The 93rd Academy Awards, a night like no other.

Oscars 2021: What's Next For Chloe Zhao, Daniel Kaluuya and Other 2021 Oscar  Winners - Flipboard

10th February 2020, approximately 4am UK time and history is made as Parasite becomes the first film not in the English language to win the prestigious Best Picture Academy Award. A night of celebration that now seems a lifetime ago.

It is fair to say that the last 14 months or so have been strange, every day life has changed in ways none of us would have foreseen when Parasite won. During the past year and a bit I have often been reminded that it isn’t just us “normal” people who have been effected by the Pandemic, but the rich, famous and adulated stars who we mistakenly believe sit in their ivory towers oblivious to the struggles of every day life. Further proof if needed arrived in what can only be described as THE oddest Academy Award ceremony I have ever witnessed.

There were people who said that under the circumstances the ceremony shouldn’t even take place this year, but perhaps due to those very circumstances, it was more important than ever to host the event, even if it was going to take a radically different format to what we know, and as became the night progressed, love about the Academy Awards. Pandemic or not some of the artistic decisions on show tonight by event director Steven Soderbergh were baffling and awkward, but an interesting night nonetheless.

Oscar predictions: Will every Best Picture nominee win an award? - GoldDerby

The Nominees

The main personal sticking point this year was that unlike most years I have not managed to see the majority of the nominated films. I usually at the very least get the Best Picture nominees watched, but this year I managed just 4 out of the 8, some of them such as The Father is not released in the UK until July so it has been hard this year. Again circumstances put of every ones control dictate that somewhat. The point is I went into the ceremony rather blind and therefore I can’t really say whether the winners were the best choice out of the nominees or not, however Anthony Hopkins must be career-best sensational to be picked above Chadwick Boseman, (one of the night’s true surprises).

The Ceremony

In the last couple of years, pre-COVID the Academy Awards has managed quite nicely without a designated host. I can’t help thinking that last night would have massively benefitted from having a host, someone who could keep a handle on proceedings, and give the audience the impression that at least one person knew what was going on.

The main issues were a lack of cohesion, a feeling that things were being made up on the huff, someone was insuring that all the boxes were ticked but weren’t entirely convinced of the order they should have been ticked in. Alex Zane who gamely presented Sky’s coverage would announce the upcoming award only for that not to happen when returning to the station. It was all a bit messy.

As for the awards themselves, a quite frankly baffling decision was made to rarely show any clips when announcing nominees. In a year when it is well documented that audiences are not as familiar or had opportunity to see some of the nominated films, to help with context you would have thought they would have shown clips. Every Oscar ceremony I can remember had clips of the artists work to admire. Instead we had those awkward moments where a presenter is gushing about the nominees work and the nominee has to look into the camera whilst they are being gushed about. It was similar to when people sing you Happy Birthday, you never know where to look when that is happening.

Maybe to compensate for the lack of clips, all acceptance speeches were allowed to run for their entirety, which was very nice, but……………………in some cases I think I would rather have had the clips. I know it is a moment of a lifetime but you know if you give some people an inch etc. With no clips, montages (I really missed celebratory montages) or musical numbers the ceremony still managed to almost hit the 4 hour mark. I’m not entirely sure how.

The setting was interesting but with no live audience and unless nominated, none of the A-List celebs there it all felt a little bit flat, a bit like the 2017 East Midlands local, small Business awards that I helped organise.

I’m not massively into celeb culture but I do love the glitz and glamour of Oscar night, seeing some of the classic actors making rare public appearances, the opening monologues, the montages that more than often than not truly celebrate an aspect of Cinema. Perhaps for obvious reasons these were not there, but I have to say I did miss them. The random pop songs that seemed to accompany presenters and winners onto and off the stage gave it a kind of BAFTA feel, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I want the Oscars to feel special.

Then we got to the In Memoriam section. Without being over dour I always look forward to this segment as it is a time to quietly reflect on those who have contributed so much to our love of Cinema who have sadly passed. However this time they raced through it as if everyone had somewhere more important to be. Double Academy Award Winner. 104 year old Olivia de Havilland was passed over so quickly it was all rather disrespectful, even more so when you consider the show had just dedicated 10 mins to a cringeworthy music quiz.

