2021 Oscars Recap
Well, the Oscars for 2021 - or most of 2021 - had come and gone the day before yesterday, and there were plenty of surprises this year.
What do you say we start with the infamous decision the Oscars made to sideline the eight technical categories, including Best Sound and all the Shorts categories. This decision by the Oscars became so hated that many filmmakers wrote an open letter calling out the Oscars for expressing so little value or commitment to crafts that require as much teamwork and have as much value in making a motion picture as all its other aspects. But thankfully, as I watched the Oscars, the ceremony managed to squeeze them all in, even if they were generally much shorter than the other categories presented that night. So finally, the Oscars did something right!
But some things even the Oscars never planned.
Let’s talk about the so-called ‘slap heard around the world.’ When Chris Rock was making some crude comments and jokes about Jada-Pinkett Smith—in front of Will Smith, no less—Will Smith walked up to the stage and slapped him in the face. And then, after Chris Rock stood there flabbergasted as to what happened, complete with some back and forth comments between him and Will Smith, they both just went on with the show. Honestly, when I first saw this, I thought it was all staged, like this was just part of the show. However, I never would’ve guessed that this was all real, as in, this really was how Will Smith and Chris Rock would’ve responded in real life.
Later on, when Will Smith claimed his Oscar for Best Actor for his role in King Richard, he broke down in the middle of his speech, saying some things about being bullied and trying to put on a straight face when he otherwise sensed that something was wrong. In the end, he asked the Academy and the moviegoers to ‘invite him back’ because he felt that remorseful for overstepping his boundaries. I found it all quite unexpected. Whether this was for show or not, I guess it shows that some people, actors and comedians alike, need to be careful whose toes they’re stepping on when they want to set a good example.
Before things get too sullen here, let’s shift our attention to the good parts of the show.
First off, it came peppered with modest but still succinct tributes to classic films and franchises. They included one to James Bond on the franchise’s 60th anniversary, one to The Godfather on its 50th anniversary—complete with Francis Ford Coppola, Al Pacino, and Robert de Niro sharing a word about its legacy—and a slightly humorous homage to Pulp Fiction. That one had Samuel L. Jackson, John Travolta, and Uma Thurman all reuniting to announce the winner of the Oscar for Best Actor through the movie’s briefcase. That happened to contain the ballot!
As for the movies’ victories themselves, there is plenty to discuss here.
I want to start by saying congratulations to the team behind CODA! I saw the film before the Oscars, and I felt it was a very robust and equally tender movie highlighting the challenges deaf families faced, especially those that CODAs faced, or Children of Deaf Adults. And the awards the movie walked home with amounted to historical significance. Troy Kotsur winning his Oscar for Best Supporting Actor made him the first deaf actor to win that Oscar. And CODA, a film that first debuted on Apple TV+, a streaming network, became the first streaming film to win an Oscar for Best Picture this year. The limits keep getting pushed within filmmaking, and it’s always so astounding to see.
I should also give a big round of applause to the crew behind Dune. This movie was undeniably a visual spectacle, not to mention that it benefitted from all the unique sci-fi elements and even political negotiations to lend weight to this picture. Best of all, this was adapted from a sci-fi book that, for almost sixty years, became heralded as one of the most epic books ever written, alongside such tales as Lord of the Rings. And the only time it was ever adapted into film was by David Lynch when he threw in his vision of the story. I haven’t seen it, but from what I heard, that visual retelling wasn’t quite the tidiest portrayal there is. But Denis Villeneuve threw in his vision, kept it in just the first half of its story, and dazzled audiences everywhere with where it started and plans to go soon. Heck, Part Two of Dune is now the way with the same cast and crew! So, congratulations, Dune, on your six Oscar victories in the technical field! I feel like they were all well-earned.
And though my responses here may vary, I’m looking over the Oscar wins based on the films I’ve seen.
I felt surprised yet equally contended to see Encanto win the Oscar for Best Animated Feature. This, along with Raya and the Last Dragon and Luca, were all great films that Disney made in 2021 alone. But after seeing Encanto make a colorful splash compared to how Raya and Luca did earlier, I suspected it would have reigned supreme at the Oscars. And, if the movie getting a nomination for Best Animated Film, plus Best Original Score and Best Original Song for Dos Oruguitas, doesn’t demonstrate that, nothing would’ve.
I must say, I was pretty shocked that the costume design team that came to claim the Oscar for their department happened to be that of Disney’s Cruella. Having been familiar with 101 Dalmatians for a long time, this was an unusual type of live-action remake that Disney pulled off this year. I thought it felt like a little like a Disneyfied version of Harley Quinn or Disney’s response to Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker. But the costumes, even if that was Cruella’s and the movie’s main focus, still shone on as brightly as ever. So, good for them!
And the songwriters who composed No Time to Die? I also suspected that it would’ve won for Best Original Song since the last two films starring James Bond walked home with that Oscar every time. But this time around, I felt some genuine satisfaction for its victory. Maybe it had more to do with this movie being the ultimate finale of Daniel Craig’s James Bond, but the Oscar win was still very much deserved.
And last but not least, congratulations to Ariana DeBose for her win as Best Supporting Actress of the year for the new West Side Story. Having seen the original ’61 film, this version of the classic musical kept the best components of the original film but added a little more emotion and muscle into the mix. And Ariana DuBose as Anita felt like one of the strongholds the film benefitted with. Plus, the news said she became the first openly queer woman to win an Oscar. So, I’m happy that she got credit where credit was due.
Most Oscar shows I know of came rife with their weird twists and turns either on the stage or in the ballots. And this one was no exception. Congratulations to all the cast and crew who reigned supreme for their work in another excellent year of filmmaking, and let’s see what you can all do this year. As they would say, see you at the movies!