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Four hundred and 39 days ago, the 92nd Academy Awards took place at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood. It was a huge night – Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite won the award for best film, becoming the first foreign language film to do so in academy history. It was also one of the last awards to come before the pandemic, when people could still come together for an Oscar watch party. (I didn’t see any of the people I watched with until two weeks ago, after we got our first doses of Covid-19 vaccine.) Now after having her date repulsed two months, this year’s Oscars could be the latest in a long string of awkward industry celebrations that attempt to continue when events cannot be contained.
It does appear, however, that the academy is doing its best to work with the complex and unwieldy circumstances of this awards season. On the one hand, the in-person event will be broadcast from Union Station, the transit hub of downtown Los Angeles. Every year since 2002, the Oscars have been held at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, and while this year’s event will also be partially held at the Dolby, the venue will share the stage with the station. Meanwhile, instead of an orchestra playing intro and outro music, Questlove will be the event’s DJ, using original music he recorded with the Roots.
Beyond that, very little is known about what the Oscars will look like. There won’t be a host – there hasn’t been one for a few years now. But who will present, and exactly how these things will turn out is a mystery. There are indications as to why Union Station was chosen as the venue – it has a long history as a movie set and, according to a letter from Oscar producers Steven Soderbergh, Stacey Sher and Jesse Collins to nominees, it’s a place where they can safely host an “intimate, in-person event” that will unfold like “an active movie set, with cadences of specially appointed test to ensure down-to-the-minute results, including an on-site Covid security team. Originally, the producers rejected the idea of allowing attendees to zoom in on the event, but have since backed down, creating a few.hubs»For remote participants. Beyond that, the look and flow of Sunday’s telecast is one to guess.
But you know what? Good. The Zoom award shows were a fine – and ultimately necessary – interim measure earlier in the pandemic. (Who could forget that Zendaya throws her arms in joy in her Zoom window when she won the Emmy for Best Leading Actress in a Drama for Euphoria? Nobody, it’s who.) Lots of shows have recently found viable new formats that are Covid-safe and more fun than wondering why people who are presumably earning huge salaries have unstable internet connections. The Grammys, for example, hosted a lively show in and around the Staples Center in Los Angeles, hosted by The daily show‘s Trevor Noah and has featured performances by Billie Eilish, Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B, Taylor Swift and Harry Styles. (There was also the added benefit of just Beyoncé, like being there and collecting trophies.)
After this last year, we’ll take what we can get. Of all the industries that offer mainstream awards (music, television, film, etc.), Hollywood has been hit the hardest by the pandemic, with most of this year’s nominees being posted on some sort of streaming service rather than getting a national theater deployment. It’s been 439 days. No one’s movie watching experience was the same in 2020 as in previous years; there is no reason to wait for their movie-celebrate neither should we. And yet, the celebration seems to be in order. The movies got a lot of people over the past year – maybe it’s time to help the movies get through this one.
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