This year’s Academy Awards (2021) were one of the most unique ceremonies we’ve seen in a long time. That might have something to do with the weird year that proceeded it. Still, this time around the Oscars said some interesting things about American society, and that’s what I want to get at today: What did these Oscars say about us? (Read about what other movies reveal about society in At the Movies) Just like the Covid-19 pandemic, the awards were a little, umm, odd. Despite its drift away from conventions, it was still a groundbreaking show for a few reasons. Let’s take a look, sh-shall we?
Less Exclusive, More Chill
Without getting too deep into the technical side of what made this year’s Oscars special, one thing you notice right off the bat is the more relaxed atmosphere. The awards themselves took place in Union Station, LA’s biggest transportation hub. The feel of it was a place where people of all kinds and classes pass through on their daily commutes. Downtown Los Angeles is also a lot more “of the people” than Hollywood traditionally is. This made the overall vibe more laid back and less exclusive than the usual Hollywood ceremonies. We also didn’t really see a Red Carpet or all the fancy fettering of previous shows. This made us (me, at least) feel more at home. After all, between that theater in Hollywood and Union Station, the station’s the only one I’ve ever been to.
Besides the actual venue, the whole mood seemed to be more relaxed. Because of coronavirus, there weren’t tons of people all grouped up into the station hall. With fewer attendees, the mood of the ceremonies felt more friendly. Even for me at home, I felt like I was more a part of the awards than in previous years, and a big reason why was the smaller group in attendance.
Of course, another reason why is that my people were represented! Yep, we had Questlove at DJ and interacting with the crowd. Lil Rel was making jokes all over the place. We even got to see Glenn Close getting wild, shaking her tail feather. The awards seemed a lot more intimate and laid back, which shows part of what people are craving right now. I speak for Americans, but people around the world, I’m sure, are craving less isolation and exclusivity. We want more inclusion, and we want things we can laugh at, something that represents us. With this year’s Oscars, that’s what we got!
Continuing on the thread of inclusion, the awards this year were highly inclusive of minorities. Well, at least as compared to prior years. They had black people nominated, Asian people, dead people, people who aren’t even American, Muslim people, Jewish people, and Christians (I’m sure). There were women nominated in roles that women rarely ever win or get nominated for. Specifically for women, two of them contested for big awards like directing, and (SPOILER) one of them won! Okay, that’s great, but let’s go back to those ethnicities.
The woman I was talking about that won, Chloé Zhao, is a walking glass-ceiling breaker. Not only is she the second woman to ever win best director, but she is also Chinese (by ethnicity) and Chinese! (by nationality) That means not only is she an ethnic minority, but a foreign woman who came across the sea and still won the award. That’s what I’m talking about. Other East Asians had success this year too. Steven Yeun of Korean background was the first East Asian contestant for best actor, and Youn Yuh-jung, a Korean actress from the same movie, won best supporting actress.
She is part of another diverse group this year. Actors in their “silver years” made up a good chunk of nominees and winners. Gotta represent for the 60+, right Anthony Hopkins? He ran up against another Brit, Riz Ahmed, one of the few Muslims and persons of South Asian ancestry to ever contest in the awards.
Diversity had become a big issue in the Oscars since the whole #OscarsSoWhite in 2016. Well, it had been an issue since forever, but it was finally changed after the hashtag was made. The success of foreign films like Parasite and black leading movies Get Out have opened the way for more and more diversity in the Academy Awards in these last few years. These movies’ styles have been loved by filmmakers and moviegoers for years. Finally, they are being recognized in the most prestigious arenas.
Resting in Power
There was a lot to celebrate this year at the Oscars, but one thing still brought us down to earth for reflection. Every year there are tons of filmmakers that pass away and get mentioned in that sad montage in the middle of the awards. This year was another heartbreaking year of filmmakers that had to go, though there were some really big ones that left.
To remember just a few like the legendary Sean Connery and the infamous composer Ennio Morricone, we also had to say our goodbyes to Chadwick Boseman. He is the one that has had the most impact in popular film in the most recent years, and so he’ll probably be the most missed in the public eye for now. Still, so many huge talents in cinema left us this year, but the montage was at least lightened up. Instead of a slow sad song like usual, they played an upbeat song by Stevie Wonder this year. That made the whole section of the ceremony feel more lively like a celebration of great artists. We’ve had enough of crying and death! Now is time to celebrate life, am I right?
The last thing I want to talk about is Nomadland. It’s a pretty peculiar movie on its own. The movie had almost an entirely unprofessional cast, by which I mean they weren’t established actors yet. The documentary real-world style of the movie brought everyone down to the dirt once again. Besides the talented Zhao, McDormand, and their crew, the movie’s message was also special.
Taking place mostly outside under big skies, it fed into a desire many people have to get out and explore the world again. I don’t know about you, but after Covid, I’m not trying to stay cooped up inside the house again. I think the fact that this movie won best picture — and a whole lot of other awards — represented how much people are craving independence, freedom, and the big open sky. It’s a time to break free from lockdown and smell the fresh air, hit that road one more time. With the vaccine heavy underway, many of us are on that road and tasting that dream once again.
That’s all I’ve got to say. What did you guys think of this year’s Oscars? Was it really a unique ceremony, or just like all the others? Let me know what you think. And don’t forget to look around and read more posts here on Cult-Surf. You never know what you’ll discover 😉 Peace!