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2021 Oscar winners both disappoint and deliver

(Courtesy of the Oscars.org)

The Academy Awards have had a reputation for disappointing audiences in recent years. From nomination snubs to unexpected recipients, there have been upsets of all kinds. Last year, “Parasite” became the first foreign film to win the best picture category. It felt like a breath of fresh air, like they were going in the right direction. It wasn’t even about the fact that it was a Korean film, but rather that it truly was the best movie of that year, and no amount of subtitles was able to stop it once the ceremony began.

This year was a lot more disappointing in general. A global pandemic doesn’t bode well for cinema, and there’s no reason to blame anybody — it just is what it is. At the end of the day there were some very good films that came out of 2020, with everything considered. Some of my particular favorites were “Sound of Metal,” “Minari,” “Another Round” and “The Father.” Out of the nominated ones, I loved “Bad Education,” “Palm Springs” and “David Byrne’s American Utopia.”

The Awards

Probably the biggest upset of the night was Anthony Hopkins winning best leading actor for his role in “The Father” instead of the late Chadwick Boseman for his portrayal of Levee Green in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.”

“Hopkins was exceptional in his role. The 83-year-old shocked viewers as an old man suffering from dementia while desperately refusing help; it’s honestly heartbreaking.”

Hopkins was exceptional in his role. The 83-year-old shocked viewers as an old man suffering from dementia while desperately refusing help; it’s honestly heartbreaking. For a man of his age, Hopkins gave it his everything and truly delivered.

However, Boseman’s was not only a magnificent performance, but it also adds to the fact that we lost Boseman last year, making it one of his last. Now, I don’t necessarily believe that they should’ve given him the award just because of that, but it would have been a great opportunity to honor a fantastic actor as well as a top-notch performance. Considering the fact that they decided to announce the best picture winner before the best actor categories was weirdly teasing that Boseman would win, which didn’t happen. It just felt wrong considering the Academy never breaks its protocols.

It’s not much of a surprise that “Nomadland” took home the best picture. While not my absolute favorite film of 2020, “Nomadland” is an achievement for sure. After reading social media, I realized that for many people the win didn’t sit well. I think given the terrible year we all had, a quiet, subtle film about a woman traveling the United States as a nomad was a much-needed, deep breath from the chaos we went through. Besides, Chloe Zhao deserves to savor this win. She is one of the best directors working today, and she has crafted a beautiful, touching portrait of a woman who lost everything. Out of all the other films nominated for the award, I feel good that it went to “Nomadland,” although seeing “Minari” getting the award would’ve also been a treat.

“Chloe Zhao winning best director and consequently becoming the second woman to win the award, as well as the first ever woman of color to win, just warms my heart.”

Chloe Zhao winning best director and consequently becoming the second woman to win the award, as well as the first ever woman of color to win, just warms my heart. Like when Bong-Joon Ho won last year, it makes me incredibly happy to see that the Academy and its voters are more diverse. People can complain all they want, but at the end of the day, Zhao deserved it. She was the best director of 2020 and there is no room for hate anymore.

Frances McDormand winning her third Academy Award for best leading actress was also debatable. Again, it seems like the Academy really loved “Nomadland,” but in my humble opinion there were other performances that stood out. Again, Viola Davis as “the mother of the blues,” Ma Rainey, was a perfect performance. I was fully expecting her to win, but I guess McDormand just has a knack for wowing Oscar voters.

Also, there was Vanessa Kirby in “Pieces of a Woman” where she played Martha, a woman whose baby dies during childbirth. Her portrayal is phenomenal, sad, and overall very powerful. I would’ve picked Davis, but Kirby would have been a close second.

I’m perfectly content with both supporting actor categories. I specifically cheered as Daniel Kaluuya took home the award for best supporting actor, which I’m sure will be the first of many. Kaluuya was captivating as Fred Hampton, the Black Panther Party leader during the 1960s. The only other performance I would’ve accepted was Paul Raci in “Sound of Metal.” As far as best supporting actress, Minari’s Yuh-Jung Youn winning was such a sweet surprise. Olivia Colman is a personal favorite, but then again, I will forever love Olivia Colman in everything she is in.

The “Promising Young Woman” win for best original screenplay was also debatable. With “Minari” and “Sound of Metal,” I guess the Academy went with the extravagant and wilder choice. I have no major issues with that, but it did feel a little weird. “The Father” was a suitable choice for best adapted screenplay. Florian Zeller brilliantly adapted his own stage play in such an original and affecting way. The way dementia is portrayed should not only be attributed to Hopkins’ performance, but also to the screenplay, which subtly intertwines reality with the main character’s deteriorating mind.

“Mank” taking both best cinematography and best production design was just what I wanted. I did like David Fincher’s latest, even if it ended up disappointing a bit. The thing I really loved about it was its production design, which featured a gorgeous old Hollywood accompanied by the beautiful yet stark black and white choice. The score was also perfect, but giving that one to Pixar’s “Soul” was fitting given that both films were created by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.

“Sound of Metal” got to take home two awards: best sound and best editing. Of course, the sound design is more than deserving of this award. It’s a film about a man losing his hearing, and sound plays such an important role in the film. The film editing does feel a bit odd. Considering the other options, I probably would’ve gone with “The Father.”

It was a different year, and it resulted in a weird Oscars ceremony. In the end, nothing too outrageous happened aside from Boseman’s upset. I feel like the Oscars are getting much more diverse, which is always a good thing.

The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this article belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to New Mexico State University, the NMSU Department of Journalism and Media Studies, Kokopelli, or any other organization, committee, group or individual. 

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