The vibe of the 2021 Oscars was intimate & lowkey: was that good or bad?

93rd Oscars, Academy Awards

Since this was the Pandemic Oscars and the actual Oscar ceremony was a bit wacky, I’m not going to do a full-on recap of the Oscars this year. It was unlike any Oscar ceremony in modern times, and I bet it felt like the Academy Awards of yore. I bet the Oscars in the 1950s felt like this – the intimacy, the people not showing up, people just sitting together in booths, drinking and moving around.

Steven Soderberg was the first-time director and producer of the Oscars and you could tell. Soderberg-esque touches included the dizzying way the camera moved around constantly, Regina Hall’s long walk into Union Station, the bad lighting, the retro vibe of maybe an Ocean’s 11 reboot. Some of it was good, some of it was bad. I think it was a mistake to do clips of nominated movies for *some* categories but not others, and I honestly never want to see another awards show where an actor yammers on about five acting performances instead of just showing the damn clips. You could really tell who is dependent on a script, Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern.

On one side, it was nice that there were touches of normalcy, with maskless people gathered intimately. On the other side, despite the declarations of the pandemic almost being over, there are still tens of thousands of people testing positive for Covid every day, and the pandemic is still raging in many countries. I don’t begrudge these people for gathering after lots of testing and temperature checks and all that, but yeesh, more masks and less crowding would have been welcome. I’m not sure I was ready to see all of that.

I also think… um, the Oscars needed a host, or someone other than a disembodied voice plus Questlove-as-house-DJ moving things along. I’m not saying Billy Crystal should have dressed up as Viola Davis in Ma Rainey and done a twenty-minute bit, but just having someone to come on step and move things along so there was a feel of *someone* in charge.

Oh, and there was a choice made to NOT play off winners when they were giving rambling or heartfelt speeches. I appreciated that, even if many of the winners really did need someone gently playing them off.

And please let’s never speak of the bizarre “filler” moment around 10:50 pm when they decided to do a music quiz, only to have Audra Day curse on live TV and Glenn Close do “Da Butt.”

93rd Oscars, Academy Awards

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red.

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30 Responses to “The vibe of the 2021 Oscars was intimate & lowkey: was that good or bad?”

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  1. Alissa says:

    the show was so ugly looking! it was really poorly lit and shot, so it looked really cheap. I would give anything to have a host and bits over each presenter rambling earnestly about each nominee for five minutes. none of the speeches really stood out. I’m not sure why so many people wore dull outfits. I fell asleep towards the middle when Bryan Cranston started droning in the Dolby Theater. 🤷‍♀️

    and finally, deciding to rearrange the show to not end on Best Picture was a terrible gamble – the show awkwardly ending with Chadwick not winning and Joaquin awkwardly ending the show because Anthony Hopkins didn’t show up really summed up the entire mess.

    I think it was one of the worst Oscars I’ve ever watched, tbh. the best thing was that at least it wasn’t Zoom lol.

    • Alissa says:

      I was grateful they didn’t play off anybody though!

    • Boxy Lady says:

      That’s too bad. The Bryan Cranston part was nice. That was when the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award was given to the Motion Picture and Television Fund. They give assistance to people in the industry and their families when they fall on hard times. They house a lot of senior citizens in a kind of retirement home complex. (IIRC they took care of Alexis Arquette before her death too.) Bryan Cranston said it was personal for him because his mother had been an actress and the MPTF had taken care of her and she had a last romance while she was there. Apparently during this pandemic, they’ve taken care of a lot of people, thus the award.

  2. Jillian says:

    I only watched about 10 minutes and I thought Don Cheadle was hosting! He must have just presented a few categories but he was natural and pleasant, maybe have him host next year. It’ll continue to be boring, but at least Don isn’t embarrassing

    • MF1 says:

      Don is always a class act. He would make a great host.

    • Jenn says:

      I literally shouted at my TV “let Cheadle host!!!!!” Better yet, give him a damn Oscar already. I stg there is no justice in this world

  3. Becks1 says:

    I went to bed before the end, but not ending with Best Picture seems like such a bad move. It’s basically saying, we know Chadwick is going to win so we think that will be a nice way to end – except that he didn’t, so then it seems like it was just awkward. They always end with Best Picture, this was not the year to switch it up.

    I kind of liked the vibe, it did sort of have a retro feel to me, like an old school dinner club or something, and I liked that they weren’t playing off the winners. I think there has to be a fine line – its an awards show that is also about the glitz and glamor and is meant to be entertaining, but lets put the focus back on the nominees and the winners (i.e. show us clips!)

