The Oscars finale was a heartless disaster

If there is one thing an awards show should be, it’s unpredictable. That’s the reason we watch in the first place: not just to find out who the winners are, but to be stunned by the upsets, to be brought to tears by the speeches, to see the uncensored audience reactions in real time. Even the biggest “bloopers” in Oscars history — like when Frank Capra bounded to the stage in 1933, after Will Rogers announced the best director winner with “come and get it, Frank!” in reference to Frank Lloyd, and the famous La La Land flub in 2017 — are testaments to the candidness of even the most meticulously-plotted ceremonies.

But the debacle that occurred on Sunday night at the 2021 Academy Awards wasn’t a mere instance of unrehearsed realism, or the messy charm of live TV. It was, rather, a case of the producers making the fatal mistake of failing to respect that uncertainty is the central tenet of an awards show.

From the get-go, the 2021 ceremony struck out to be visibly different than any ceremony to come before it. The production, led by filmmaker Steven Soderbergh, opened with a flashy, colorful credit sequence. Soderbergh’s team also shot the ceremony in a widescreen format and at a rate of 24 frames-per-second — looks that are more characteristic of cinema than TV, where it’s more common for an image to fill the whole screen and be shot at a framerate of 30 frames per second. The ceremony described its presenters as “cast members,” and treated the Union Station location as a movie set. Compositions were careful and deliberate; dynamic, roving cameras, off-center framing, and a deep use of space set the cinematography apart from the more traditional front-on depiction of speakers typical of the older Dolby Theater ceremonies.

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(Academy Awards | ABC)

(Academy Awards | ABC)

While the Oscar ceremony had the visual character of a movie, the producers also, apparently, wanted a cinematic climax. Instead of saving the announcement of the Best Picture winner for last — an award that was more or less expected to be a bygone win for Nomadland — the ceremony unexpectedly shuffled the order, so that Best Actress and Best Actor were read last instead.

A charitable defense of this decision is that the producers wanted to emphasize the achievements of individual artists. Since Best Picture awards technically go to producers, having the acting awards close out the night would mean the final statuettes went to people audiences at home could actually identify with and care about. Or perhaps they wanted to save the more exciting 2021 races for the finale: The penultimate award, Best Actress, was expected to be tight, and emotional buzz had been building around the late Chadwick Boseman for Best Actor for months. The more cynical, and more probable, interpretation of this decision is that it was calculated emotional manipulation. Prognosticators overwhelmingly expected Boseman, who tragically died last summer at the …read more

Source:: The Week – Entertainment


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