As for the quiz, which culminated in Glenn Close twerking, it was rightly or wrongly the only time that this ceremony dared to drop its guard and have a little bit of fun. The problem it wasn’t that fun and just raised the volume slightly of the awkward (bored) laughs that had sprinkled through the auditorium from the start. I did genuinely think at first that the broadcasters had forgotten to go to an ad break and this was being broadcast unbeknownst to the participants.

Bryan Cranston presented the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award from the Dolby Theatre, the current traditional home of the Oscars. I found it quite moving seeing the place and we can but hope that the Ceremony next year is back there.

The final headscratcher was the running order. We had Best Director awarded in the first hour which I didn’t mind, but the Best Picture surely should always be the final award. It’s what the ceremony builds up to and this year it was brought forward to be before the Lead Actor and Actress awards. An odd idea was made worse when the ceremony ended on a damp squib as Anthony Hopkins winning Best Actor wasn’t there or even in London on Zoom and the ceremony that had struggled to keep people engaged took one last gasp before completely dying on its arse.

The Best Picture award surely is the culmination of the evenings celebration, more often than not taking into account all the elements that have gone before it. It was like they had forgotten about the Lead acting categories.

The Winners

I don’t mean to be negative, the Academy Awards is one of my favourite nights of the year, and I’m really pleased that there was any kind of ceremony at all, but a lot of didn’t work for me.

Like I said at the starter I haven’t seen a lot of the films so I can’t really judge whether they would match my personal choices. However I am thrilled for Daniel Kaluuya, who went onto make one of the most out of control Oscar acceptance speeches of modern times. I would have liked to have seen Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey’s was one of the films I have seen), but delighted for Anthony Hopkins. I haven’t seen The Father yet but I feel Hopkins has been overlooked in previous years so delighted he has been recognised.

I haven’t seen Nomadland (hopefully will this week) but it can only be a good thing that Chloe Zhao won Best Director. It still total shite that only 2 women in 93 YEARS have ever won this award. With each ground-breaking moment, think Halle Berry with Monsters Ball, you hope that that will open the floodgates a bit more. Lets hope that, unlike the Leading Actress category has proved since, that Ms Zhao’s door remains wide open for all females to be allowed to compete at the highest level.

Frances McDormand was perhaps a surprise winner, but now joins an incredibly exclusive club of 3 Acting Academy Awards. A lady who probably preferred the low key of this ceremony. She is all about the work and is a roll model that all young people should look up to. What a professional, what an actress. I look forward to watching Nomadland this coming weekend.

Overall, I am delighted and thrilled that they were able to get any kind of show together this year. I did enjoy it, at the end of the day, it was still the Oscars, lets hope that the 94th Academy Awards can throw caution to the wind and make it the spectacle that I’ve always enjoyed.

About me

My name is Dominic Holder and I like to promote the beauty and wonder of Cinema in my writing. I spend a lot of time promoting the power of Cinema as a tool of wellbeing to anyone and everyone. I love all kinds of films but in particular, I am a devoted fan of Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, John Williams, Star Wars, Disney and Marvel. My love of Cinema stems from a trip as a 4-year-old to local cinema in Bolton to watch a Star Wars/Empire Strikes Back double bill, it was the first in a series of life-changing moments, I knew from the moment the Imperial Star Destroyer engulfed the screen at the start of  A New Hope I was hooked. Thankfully nearly 40 years later I still get excited and still find escapism and happiness within this wonderful medium.

You can follow me on Twitter @DomHolder and read some of my reviews on Letterboxd at letterboxd.com/DomH

You can read more of my blogs on Film at www.dominicholder.wordpress.com

The 91st Academy Awards

Image result for 2019 oscar winners

I’m not ashamed to admit that I absolutely love the Academy Awards and have watched every year since, I think 1993 when Schindlers List swept the board. As a Brit, we can be very dismissive of an event that amounts to little more than just an annual backslapping event where, highly decorated individuals award highly decorated individuals by claiming that for one year only, they are the best. However, to have this cynical view is to hugely miss the point. The Academy Awards are meant to be a celebration, yes they are cheesy and yes an inordinate amount of time is spent trying to figure out what people are wearing, but the glitz and the glamour are what makes it what it is. A chance to take stock of where my favourite art form currently is.

