Oscars 2021: COVID brings new changes to film’s biggest night



Best Actress nominee Frances McDormand and Best Director nominee Chloé Zhao on the set of the film “Nomadland” (Photo courtesy of “Nomadland” Twitter account).

Alexis Cornett, Assistant Editor

Gone are the red carpets and celebrity-filled theaters that mark the countless awards shows each winter. Virtual Zoom rooms replace the usual broadcast and masks are donned by the lucky few who present in-person. Even the famous Vanity Fair Hollywood cover was reduced to green screens and photoshop.

The film industry faced a reckoning when COVID-19 hit the nation. Film and television studios were shut down for months, theaters were closed, and many of 2020’s most anticipated films were pushed back. Audiences turned to streaming services to fill the countless hours of quarantine, with

shows and movies like Tiger King and The Queen’s Gambit quickly grew in popularity.

As the Academy Awards, the annual culmination of the year’s most brilliant films and performances, loom near, will it be able to reconcile and overcome a year of hardships for the film industry or will it too fall to the plight of virtual blunders and controversy?

The Academy Awards’ unofficial counterpart, the Golden Globes, set the stage for the 2021 awards season. Comedians Tina Fey and Amy Poehler hosted the show virtually while remaining 3,000 miles apart, and the limited audience was filled with fully vaccinated essential workers instead of the usual star-studded actors and actresses.

Unfortunately for the Golden Globes, not even Hollywood’s finest could avoid the gaffes or quirks of virtual communication in the COVID-era.

Best Supporting Actor winner Daniel Kaluuya was muted for his acceptance speech and nearly cut off in the process. Best Television Actress in a Musical or Comedy winner Catherine O’Hara’s speech was awkwardly botched by her husband’s failed attempt to play the wrap-up music. Even Best Actor in a Musical/Comedy Winner Jason Sudekis accepted his award in a tie-dye hoodie; these displays created an ensemble that perfectly captured the pandemic vibe.

The Golden Globes were not without controversy either.

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) was reamed for its lack of inclusivity, as none of its members were African American. Despite promises to increase black membership to 13%, in a year where racial equality and the lack thereof has been at the forefront of our nation, the HFPA’s prior actions are especially disappointing.

The Academy Awards have faced its fair share of controversies as well. The #OscarsSoWhite scandal grew out of the 2015 and 2016 Academy Awards only had white nominees.  On Monday, March 15, the Academy of Motion Picture Art and Sciences released the nominees for the 2021 Academy Awards.

This year, the nominations include nine actors of color, making it the most diverse roster of actors in the Academy Awards history. Other historic nominees include Steven Yeun, the first Asian-American nominated for Best Actor, and Riz Ahmed and Yuh-Jung Youn, the first Pakistani and Korean nominated actors respectively.

Beyond acting, Chloé Zhao was the first Asian-American woman nominated for Best Director. And with Emerald Finnel’s nomination for Best Director, this was the first time that multiple women were nominated in the directing category.

Below are my predicted winners in each of the major categories:

Best Picture

The nominees in this category included The Father, Judas and the Black Messiah, Mank, Minari, Nomadland, Promising Young Woman, Sound of Metal, and The Trial of the Chicago 7 as the eight nominees for the 93rd Academy Awards. Nomadland is my lead contender in this category, with its riveting story following Frances McDormand’s Fern as she travels across the American West and interacts with the Nomads she meets. Winner of Best Motion Picture Drama at the Golden Globes and the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, Nomadland has the pre-season track record to garner the votes.


Best Actress

Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom; Andra Day, The United States vs. Billie Holiday; Vanessa Kirby, Pieces of a Woman; Frances McDormand, Nomadland; and Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman were this year’s nominees for Best Actress. McDormand is the leading contender in this category, having already established her acting prowess with her previous Best Actress wins for Fargo and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Other possibilities include Davis, whose nomination in this category makes her the most-nominated Black actress, and Day, who secured the Best Actress in a Motion Picture Drama award at the Golden Globes.


Best Actor

Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal; Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom; Anthony Hopkins, The Father; Gary Oldman, Mank; and Steven Yeun, Minari were the nominees for Best Actor this year.

Best Actor nominee Chadwick Boseman as Levee Greene in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Photo courtesy of Insider.com).

Boseman’s glorious final performance as Levee Greene should all but guarantee him an Oscar. Sadly, Boseman would receive this award posthumously, after passing away in Nov. from colon cancer.


Best Supporting Actor

The nominees for Best Supporting Actor include Sacha Baron Cohen, The Trial of the Chicago 7; Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah; Leslie Odom Jr., One Night in Miami; Paul Raci, Sound of Metal; and LaKeith Stanfield, Judas and the Black Messiah. After winning the Golden Globe and SAG award for Best Supporting Actor, Kaluuya is the frontrunner for this category. With his nomination for Best Actor for Jordan Peele’s Get Out, Kaluuya’s turn as revolutionary socialist Fred Hampton certifies his acting brilliance.


Best Supporting Actress

Maria Bakalova, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm; Glenn Close, Hillbilly Elegy; Olivia Colman, The Father; Amanda Seyfried, Mank; and Yuh-Jung Youn, Minari were the Academy’s picks for Best Supporting Actress. In a tough category this year, I see Colman emerging victorious. Colman won Best Actress for The Favourite in 2019, and her performance in The Father will likely grant Colman her second Oscar. Following Bakalova’s surprise win at the Critics Choice Awards and Youn’s win at the SAG Awards, this category could very well see a surprise victor.


Best Director

Lee Isaac Chung, Minari; Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman; David Fincher, Mank; Chloé Zhao, Nomadland; and Thomas Vinterberg, Another Round made up this year’s historic Best Director nominees.

Previously, only five women had been nominated in this category, and Kathryn Bigelow was the sole female director winner in 2010 for The Hurt Locker. Zhao beautifully blurred the lines between a documentary and narrative storyline in Nomadland, and will likely join Bigelow as the second female Best Director Winner.

After a tumultuous year, the Academy Awards are looking to celebrate the achievements of some of the world’s finest artists. For those interested in watching the ceremony, the Academy Awards will be held on April 25.