Monday, June 21, 2021

Oscars 2021: the Red Carpet is Underway


It’s kind of weird to see everyone with no masks on again — like when you see someone who has shaved off an eyebrow, and you know something is missing, but it takes a few seconds to figure out what it is.

Reminded of this when Glenn Close showed up with a pair of satin gloves on that matched her gown, and my first thought was: smart PPE.

This year’s Oscars may not be the first awards show held during the pandemic, but it’s the closest-to-normal ceremony we’ve seen since the last Academy Awards, held in February 2020 — meaning it’s being held mostly in person, not on Zoom.

We’ll be here watching the socially distanced red carpet, as nominees and their plus-ones return to the time-honored tradition of wearing fancy gowns (or tuxedos) and answering interviewers’ questions with varying degrees of awkwardness. All attendees have been instructed that casual wear is not an option. Masks, on the other hand, are not required for on-camera appearances.

This is why Emerald Fennell is nominated for an original-screenplay Oscar: When asked by Giuliana Rancic to describe her gown, she replied, “It’s ‘pottery teacher with a new business proposition.’”

The red carpet is open for business, and so far it’s the men who are raising the bar. You’ve got Colman Domingo in tone-on-tone hot pink, Leslie Odom Jr. in all gold (really channeling that statuette there), and Paul Raci in … all black. Including the nails.

Will Ferrell, left, and Rachel McAdams in “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga.” The Swedish pop singer Molly Sanden will perform the film’s nominated song, “Husavik (My Hometown).”
Credit…John Wilson/Netflix

Recent Oscars ceremonies have featured performances of the best song nominees. But not this year.

The producers of this year’s telecast, including Steven Soderbergh, decided to change things up. It will be the first time the performances will be taped and broadcast during the Oscars preshow. Part of the reason is logistical, Soderbergh has said. Because of Covid-19 restrictions, many Oscar nominees who live outside the United States can’t travel to Los Angeles, the site of the ceremony.

The performances were shot at the soon-to-open Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, with the exception of “Husavik (My Hometown),” which was taped in Husavik, Iceland, according to the academy. The song, from “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga,” will be performed by the Swedish pop singer Molly Sanden, whose voice was dubbed into Rachel McAdams’s performance in the film.

The nominees for best song are:

  • “Fight for You” from “Judas and the Black Messiah”

  • “Hear My Voice” from “The Trial of the Chicago 7”

  • “Husavik (My Hometown)” from “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga”

  • “Io sí (Seen)” from “The Life Ahead”

  • “Speak Now” from “One Night in Miami”

There are several other notable names behind the songs. Leslie Odom Jr., who co-wrote “Speak Now,” is also nominated for best supporting actor for “One Night in Miami.” Diane Warren, who co-wrote “Io sí (Seen)” with Laura Pausini, has been nominated for best song 11 times before but has never won. The R&B singer H.E.R., who won a Grammy earlier this year, co-wrote “Fight for You.” And the British soul singer Celeste co-wrote “Hear My Voice.”

The best song category was introduced in 1934. This is not the first time performances of the songs have been omitted from the show; they were left out of the 1989, 2010 and 2012 ceremonies. But they have been a staple of recent ceremonies, adding star power and breaking up the periods between awards. While we won’t have moments like Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga serenading one another or giant Legos onstage this time around, we’ll have the memories.

You can listen to the nominated songs below.

When you watch tonight’s Oscars, there’s a chance they will look a little different than you expect.

If something feels a little off or tad bit unusual, rest assured, there are technical reasons. The producers of this year’s Oscars have said the ceremony will be broadcast in a wide-screen format at a frame rate of 24 frames per second.

As a point of reference, most television viewers are used to watching their favorite shows at a higher frame rate of either 30 frames per second or, these days, 60 frames per second. The difference can be hard to discern during many shows, but higher frame rates can help smooth out action sequences and live sports.

So what do these changes mean in practice for the Oscars?

“We are just trying to create an experience that has the aesthetics of a film, as opposed to a TV show,” one of the show’s producers, Steven Soderbergh said at a news conference over the weekend. “It means compositionally setting up shots that look more like movie shots than television shots, where people aren’t just nailed to the center of the screen all the time.”

“It’s going to sound different in terms of how Questlove is approaching the scoring of the show,” Soderbergh added. “So we just want the whole thing right out of the gate to announce itself as being different. And if you like movies, you will feel like you are watching a movie.”

That’s about as much specificity as we’ve gotten from officials so far. We’ll update this post after the show begins, and we’ve all gotten a chance to register what exactly is different.

Gleaming: the polished interior of Union Station, where part of the Oscars will take place this year.
Credit…Chris Pizzello/Invision, via Associated Press

Dr. Erin Bromage, a professor of immunology and infectious diseases at UMass Dartmouth, is the lead Covid compliance consultant for the Oscars, which means he is responsible for health and safety protocols at the awards show. He has overseen on-set compliance for more than 35 film productions since last June. But live events are different.

“With TV and film, you’ve got time to get it right,” he said. “With the Academy Awards, it’s live. There’s no learning on the go, and there is no second time around.”

