This year’s Academy Awards were necessarily different than years past and studded quite liberally with “firsts.” This is the first time the awards were hosted at a train station (and likely the last). It’s also the first time in a long time where the awards show felt manageable, small, and shabbier than years past. Sticking to strict pandemic protocols for safely filming, the awards ceremony was basically like a movie set or a very large cocktail party featuring the nominees, the presenters, and their plus-ones only, making for a much more intimate program that was at times endearing and very weird.
Some notable firsts: Glenn Close didn’t win an Oscar, but acted as if she knew anything about go-go music and “Da Butt.” Young-Jun Youn, who won Best Supporting Actress for Minari, gave the best speech of the evening. Anthony Hopkins won Best Actor over Chadwick Boseman, which was an upset for the producers of the program, who likely rearranged the order of the last awards betting on the fact that he would win, delivering a touching emotional capstone to a ceremony that, by now, feels largely unnecessary. That Boseman, Youn, and others like Oscar award-winner Daniel Kaluuya, Andra Day, and Riz Ahmed were nominated in the same year was a first for diversity at the Academy Awards—galling, as filmmakers of color have been working for years making films worthy of acclaim. Chloe Zhao, director of Nomadland was the first Asian woman and woman of color to be nominated and win for Best Director. Emerald Fennell, resplendent in Gucci, was the first woman to win an Oscar for screenwriting since Diablo Cody took home a statue 13 years ago, in 2008, for Juno.
These firsts are laughable, and a sign of how behind the times the Academy Awards are, but what makes it even more laughable is how chuffed the Academy was at acknowledging itself for doing the bare minimum.