The 2021 Oscars are going to be easier than ever to prepare for, thanks to the industry's unfortunate situation. The last twelve months have been anything but normal in the film industry, and that’s been reflected in the Oscars 2021 nominations which were finally announced this week.
Typically at this point in the year, we’d be well beyond discussing the nominees. In fact, in a normal year, the big night would be behind us already and the winners would be clearing a space on their mantelpieces for their shiny new trophy.
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However, this hasn't been a normal year. The Academy decided last summer to delay the glitzy ceremony until April in the hopes that things would be a little brighter by the Spring.
Unfortunately there is no chance that by the time April 26 rolls around the Oscars will be able to go ahead in its typical format. A crowded red carpet and an overpacked theatre auditorium still feel like relics of a past era at this point. But there are reasons to be cheerful.
Despite the hiccups along the way, and the likely hitches still to come on the night, in some ways the 93rd Oscars are actually shaping up to be among the best in recent memory.
Streaming over the big screen
Oscar movies have always had an access problem. It’s especially bad over here in the UK where I typically spend the runup to the event watching the top nominees through low-quality screeners on dubious websites.
But even if you live stateside you may well have previously found yourself unable to actually watch some of the most nominated films unless you live in key markets like LA or New York where limited release films typically premiere.
The story has been different this year. Due to theatres across the globe closing their doors and darkening their projector bulbs, online streaming has been called upon to pick up the slack.
There has never been an Oscar field as easy to consume as this one. If you don’t believe me, we’ve rounded up how to watch the Oscar nominees, and of the eight Best Picture nominees there is only one (Judas and the Black Messiah) that isn’t available on a streaming platform or VOD. And that movie was on HBO Max for a limited time, too.
Rather than having to drive hours out of your way to find the one arthouse cinema in your state that is showing all the Oscar fare, you can devour the entire slate of nominees from the comfort of your own home.
Although in the UK, things are still being made pretty difficult by the fact that heavily nominated films such as Nomadland don’t land on streaming platforms until after the ceremony.
The benefits of being virtual
The pomp and frills of the Oscar ceremony will be missing this year, it’s almost certain that annual staples like the red carpet will be axed in favor of a social distanced event.
This doesn’t mean the Academy can’t still put on a show though. The Grammys earlier this month proved that an awards show can operate within the required safety requirement while still being an enjoyable spectacle.
An Academy spokesperson confirmed that “the ceremony will broadcast live from multiple locations, including the landmark Dolby Theatre.” So at least we know already that it won’t be conducted solely through awkward zoom calls. The Golden Globes were a similar multi-location affair.
Let’s be real though, for as much as we film fans love the Oscars, the multi-hour telecast can be a bit dry at times with long-winded acceptance speeches over running to the point of tedium.
This new format could potent spice things up a bit and force the showrunners to get a bit creative about how they keep the audience engaged throughout. Plus the Grammys already showed that live performances are possible even in a pandemic world, so we hopefully won’t lose the highlight of each nominee for Best Original Song being performed live.
There’s no doubt that the Oscars will be different this year, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will be bad. In fact, the prestigious awards show has been suffering from declining ratings for years now, this forced shakeup of the format might be exactly the reboot required to rehook viewers.