In a year unlike any other, the 2020 Academy Awards were unlike any other. Let’s break down all the categories and the ceremony itself.
Adhering to “strict” COVID protocols made for a clunky presentation. Many presenters went off script and threw any rhythm of presentation off. This Oscars felt much more intimate, limiting the people in the room to presenters and nominees. It was not what I was hoping for. I want movie stars in my face. I want to see Chris Evans helping people up the stairs and I want to see Jack Black hamming it up. But, you can only do so much.
The presentation of each category was all over the place. The screenplay categories focused on the writers themselves and had no clear flow to it. Adversely, as soon as they brought up the International Film nominees, they showed clips that actually featured the films, as opposed to brief snippets. The acting nominees also did not get any clips, but allowed the presenters a chance to espouse their own feelings. Three of the four acting presenters did this, with Joaquin Phoenix eschewing the practice and just announcing the nominees.
The usual montages were gone and replaced by…nothing in particular. To their credit, the producers did let the nominees speak without time constraints, but it still felt uncomfortable when two winners were in different locations and only one spoke. This all felt like an impossible feat to pull off, but it still never felt organic.
Alright, let’s talk about the biggest gaffe of the night. When Rita Morena walked on stage to present Best Picture, I had to make sure I didn’t miss a part of the ceremony. Not presenting Best Picture last hasn’t happened in 50 years, and that was extraordinary circumstances. If Chadwick Boseman ended up winning Best Actor, maybe the producers would be celebrating a win this morning, but chaos reigned and an absent Anthony Hopkins won. Not only did it seemingly embarrass Boseman’s widow (who was in attendance), but it took away the spotlight from Nomadland, which would have ended up winning three of the final four awards in a normal Oscar presentation order. It was a historic gaffe that proves ceremonies like the Oscars work better when things go mostly like you expect.
There were a few awards that came into the night as slam dunks and those winners were unsurprising. Chloe Zhao becomes the second female Best Director winner, while Daniel Kaluuya and Yuh-Jung Youn both cruised to Supporting trophies. Youn had the sweetest speech of the night to top it off.
Other assumed winners that followed through include two Soul victories in Best Animated Feature and Best Original Score. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom triumphed in Best Makeup and Hairstyling and Best Costume Design, while Sound of Metal won a well-earned Best Sound Oscar.
Emerald Fennell won the first award of the night for her Original Screenplay for Promising Young Woman, while Florian Zeller and Christopher Hampton had a slight surprise win for Adapted Screenplay for The Father. Sound of Metal won a complementary Best Editing award to go with Best Sound, in maybe the most competitive craft category.
In the shorts, Two Distant Strangers and If Anything Happens I Love You ended up with expected statues, while Colette was the surprise winner for Documentary Short. In documentary feature, My Octopus Teacher won the expected Oscar after racking up a series of precursor wins.
Precursor juggernaut Mank walked away with Best Production Design and Best Cinematography, in slightly expected wins. Tenet won their only Oscar for Best Visual Effects, following the film’s loss in Production Design.
In the most competitive category, “Fight for You” from Judas and the Black Messiah won Best Original Song. I had seen predictions for four of the five nominees to potentially win, but H.E.R., D’Mile and Tiara Thomas came out on top.
The last two awards ended up being the big shocks. In Best Actress, the race felt like a showdown between Viola Davis and Carey Mulligan, but my guess would be those two performances split the majority of the vote, allowing Frances McDormand to win her third Best Actress trophy. McDormand and husband Joel Coen now have eight Oscars between them.
Best Actor is less surprising in hindsight. Just like everyone assumed Glenn Close would win in 2018, everyone assumed Boseman would walk away with the Oscar. That assumption of victory, let voters vote for who they wanted as opposed to who they expected, leading to the victory for Anthony Hopkins. Though Hopkins’ absence was notable and the ceremony gaffe was not the brightest Academy moment, Hopkins’ performance is unimpeachable and will go down as a spectacular win.
My Predictions: 15/23
Missed Actor/Actress/Adapted Screenplay/Cinematography/Production Design/Editing/Original Song/Documentary Short
This was one of the longest awards seasons ever, and I am glad it is over. Time to focus on 2021. We’ll see you all next year.