    I’d rather have the show run too long because someone is thanking their fourth cousin twice removed than because Ellen is running around taking selfies.

  4. OriginalLala says:

    It just screams peak rich people privilege that this event happened with a bunch of *maskless* people while thousands are still dying every day of COVID and people/countries are still struggling to get vaccinated, or even get access to oxygen. It felt a bit too “elites in the Capitol of Panem” for me with the rich and famous flaunting their priority access to medical care (including vaccines) so their lives can continue unaffected while the rest of the world burns.

  5. Case says:

    I really loved the setting; it was beautiful and so old Hollywood glamorous.

    I didn’t love that they were maskless indoors. I understand they were treating it like a movie set, but I much preferred the Grammy setup – outdoors and masks on unless you win!

  6. Willow says:

    I only saw a few clips of the acceptance speeches. It seemed very dark and enclosed. And it always seems very entitled when you watch a show and they don’t show any precautions at all. It’s such a shame because this is a great opportunity to subtly encourage people to be more careful with everyone’s health.

  7. Sue says:

    As an architecture nerd and former event planner, I was in love with the space. I wish they’d pick cool landmarks to hold the ceremony every year. The Kodak theatre is so bland and vast.

  8. Boxy Lady says:

    For those complaining about the Oscars being maskless, Regina King addressed this at the very beginning of the show. She said everyone who was there had bern subjected to testing, vaccinations, re-testing, social distancing, and wearing masks when not on camera.

  9. Margot says:

    Setting pandemic concerns aside, it was a beautiful space and I loved Questlove’s work on the music, but the speeches all went long. Maybe they should ask people not to list off names and request that they just make a quick statement. Just a thought.

  10. ShazBot says:

    I did like the setting – it’s was intimate and beautiful and seemed like a nice event. That was until I saw they put the “overflow” in a separate theater, in the normal theater seats. They couldn’t have found a bigger space to fit everyone (well ventilated)?

    On the one hand, it was kind of nice just having nominees and presenters there, much more intimate, but on the other, one of the reasons we love awards season is to see everyone out showing off. I’m sure it will go back to “normal” as soon as it’s possible. It would be funny if they kept the smaller setting for nominees and put everyone else who just wanted to watch and preen in the theatre though.

  11. Amelie says:

    I watched the first hour and a bit of the third so I saw the weird moment with the guy walking around “quizzing” guests and the whole Glenn Close thing which I thought was so random and weird I couldn’t help but laugh. I didn’t see any of the movies nominated except for 3/4 of Nomadland. Nomadland is a beautifully shot and well acted movie but it just didn’t hold my attention. I already knew about van life thanks to social media and I didn’t really need to see a whole movie about a person living in a van. It’s just not that interesting of a subject to me, I hate to say it. i ended up googling to see what happens in the movie and well nothing except Frances McDormand continues her van life lifestyle. So I opted not to watch the last 20 minutes.

    So I wasn’t all that interested in this year’s Oscars and probably won’t be going forward. Not having a real awards season has made me realize I don’t need to care and I can focus on other things. Still love celebrity gossip, but I don’t need to watch 3-4 hours of rich people fawning over themselves. In the grand scheme of things, the Oscars are just not relevant to anything and it took me a pandemic to realize that because I used to be all about them.

  12. ooshpick says:

    That Glenn Close skit was horrible. So old white people have to shake their butts to be fresh? Yuck. Glenn Close is so very cool. Don’t make her pander.

  13. Gab says:

    Not sure how this location was more COVID safe than a spaced out Colby Theater. They said they were pretending it was a movie set so they didn’t need masks but like…they just blatantly didn’t have masks. I get that they’re vaccinated. Does this mean vaccinated ppl don’t need masks? That’s not what the CDC is saying, so I really don’t know.

    • A says:

      That’s not what they said about masks though. They said they were pretending it was like a set, so when cameras were rolling, masks were off, but when they weren’t, the masks went back on. I’m assuming what that meant is that whenever it cut to commercial, or if people were back stage/not in camera. How well this was adhered to, I really have no idea.

      • Gab says:

        Right but to me it doesn’t make sense. You can surely still catch Covid while cameras are rolling. Same as you can catch it before 10pm when the restaurants by me were supposed to close due to Covid. I find all the different rules/messages confusing so I just basically wear a mask, even though I had the vaccines, until there is a blanket statement saying no more masks.