Safety at the show has been a team effort. Steven Soderbergh and Stacey Sher, who are producers of this year’s Academy Awards and helped create the movie “Contagion,” consulted many of the same epidemiologists who weighed in on the 2011 film to help safeguard the awards ceremony.

Mr. Soderbergh has said that the awards will celebrate the way the entertainment industry has paved the way for others to open up again — though in March he called the logistics “mind-numbing” and described the show’s plans as “etched in Jell-O.”

“This is the biggest global production that’s out there,” Dr. Bromage said, noting that attendees will be traveling from all over the world. (Quarantine will be shorter for those who traveled in a “low-risk manner,” such as in first or business class, and for those who are vaccinated.)

Guests and presenters have been sent at-home testing kits, and most people received day-of PCRs for a test total of around 15,000. The Academy has said that masks are not required for people on camera.

This is not going to be a Zoom awards show, or a part-Zoom awards show, or a dressing-up-from-home show: It’s going to be a full-on red carpet moment. In a letter sent to all Academy Award nominees in mid-March, the show’s producers, Steven Soderbergh, Stacey Sher and Jesse Collins, laid it out:

“You’re wondering about the Dress Code (as well you should),” they wrote — after specifying that nominees were going to have to show up in person, or risk the Academy accepting on their behalf — “We’re aiming for a fusion of Inspirational and Aspirational, which in actual words means formal is totally cool if you want to go there, but casual is really not.”

In other words, forget the Jason Sudeikis hoodie at the Golden Globes, or even the formal pajama look Jodie Foster modeled at the same event, and start thinking bedazzlement. Word on the street is that big fashion brands are pulling out all the stops and the style/star industrial complex (with all the financial calculation that implies) is back in full swing. What that means for independent designers and designers of color remains to be seen.

One thing that will definitely not be seen, though: designer masks. Because the event is being treated like a full-on show, attendees will bare their faces while on camera. Get ready for a lipstick renaissance.

Chadwick Boseman, left, and Viola Davis are both nominees for their performances in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” This year could be the first time that people of color sweep the acting categories.
Credit…David Lee/Netflix, via Associated Press

Preventing the TV ratings from plunging to an alarming low, while celebrating movies that, for the most part, have not connected widely with audiences. Attempting to jump-start theatergoing when most of the world is more than a year out of the habit. Integrating live camera feeds from more than 20 locations to comply with coronavirus safety restrictions.

This is going to be one hard-working Academy Awards ceremony.

The surreal 93rd edition — a stage show broadcast on television about films mostly distributed on the internet — will finally arrive Sunday night. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences delayed the event, which typically takes place in February, in hopes of outrunning the pandemic. Still, the red carpet had to be radically downsized and the extravagant parties canceled.

The night could go down in Hollywood history for happier reasons, however. The famed “and the Oscar goes to” envelopes could contain these names: Chadwick Boseman, Viola Davis, Daniel Kaluuya and Yuh-Jung Youn. If that happens, as some awards handicappers have predicted, it would be the first time that people of color swept the acting Oscars — an indication that the film industry has kept its promise in response to the #OscarsSoWhite movement and implemented meaningful reforms.

Though Kaluuya is considered a lock for supporting actor for his performance in “Judas and the Black Messiah,” voters, of course, could always veer in different directions on the three other categories. Is this the year that Glenn Close, a supporting actress nominee for “Hillbilly Elegy,” finally gets to take home a little gold dude? Or will she tie Peter O’Toole’s sad record for eight winless nominations? Carey Mulligan (“Promising Young Woman”) or Frances McDormand (“Nomadland”) could edge past Davis (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”) to win best actress. And a posthumous best actor win for Boseman (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”) has lately been less of a sure thing thanks to a surge of academy support for Anthony Hopkins (“The Father”).

In other words, it could be another Lucy-pulling-away-the-football moment for those who hope the film academy is on the verge of revealing itself as a definitively progressive organization.

An Oscar statue from the 2020 festivities. This year is expected to look a lot different.
Credit…Valerie Macon/ AFP via, Getty Images

This year’s Oscars are nearly two months late — and you might not have seen any of the films in a theater. But the academy is hoping that by ruling out Zoom acceptance speeches, this in-person ceremony will make for compelling TV.

If you plan to tune in, here are the basics: On television, ABC is the official broadcaster. Online, if you have a cable login, you can watch via abc.com/watch-live/abc, or if you’re an ABC subscriber, via the ABC app. Depending on where you live, there’s also Hulu + Live TV, Sling TV, AT&T TV Now, YouTube TV or FuboTV, which all require subscriptions, though many are offering free trials.

The official Academy Awards preshow, “Oscars: Into the Spotlight,” begins airing on ABC at 6:30 p.m. Eastern, 3:30 p.m. Pacific. That’s when you can watch prerecorded performances of each of the five nominees for best original song.

The actual ceremony begins at 8 p.m. Eastern, 5 p.m. Pacific. It will be split between the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, the Oscars’ usual home, and Union Station in downtown Los Angeles. Some overseas nominees will call in from hubs around the world, including in London and Paris.

We know there won’t be an official host, but after that all bets are off.



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