Lets get one thing clear, the Academy Awards rarely, in my opinion give awards to the Best Films of the year, or even the films that will last long in the memory, and 2019 was certainly no exception to the rule. Green Book, this years Best Picture winner, was a light, fluffy piece that barely scratched the surface on the subject matter that it was based upon. Compared with the other nominee that tackled race issues in America, Spike Lee’s Blackkklansman, to me there is no comparison, not only in the quality of the filmmaking but also the handling of the subject matter at hand. My thoughts are that out of the two, Green Book was the safer choice for an Academy, who desperate to show they are moving with the times, couldn’t quite be persuaded to award their highest prize of the year to a film that could be considered a political hot potato in the current landscape. Likewise, moving with the times is one thing, but awarding a black and white, non American language, made not for Cinema film Best Picture also proved to be a step too far for the Academy to take on this occasion, as pre-tournament favourite, and Netflix produced, Roma also missed out on the biggest prizes I personally am ok with this, I admired the astounding beauty of the film but I needed a bit more to convince me that I would need to watch it again or root for it as the overall best film. The Director and Cinematography gongs that it took home were hugely justified.

Ok, before I go on, I have a confession to make, I haven’t seen The Favourite yet, and will hopefully catch up with it before the week is out but I have seen the rest of the Best Picture nominations. My vote would have gone to the previously mentioned Blackkklansman and I would have also picked Adam Driver in Best Supporting Actor over Mahershala Ali, who was great in Green Book, but Driver kept me guessing as to which way his character was going right up to the very end of that film and I found it a completely magnetic performance.

So onto the ceremony itself, dogged with controversy before a limousine even pulled up to the red carpet, with a host in Kevin Hart first being hired then fired, a decision to not let all the Best Original Song nominees perform on the night, which was partially rescinded (4 out of the 5 had a warble), the decision to not let last years winners announce this years winners in the acting categories, again rescinded, and the daddy of them all………….a decision to not present all 24 categories on air, with 4 being moved to advert breaks. This last one was beyond ridiculous and was a potential smack in the mouth of the nominees and winners of those categories. The Academy was coming across as quite Orwellian with its “all categories are equal, yet some are more equal than others”. Thankfully, once again common sense prevailed and all were to be given their moment and rightly so. These people may not get to sit on the front row but its because of them that certain people do get to sit in the VIP seats.

So I was a little nervous before the ceremony started with no host, I personally think Jimmy Kimmel had done a solid job in the last 2 years and would have had no qualms with him getting the hat-trick, alas it became the job nobody wanted or seemed fit to do. With memories of Snow White fuelled nightmares of when last time the Academy went hostless being shown relentlessly on YouTube, the biggest gamble the Academy had made in 30 years was about to be unleashed on the audience.

And what an unleashing. If you going to go big, then go in BIG. Queen, with Adam Lambert, roared onto the stage, blasting the ear wax out of a possibly unsuspecting crowd with renditions of stadium rock anthems We Will Rock You and We Are the Champions. The crowd in the auditorium and, I suspect watching at home, embraced this cacophony of rock as the complete antithesis of the comedic monologue, Javier Bardem, in particular, was not holding back headbanging away as if he was in the back seat of the Murph Mobile behind Wayne and Garth. So far so good for the new look Academy Awards.

Once everyone had found their breath and their seats again, we got on with the more traditional act of actually handing out awards. First on stage was the comedy SNL triumvirate of Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph, who briefly raised the hope on the watching audience that the Academy had cunningly bluffed us all and had indeed secretly lined up a host or hosts. Oh and what a treat that would be, anyone who has watched Fey and Poehlers 3 opening monologues (or is a duologue if two are doing it) at the Golden Globes would know they would be outstanding hosts. Here they didn’t disappoint, firing off some zingers including a great gag about Netflix and how it was possible that their microwave would make a movie next year.

As soon as Ali was announced as Best Supporting Actor, they left the stage with him and that was that. However what followed was a host of mainly young, upcoming stars from a diverse range of backgrounds from the quite brilliant Awkafina and John Mulaney, who made my favorite joke of the night when he remarked at his first Oscars. “I want these people to like me to a degree I find embarrassing,”  to the strange choice of Serena Williams who didn’t look that happy to be there.