  14. Pulplove says:

    I wasn’t really in any kind of Oscar mood this year, so I almost forgot it was on. I taped the show b/c it was nighttime in my country when the show actually happened. Just watched about two hours of it and had to stop, it’s so incredibly boring. At first, I liked the Art Déco style and setting. However, the lightning didn’t feel right and the shots from above the room made it look small and unglamorous. And why of all things didn’t they show more film clips, especially considering that this year many viewers may not have seen many of the films?

    I’ve never been a fan of all the exuberant adulation expressed at awards shows, but this year there was no end and in particular no making light of or irony to all the glowing introductions.

    I mean, maybe the film industry feels after all these horror stories about its Rudins and Whedons it has to get some even more exaggerated promotion out to prove to the world what an appreciative place working in film is after all. If only they would put the same kind of energy into finally getting rid of perpetuating abusive behaviour and actually creating safe work spaces.

  15. Jenn says:

    I liked the setting a lot. I joked to my spouse that it looked like a very nice wedding. No big orchestra playing over people, no inflated self-importance. I liked that they went out of their way to humanize and individualize each nominee — a smaller event to celebrate a year of people acting on smaller screens. Anyway, if they’d tried to do a big fancy affair, it would’ve come off like a stage production of The Masque of Red Death.

    The one thing I could’ve done without was the incredibly unamusing bit between Glenn Close and Lil Rel. And I feel so bad for Joaquin Phoenix: “It’s Anthony Hopkins. Ok, bye you guys.” Oh, well.

  16. 2lazy4username says:

    Horrible , awkward and listless. The space looked like the tired banquet room at an airport Red Lion Hotel & Convention Center. The graphic “art” looked it was done on poster board by a 6th grade art class, and seemed out of place with the traditional flowers. Major mish-mash. I appreciate they tried something different, but in my opinion it would have been better to just list the winners this year, along with an acknowledgement of how truly fortunate those who have continued to prosper during Covid are.

  17. Bella says:

    I enjoyed the speeches very much. They were heartfelt and touching and I loved listening to them. I did not see any of them movies except Promising Young Woman which I loved. I never heard of any of the others until last night.
    I also loved Tyler Perry’s speech. The show was different and I didn’t get bored like I normally do. It was much more low key. As far as fashion goes everyone looked fine, but I didn’t gasp either for a gorgeous dress or even for an ugly dress. The fashion felt meh.

  18. Winnie Cooper’s Mom says:

    This pandemic has me rethinking how I feel about celebrity culture. This small sub-group of society have always patted themselves on the back for being pretty and making a lot of money. But it just seems gross in the middle of a pandemic and, honestly, a little shameful that they think each other hung the moon and use words like “brave” and “fierce” to describe their projects. Meanwhile, people are dying like crazy. Look at India. Healthcare workers and vaccine creators should be the ones on a pedestal, not actors and filmmakers. I like reading about celebrities, but I think I need a break from all the self-aggrandizing for a while.

  19. Amando says:

    I’m surprised they even air the Oscars on TV anymore. Don’t most people just watch the clips the next day? Who has 3-4 hours to sit in front of the TV to see who wins best sound effect? LOL

  20. Greywacke says:

    I’ve never seen an Oscar’s with more Black content and Black presenters riffing with each other, speaking naturally, smiling, having fun, being serious when it matter, and overall being stellar. It was so much fun! So I am sad that this show is considered such a dismal failure. All the White Hollywood elites are going to blame the Blackness for low ratings and say, “Well we tried once, and that failed … so never again.”

  21. The Recluse says:

    I liked the setting. The speeches, especially in the first hour, really meandered – and two of those were the script writers, who you’d think could have come up with effective, concise speeches, but no, they blathered on and on.
    This was the first Oscars during which I just zoned out for huge chunks of time – and I’m the sort of person who likes to keep track of the winners. Usually I have favorites. This is the first year in which I didn’t, although I was disappointed that Bozeman didn’t win as Heath Ledger and Peter Finch did under the same circumstances.
    I love movie clips and montages….It’s a celebration of film for crying out loud, but scarcely any!
    And the In Memoriam montage was a disgrace. Turner Classic Movies do better ones every year and the Oscars should just ask them to make them from now on.

  22. AS says:

    I briefly remembered that it was Oscars night. And then I realized I couldn’t care less about any of the films nominated or who won. So I didn’t bother to turn on the TV.

    Not surprised that viewer figures are low. There are millions like me for whom the award shows are becoming pointless.

  23. PixiePaperdoll says:

    I LOVED IT! The lack of production numbers alone was fantastic. If we don’t have to watch the full movie during the show, why do we have to listen to the nominated songs? I do wish there had been clips intead of facts and not having Best Picture last was weird but… I did like Laura Dern’s dress.