Academy Awards Oscar trophies are on display backstage during the 93rd Annual Academy Awards at Union Station on April 25, 2021 in Los Angeles, California.
Handout | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images
If there’s one redeeming thing about Sunday’s Oscars, we all know that the academy really doesn’t know what’s in the envelopes.
Even after the debacle over the best picture in 2017, in which the wrong title was chosen as the main prize of the night, the Academy of Arts and Sciences for feature films continued to keep the winners a secret until they were read on the air.
It seems the producers placed a big bet that the late Chadwick Boseman would be named best actor. In a break with tradition, the Academy announced the winner of the best picture before announcing the recipients of the best actor and best actress. As a rule, the prize for the best picture is saved as the last reveal of the evening.
Many have speculated that this was done so that the night would end with Boseman’s victory and a tribute to the actor. However, the award went to Anthony Hopkins for his role in “The Father,” which resulted in an anti-climactic conclusion to a show that already felt too rushed and yet too long.
Hopkins, 83, is the oldest person to win an Oscar in an acting category and did not attend the ceremony. Instead, he was at home in Wales. He addressed the win in a video posted on social media Monday morning.
“Good morning, here I am in my native Wales and at 83 I didn’t expect to receive this award. I really didn’t,” said Hopkins. “I am grateful to the Academy and I thank you. I want to pay tribute to Chadwick Boseman, who was taken from us far too early, and thank you again everyone. I really didn’t expect this, so I feel very privileged and honored. Thanks. “
Hopkins’ heartbreaking performance as a man with dementia also earned him a BAFTA for Best Actor and critical acclaim. This is his second Oscar nomination out of six and follows his 1991 Best Actor win for “Silence of the Lambs”.
His absence from the Sunday event might not have created much controversy if the show’s producers hadn’t permanently rearranged the presentation of the best actor. Much of the anger for the abrupt ending and harmless ceremony was directed against the producers for hyping the prospect of Boseman winning.
After Hopkins’ victory, which was accepted on his behalf by Joaquin Phoenix, who presented the award, the Academy Awards ended unceremoniously.
The end of the ceremony was natural for the evening.
There is no denying that the 93rd Annual Academy Awards threw a much-needed spotlight on diverse talent and honored those in the industry who were not previously widely acclaimed. However, the ceremony, which was expected to break the mold and mess things up, turned out to be just like any other Oscars show before.
Filmmaker Steven Soderbergh, who directed the production, teased important changes to the television broadcast before the ceremony. He co-produced with Stacey Sher and Jesse Collins and said the team would treat the event like a movie, not a TV show. One of the most notable changes was the event’s cobalt blue color scheme, which replaced the traditional purple curtains and carpets from previous Oscars.
While there was a promise for a one-of-a-kind experience, especially since Regina King was strutting through Union Station in Los Angeles when colorful credits popped up on the screen showing the hosts of the Sunday programming, the show ultimately slipped back into shape.
Oscar nominee Glenn Close will dance to “Da Butt” during the 93rd Annual Academy Awards on Sunday, April 25, 2021 at Union Station Los Angeles.
ABC | Walt Disney television | Getty Images
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the academy severely restricted the guest list for the event and decided to include the top song nominees and play them before the awards show began. Usually the best song performances help bring the ceremony to a close, providing moments of ease and spectacle between speeches.
Without these performances, the focus was more on the moderators. They worked solely on social distancing guidelines, which also limited the typical moments of comedic jokes between presenters. The production replaced the scripted repetition with “fun facts” about the nominees, including last year’s best director, Bong Joon-ho, who recited this year’s nominees’ answers to the question: What is directing?
The pre-award biographies about the nominees’ favorite films or their first jobs in Hollywood were well-intentioned, but ultimately only served to extend the duration of the event. The show also seemed to confirm why the academy has set in the past how long winners are allowed to speak after collecting their trophies.
Oscars 2021 coverage by CNBC
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Hostless ceremonies have been all the rage since 2019 when actor Kevin Hart stepped back from performing after old, problematic tweets he posted. However, Sunday’s ceremony could have benefited from a celebrity guide. Especially to smooth things over at the end of the night and bring the ceremony to a close.
The night was saved somewhat by passionate speeches, especially from filmmaker Tyler Perry, who accepted the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, and a strange script-writing moment in which Glenn Close danced to the funk hit “Da Butt” from the 80s.
Ultimately, Sunday’s Oscars were a product of the coronavirus, but also an example of how difficult it can be to redefine awards ceremonies.