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Congratulations team, we’ve finally made it to the end of award season. This year’s path to the Academy Awards has been especially arduous, with COVID-related scheduling changes tacking on an extra two months to the entertainment industry’s self-congratulatory tour. So now we just have one more Sunday night slog to get through, but if you’ve watched any of this season’s big shows, you’ll know that COVID has affected way more than where these shows fall on the calendar.
Every pandemic-era award show has tried something a little different, but February’s Golden Globes were definitely whatever the opposite of the gold standard would be. The participation trophy standard? We can workshop that, but the Golden Globes were excruciating. With a bloated runtime, speeches delivered exclusively via Zoom, and half-baked presenter bits IRL, the entire affair was just bleak. A few weeks later, the Grammys took their stab at a COVID-compliant event, and it actually kind of worked! The multi-stage performance setup and outdoor award presentation area felt as normal as one could hope for, and while the Grammys are always too long, at least they didn’t feel like a work meeting you could’ve skipped.
So with all that in mind, what will the Academy do? Last month, shortly after the Oscar nominations were announced, the show’s producers sent an email to nominees laying out some guidelines for the ceremony. Notably, the email discouraged “casual dress”—no Jason Sudeikis hoodies, please—but the most jarring bit of info was that there would be no virtual option for those unable to attend in person. The producers wrote, “For those of you unable to attend because of scheduling or continued uneasiness about traveling, we want you to know there will not be an option to Zoom in for the show.” They added that they’re focused on providing an “ENJOYABLE” experience in person, and that the “virtual thing will diminish those efforts.”
Ah yes, the “virtual thing.” Now that I think about it, I guess Zoom happy hours aren’t quite as fun as the real thing—I’m glad someone finally said it! Unsurprisingly, though, people had questions about this decision. With many nominees currently working in Europe and elsewhere, and many international travel restrictions and quarantine protocols still in place, coming to the Oscars this year isn’t just a matter of hopping on a plane. For anyone not currently in LA, the choice was either to skip the Oscar experience altogether, or face a huge logistical and financial headache to figure out a plan. With the backlash mounting, the Academy committee quickly backtracked, announcing that they would host satellite events for nominees in both London and Paris. Last week, producer Steven Soderbergh also confirmed that they will use “satellite hookups” for nominees who cannot attend any of these official events, though this is clearly not the preferred situation.
Great, so we’ve finally arrived at a solution where no one is being asked to risk their life so they can fly to LA to maybe win an award. Love that. But what does all this organizational chaos mean for us, the viewers? Let’s run down what to expect from this weekend’s big show.
First of all, yes, the Oscars are three hours long. But that’s not all! This year, they’re also doing a 90-minute Oscars: Into The Spotlight pre-show. Pour yourself a drink and have lots of SkinnyPop on hand, because it’s going to be a long night. It’s unclear exactly what the pre-show will be like, but we do know that this year the musical performances will be in the pre-show instead of the actual ceremony. So basically, they cut the most entertaining part from the actual Oscars and still kept the excruciating length. We’re off to a good start!
Like the last two years, the show doesn’t have a host, which is probably for the best. No one is actually that good at hosting award shows, and by the third costume change of the night, we’re always over it anyway. But there will still be lots of stars in attendance (or at least satellite attendance; it’s hard to predict). The roster of presenters is super A-list (Reese Witherspoon, Zendaya, Regina King, etc.), and this year’s nominated films are actually incredibly diverse and exciting, so there’s a lot of potential here. For the first time, the show will include pre-taped interview segments with nominees from all the categories, which basically means they’re going to make us cry. Honestly, I’m here for it.
So will this year’s Oscars actually be good? I’m not exactly getting my hopes up, but it has to be better than the “could’ve been an email” energy of the Golden Globes. Either way, we can be grateful that after this weekend we can finally go back to our favorite Sunday evening activity: focusing on our paralyzing sense of dread about the new week starting.
Images: Alex Millauer / Shutterstock.com