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It’s Huh? for Hollywood Everything Old is Not New Again

With the Oscars less than three weeks away on Sunday, April 25, the tweaks and changes to the 93rd Academy Awards continue to evolve.

Nominated for Best Actor for his final role, Chadwick Boseman (center) stars with Michael Potts (left) and Colman Domingo in a scene from Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. (Courtesy photo)

Alexandria, VA – With the Oscars less than three weeks away on Sunday, April 25, the tweaks and changes to the 93rd Academy Awards continue to evolve. Started in 1929, Hollywood’s High Holy Night of the film industry awards season has never missed a year. Contenders for the first six years of Oscar covered the previous two years, but beginning in 1934, Oscar eligibility was determined by only the prior calendar year.

Oscar is forever and always adaptive. Differences this year include a change of venue to Union Station in Los Angeles with elements of the show televised live from the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, short interviews with every nominee, and most notably no Zoom award participation.

The producers of this year’s really big show, Jesse Collins (Emmy nominee for Zobomafoo), Stacey Sher (Oscar nominee for Django Unchained and Erin Brokovich), and Stephen Soderbergh (Oscar-winning director for 2000’s Traffic) intend for the ceremony to be uniquely intimate, focusing on the storytelling aspects of filmmaking.

“Stories matter” is the maxim of the narrative. The broadcast will be directed like a movie set: creative, collaborative, captivatingly entertaining. To that end acceptances are mandated not only to be brief but “the notes” (Hollywood set speak for strongly suggested yet still subtle direction) urge Oscar winners to “read the room” and “tell our story” in lieu of acceptances thanking Mom, their senior-year drama teacher, CAA agents, the unsung cast and crew, or the babysitter.

There will be a strict dress code. Dressing-to-the-nines formal is fine. Cowboy casual is not. No Zoom-mod, come-as-you-are jeans below (or even pants-less), which includes any retro nod to 70s streaking sensations such as the fellow who startled Oscar host David Niven as he was about to introduce Best Picture presenter Elizabeth Taylor in 1974.

A non-plussed Niven famously quipped, “That was almost bound to happen. Isn’t it fascinating to think that probably the only laugh that man will ever get in his life is by stripping off and showing his shortcomings.”

Prior to the streaker’s interruption, Niven spoke about the state of affairs in a troubled world. “If one reads the newspapers or listens to the news it’s quite obvious that the world’s having a nervous breakdown.” Vietnam, the oil crisis, Watergate, the Patty Hearst kidnapping, all seem now to pale in comparison to a worldwide pandemic capsizing human life in the first quarter of the 21st century. Life and the awards go on.

AMC Theaters regrettably cancelled the Best Picture Showcase-24 hours of Oscar, their annual prix fixe screening of Best Picture-nominated films. The logistics of showing eight Best Picture-nominated films with limited operating hours and reduced seating capacity proved unfeasible. AMC Hoffman has been open, utilizing the highest health and safety COVID19 protocols.

Cinemark Theaters and the Anjelica Theatre at the Mosaic District are open for business. The Anjelica screens the Oscar telecast on a big screen with trivia contests and giveaways. Tickets will be limited due to seating capacity restrictions. Check the theaters for details.

In an award season dominated by films streamed in at-home scenarios, staying in to watch the ceremonies on ABC has a nostalgic feel. Still, this year’s nominees are anything but David Niven’s Oscars.

Two-time Oscar Best Actress Frances McDormand is nominated again for her starring role in Best Picture favorite Nomadland. (Courtesy photo)

The 2021 selection of nominees proved to be the most diverse in all areas of filmmaking arts and sciences. Nine of the 20 acting nominations are for people of color. Two women are nominated as Best Director for the first time, with their films also Best Picture contenders: Chloé Zhao (Nomadland, the Best Picture front runner) and Emerald Fenell (Promising Young Woman).

Beloved by all, the late Chadwick Boseman is everyone’s favorite as Best Actor for his role in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Veteran four-time Oscar nominee and Best Supporting Actress for 2016’s Fences, the indomitable Viola Davis also earned a Best Actress nod for her role in this Best Picture-nominated film.

In another “year of the woman,” it’s fitting that films by women about women are leading the chase for top prizes. Perhaps the greatest stories ever told about women by a woman came from 19th-century British writer Jane Austen.

The Queen’s Gambit star Anya Taylor-Joy also dazzled in the 2020 Emma. redux, nominated for two Academy awards. (Courtesy photo)

The latest, and greatest, film adaptation of Austen’s classic novel of good-intentions-gone-terribly-awry, Emma. is up for Best Costume (Alexandra Byrne) and Best Makeup and Hairstyling (Laura Allen). If Oscar listened to the Zebra, Emma.’s lush, seductive art direction and lavish 1800s British treasure house set by Kave Quinn would be up for Best Production Design, as well as the diverting screenplay adaption by Eleanor Catton.

The last year has been rife with uncertainty for us all. Change and acclimation have become four-letter words. Everything old does not seem new again, or even new normal, but lost. Lives lost matter. Their stories matter. Moving forward into 2021, as art, especially filmmaking, imitates and honors life, we hope their stories will be told boldly, honestly, with truth and justice for all.

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Kelly MacConomy

Kelly MacConomy is the Arts Editor for The Zebra Press.

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