Oscars this year saw many firsts, and also a fair amount of continuity and predictability
After last year’s Oscar sweep by Parasite, there were those who peddled the myth that lightning will not strike the same place twice. It kind of did in the 93rd Academy Awards, when the Best Supporting Actress award went to South Korean Youn Yuh-jung, for her role as granny Soon-ja in the heart-warming Minari, beating off competition from Glenn Close’s mad-haired Mamaw in Hillbilly Elegy. Anthony Hopkins winning his second Best Actor Oscar (he first won for The Silence of the Lambs) for The Father was disappointing, even if deserving. The sentimental favourite was the late Chadwick Boseman, who turned in an incendiary performance as the mercurial trumpeter, Levee Green, in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. As expected, Nomadland won big with Best Picture, Best Director for Chloé Zhao and Best Actress (Frances McDormand). It is a historic win for Zhao as she is only the second woman to win the award and the first woman of colour to do so. While elegiac in its beauty, Nomadland should have looked at privilege. Only a white person can feel safe enough to drop off the grid. Wandering white people, even if they are hulking ex-military policemen, are enlightened and definitely not lost, while a homeless black person will always be looked at with suspicion.
In this year of pandemics and lockdowns, the old rules of movies playing for a certain amount of time in theatres to be considered for the awards was relaxed. Movies directly released on streaming platforms made the cut. David Fincher’s Mank got 10 nominations and won two — for cinematography and production design. Other favourites such as Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Sound of Metal, Pieces of a Woman, Hillbilly Elegy, One Night in Miami and The Trial of the Chicago 7 were also streamed. One gem of a film was Two Distant Strangers, which won for Best Live Action Short. The film effectively marries two burning issues — violence against black Americans by white policemen and being caught in a time loop. Black graphic designer, Carter James, just wants to get back to his dog and he is shot every time by a white policeman, Merk. The film brings alive memories of police brutality at home as well. Every time Carter wakes up after being shot, to live the day again, it is a reminder of the year of blursdays that passed by. One should, however, be thankful for blursdays — if one cannot distinguish one day from the next, it means nothing hideous happened to make the day stand out. That, in these days of shock and dread is definitely something to be grateful for.