I did miss a few of the more traditional faces, I always like to see some of the legends being themselves and there wasn’t a lot of that this year. Michael Keaton turned up halfway through to present Best Editing and seemed almost like an imposter surrounded by all these young upstarts. Having said that the irrepressible Barbara Streisand almost stole the show and actually did steal Richard E Grant’s heart as she sassed onto the stage to deliver a speech on behalf of Blackkklansman. Further to this Bette Midler charmed audiences everywhere when she sang “Where the Lost Things Go” from Mary Poppins returns with enough Diva gesturing to ensure that the Old School charm of Oscar was simmering away nicely in the background.

The highlight of the night, however, was to come when Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga sent the audience, literally Gaga with a spellbinding renditon of soon to be crowned Best Original Song winner, Shallows from A Star is Born. Its a big song at the best of times but to perform like that on the Biggest stage surrounded by peers was possibly the one moment that will be talked about for decades to come.

I always look forward to the In Memoriam section of the Oscars, not because I take any great pleasure in those lost, but usually because it is a quiet moment of reflection and is often the emotional heartbeat of the ceremony. This year was no different as the faces of those lost, some I knew, some I didn’t played across the huge screen accompanied this year by the conductor Gustavo Dudamel who guided the Los Angeles Philharmonic, through John Williams “Leaving Home” from Superman. This poignant moment, especially when Margot Kidder appeared really captured the solemnity of this section. As is the case most years, there is always omissions, and whilst I know the Academy can’t include everyone, Gary Kurtz should have been there. I’ll give the Academy the benefit of the doubt with Stanley Donan having only passed in the last couple of days.

Back to the awards, and finally some recognition for Spike Lee’s outstanding contribution to modern American Cinema with his Best Adapted Screenplay for Blackkklansman. Presented by Samuel L Jackson, who’s personal impartiality (rightly) went out of the window when his cheer echoed around the auditorium. Lee went on to make a speech about love, unity and ensuring the correct choice was made in 2020. He even dropped the F-Bomb for good measure which has largely gone unreported. Lee’s involvement in proceedings, however, wasn’t to end with this award.

The leading Actor awards, which were nailed on last year when Frances McDormand and Gary Oldman surprised no one with their wins last year really did provide the shocks this year. The often, unfairly, maligned Rami Malek won for Bohemian Rhapsody ahead of favourite Christian Bale and gave a quite wonderful speech, and Olivia Coleman brought the house down when triumphing over the perennial bridesmaid Glenn Close for her turn in The Favourite. Coleman could not have been more British in her speech, self-deprecating, witty, and the emotions just about kept hold of. She truly was a phenomenal winner on the night (I haven’t seen the film yet) but there was a little bit of heartbreak for Glenn, who I know will win one day.

Alfonso Cuaron took Best Director, as many predicted, which seemed to confirm the bookies number one pick of Roma to be crowned as Best Picture winner. But no, this most unusual of Oscar ceremonies had one more rabbit in the hat. And the Oscar went too……………..GREEN BOOK. Cue wild delirium by the Green Book posse, cue Spike Lee attempting to leave the auditorium before being ushered back into his seat. It is highly likely that the newly introduced preferential voting system, where members rank the films 1-8 as opposed to just picking their favoured film, will have seen Green Book over the line, but if that’s what it took, that’s what it took.

The lack of host only really showed we didn’t have a host at this point, with Julia Roberts having to lean into the microphone, whilst the Green Book party began to warm up, to tell everyone that “erm well that’s it everyone, go home now” or words to that effect.

Once again another year is over. I really enjoyed the show, I always do, I missed some of the magic, I love a good “lump in the throat” montage (see the YouTube clip below for an example from last year) but again I saw the celebration, I don’t think the Best Film of last year won, that was clearly A Quiet Place which wasn’t even nominated, but they rarely do win. All I know we now live in an age where Spike Lee is an Academy Award Winner and Olivia Colman has become the most unassuming Biggest Star on the Planet. Till next year folks.

90th Academy Awards

Good evening all, whilst part 4 of my Spielberg through the ages blog is currently being produced I thought I would just put some of my thoughts together on last nights Oscars’ the Academy’s 90th annual back-slapathon. It is a date in the diary that I always look forward to, the announced nominees, the mad scramble to get at least all the Best Picture nominees watched (I managed all 9 this year), the booking of leave so that I can record and watch the show the following morning without suffering any spoilers, and the hope that the kids School boilers don’t break this year (that happened 2 years ago).

