. My hunch is that the producers assumed the late Chadwick Boseman, who was nominated for his final performance in the film “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” would win, which would have made for a nice emotional way to end the evening. Instead, Joaquin Phoenix sheepishly announced Anthony Hopkins as the winner of the Best Actor award, and that was a wrap!

My beef with the “In Memoriam” segment was that, for some reason, the Academy figured if you were watching you knew who everyone was and what they did. An introduction that took u 1/3 of the segment, no film clips and, while known talents like Christopher Plummer, George Segal and Wilford Brimley got a few seconds of screen time each, others – among them Marge Champion (a great dancer), Shirley Knight (a fine actress), Kelly Preston (same) and Michael Chapman (an amazing cinematographer whose credits include “Taxi Driver,” “Raging Bull,” “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid” and “The Fugitive”) whizzed by in a blink.

The fact that only nominees and presenters were allowed to be in the venue also made for dull television. Smatterings of applause signaled that the guests in the theatre were apparently as bored as the ones at my house.

Blame it on COVID. Blame it on the fact that none of the films nominated were “NAME” films – no “Titanic,” “Avatar” or “Lord of the Rings” in the bunch. Blame it on bad television. There’s plenty of blame to go around.

For those of you who went to bed early, here is a list of the winners:

Best Picture – Nomadland 

Best Actor in a Leading Role– Anthony Hopkins (The Father)

Best Actress in a Leading Role – Frances McDormand (Nomadland)

Best Director – Chloé Zhao (Nomadland)

Best Actress in a Supporting Role – Youn Yuh-jung (Minari)

Best Actor in a Supporting Role – Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah)

Best Adapted Screenplay – The Father, Christopher Hampton, Florian Zeller

Best Original Screenplay – Promising Young Woman, Emerald Fennell

Best Animated Feature Film – Soul 

Best International Feature Film – Another Round (Denmark)

Best Sound – Sound of Metal, Phillip Bladh, Nicolas Becker, Jaime Baksht, Michelle Couttolenc, Carlos Cortés, Carolina Santana

Best Costume Design – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Ann Roth

Best Makeup and Hairstyling – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Matiki Anoff, Mia Neal, Larry M. Cherry

Best Live Action Short Film – Two Distant Strangers

Best Animated Short Film – If Anything Happens I Love You 

Best Documentary Feature – My Octopus Teacher 

Best Documentary Short Subject – Colette 

Best Original Song – ‘Fight for You,’ (Judas and the Black Messiah)

Best Visual Effects – Tenet, Andrew Jackson, Andrew Lockley, Scott R. Fisher, Mike Chambers

Best Cinematography – Mank, Erik Messerschmidt

Best Production Design – Mank, Donald Graham Burt, Jan Pascale

Best Film Editing – Sound of Metal, Mikkel E.G. Nielsen

Best Original Score – Mank, Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross

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