This years Best Picture nominees were a mix of what I would normally consider “my sort of thing”, (Dunkirk, The Post, Three Billboards) and films that would be more a curiosity (Call Me By Your Name, Ladybird etc). Unlike some years I actually found that I could take at least something from each of the 9 so I was looking forward to the ceremony with an open mind without really having a clear allegiance to any one film. I obviously would have liked The Post to have been recognised further but it became clear early in the campaign that it would have to be satisfied with its nominations.

So onto the event itself, it was a night of few shocks as the clear bookie favourites in the acting categories were triumphant, and to be honest it would be very difficult to argue against any of them, although Margot Robbie and Laurie Metcalf in Best Actress and Supporting Actress respectively would surely have won in any other year. Likewise both the magnetic Daniel Kaluuya and the elf like Timothee Chalamet have huge futures ahead of them.

Guillermo Del Toro’s director nod was richly deserved. I would have loved to have seen Nolan recognised and I hope he doesn’t end up getting a sympathy Oscar in 30 years time to make up for past mistakes a la Scorsese and the Departed. Elsewhere Roger Deakins finally rewarded for an astonishing career, winning Best Cinematographer at the twelfth time of asking for his work on Blade Runner 2049 ( a film that I shamefully have yet to see) but if Deakins’ work here matches up to his previous nominations then I have no doubt it will be more than warranted. Special mention also to Best Live Action Short Film “The Silent Child” written and directed by former Hollyoaks (British teen soap) actors Rachel Shenton and Chris Overton showing that there is life after soap opera.

Away from the awards, I’ve always enjoyed the more quirky sides of the ceremony and this year had more than enough to keep me entertained. Jimmy Kimmel’s opening monologue, although politically charged as not as sharp as last years, still had its moments, his gag that Timothee Chalamat was missing Paw Patrol to attend the ceremony was spot on as was his advice to all announced winners to take their time to get to the stage to allow the organisers to “double check”. Kimmel is an excellent host, displaying enough here to suggest he could be host for a number of years yet. It didn’t all hit the mark, his ongoing jet ski gag got boring and his trip across the road to interrupt a public screening of the upcoming Disney film A Wrinkle in Time, where Oscar stars such as Gal Gadot and Mark Hamill delivered treats and hotdogs to the unsuspecting punters went on a bit long but overall he kept the tempo and humour just right.

Obviously the main topic of conversation leading up to the ceremony was the #MeToo movement and the ceremony fully embraced this with a diverse line up of presenters mixing up and coming stars, Margot Robbie, with more established legends of the screens such as the irrepressible Jodie Foster. Of course we all love a presenter that can make us laugh and this year was no exception. Lupita Nyong’o and Kumail Nanjiani made an impression presenting production design but stealing the show was Maya Rudolph and Tiffany Haddish presenting the Documentary awards. It was also fantastic to see Rita Moreno and Eva Marie Saint practically illuminating up the stage. Frances McDormand majestic speech where she asked every female nominee in the room to stand with her in unity was an undoubted highlight and one of those Oscar moments that will be played over and over at future ceremonies, and rightly so.

Ultimately the only non-cut and dried award of the evening appeared to be Best Picture, with 4 or 5 of the nominees in with a genuine chance of being the victor. Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway were back to make up for last years La La Land/Moonlight fiasco. This time they read out only one name and crowned The Shape of Water as the 2018 Best Picture winner.

As this was the 90th ceremony there was a very nostalgic feel to a number of the montages that the organisers had arranged, one in particular that was around thanking the audience for paying and watching movies for the past 90 years was particularly well pitched, I confess to shedding a tear at the brilliance and beauty of the clip as it brought home why I love the immersive world of the cinema and all the magnificent joy and wonder that it brings. There are those who knock the Academy Awards as irrelevant, an unnecessary congratulate between multi-millionaires that in economic hard times is at best out of touch and at worst serious bad taste, but in a World where children need to know that dreams can be realised regardless of background and opportunity. More importantly it is a celebration of something that we all love……the world of Cinema. Here’s to next year.