Oscars 2021 Exit Survey: How Will We Remember This Very Strange Ceremony?

by The MovieBabble Staff
Oscars 2021 Exit Survey

A jiggered presentation order, notable upsets, and Glenn Close dancing to “Da Butt” were only a few of the oddities that took place during the 93rd Academy Awards ceremony. Soderbergh went full Soderbergh, changing the show’s formula whenever he had the chance. But was it a net positive, negative, or somewhere in between?

Members of the MovieBabble staff break down some of the more noteworthy parts of the ceremony in our Oscars 2021 Exit Survey.

Describe your overall enjoyment of the telecast with an appropriate GIF.

James Lee: I think this tweet-GIF from Brian Tallerico sums it up best:

K at the Movies: 

Jack Edgar:

Brennan Dubé:

Richard Keaney:

Nick Kush:

What did you think of Soderbergh & co.’s changes to the ceremony?

James Lee: The show definitely felt a lot more informal this year, although that’s probably because the whole thing wasn’t set in an enormous venue like the Dolby Theatre — it almost looked like the Golden Globes, what with its dinner table set-up and significantly smaller stage. It’s also probably worth mentioning the fact that almost all of the nominees from non-U.S. countries were mostly just shown from screens, standing around in front of cityscapes like news reporters or sitting in seemingly random seats in theater venues, which was all… interesting to watch, to say the least.

K at the Movies: I mean he got the same reaction that Unsane got out of me. Despite a few surprises, I felt like I had a solid grasp on this thing, but then the last twenty minutes happened and it somehow managed to be both baffling and underwhelming. So at least he’s consistent.

Jack Edgar: A bit like this horse. Regina’s strut to kickstart the show was the most riveted I’ve been by an awards show bit in years — it was fresh, exhilarating, and signaled something new. Everything that followed (aesthetics aside) felt muted and small, and I think Soderbergh & co. put too much stock in individual presenters and winners and their ability to carry a compelling show on their own. The decision to move Best Picture and let the acting awards close out the show was a risk, and it bombed in spectacular fashion. They need to find a better way to wrap these shows up decisively.

Brennan Dubé: In a year that was inevitably going to be different, I welcomed the changes. It felt fresher than the Zoom award shows and as the U.S. opens back up, this felt rather fitting…mostly. (But never again put Best Picture anywhere but last in the order…smh.)

Richard Keaney: Pretty distracting for the most part. The change in shot selection/composition was extremely jarring where winners/presenters were no longer speaking to camera but off frame, and the frame rate seemed at first to be 24fps making the whole thing feel more like a shoddy short film than a telecast. Most notably missing however were the clips of nominated films. The complete lack of visual accompaniment for most of the categories made the whole thing so monotonous giving people who hadn’t seen these films no clue of what was being nominated or on the rare occasion they did show a clip, spoiling an important plot point such as with Another Round in the International Feature category. Overall, it just seemed haphazard and clunky.

Nick Kush: I was super excited when the ceremony opened on that amazing oner with Regina King walking down the hallway of Union Station. It felt like a distant cousin of the Ocean’s movies. Super Soderberghian. But I wish the rest of the telecast would’ve found a way to implement the same dynamism. I guess that’s near impossible when people are sitting at tables, but the rest of the show felt pretty stiff. Maybe a few more clips and less of Laura Dern talking about La Strada would have helped.

Which change to the ceremony do you hope the Academy keeps moving forward?

James Lee: Getting rid of almost all of the fat — especially the Original Song performances (sorry, wasn’t a big fan of those in any of the ceremonies) and the incessantly random, unfunny jokes from the hosts or, in more recent years, the presenters. They’ve done a good job of just getting to the point, and it makes the entire ceremony a lot more brisk as a result.

K at the Movies: As much as I feel for the wonderful sound technicians who do a lot of the dirty work to help these films deserve more recognition; I can’t say I necessarily missed sound editing and mixing being separate categories. Sound of Metal would have won both regardless, and if voters and the public don’t know the difference then it’s the most sensical change to me.

Jack Edgar: Keep the pre-show, keep the songs and the gorgeous outdoor cocktail venue. It felt luxurious and intimate, and I loved seeing the stars mill about so organically. Also, always perform “Husavik”. Every show. It slaps.

Brennan Dubé: I enjoyed hearing some of the more intimate and personal stories and fun facts about the nominees. While I didn’t love how they did it for almost EVERY category, I would like to see that remain in some capacity.

Richard Keaney: I hope going forward that they make more time for speeches.


How did you feel about Anthony Hopkins winning Best Actor over Chadwick Boseman?

James Lee: Although it’s disappointing that Boseman didn’t receive anything, Hopkins still deserved it — The Father was, without a doubt, a career-best for him — but my feelings about how the award was given is a different story…

K at the Movies:

Jack Edgar: A deserved win, and I hope history honors this as one of the great lead performances in history. It deserves it, and it doesn’t deserve to be marred by the production’s decision to force Boseman’s narrative to close the show. It would have been a better story if he won — and indeed, he deserved to as well — but damn, what a huge miscalculation and upsetting way to end the show. Everyone deserved better.

Brennan Dubé: This was a gut punch, and not because Hopkins won. Truthfully, both of these individuals were equally as deserving. While I was pulling for Boseman, I cannot deny (as someone who loved The Father) that Anthony Hopkins didn’t just give the (maybe) best performance of his long career. The frustration here comes from the choice to put it last, a huge error on the part of the producers.

Richard Keaney: I may have had some money riding on that unlikely eventuality so I was happy in that sense. Boseman was great in Ma Rainey but I also think Hopkins was amazing in The Father and utterly deserving. It definitely gave the night a sour note with his lack of/inability to attend and the feeling that they were clearly expecting Boseman to win to end the night on a tribute to his life.

Nick Kush: If the awards were presented in their normal order, I don’t think this is much of a talking point. No doubt, Hopkins’ win was surprising, but the change in presenting order made it sooooooo much worse.

What did you make of the changed presentation order to have Best Picture come before Best Actress and Best Actor?

James Lee: This was easily the largest Oscars disaster in recent memory, especially ever since La La Land was mistakenly announced as the Best Picture winner four years ago. It’s immensely likely that Soderbergh and co. — or whoever was in charge of ordering the awards the way they were ordered — sincerely believed that Boseman was locked in for a win, leading to them moving the Best Leading Actor award all the way to the end as a means of offering a proper tribute to him, but as we know, that clearly isn’t what happened — Hopkins won, and the broadcast ended without so much as a speech. The end result is bound to be a genuinely unfortunate fallout; not only did Boseman not get the recognition or tribute he deserves, but Hopkins is more than likely to be mischaracterized as the generic, stereotypical “old white man” win, which, if you’ve seen The Father, really just isn’t the takeaway of his brilliant, heart-wrenching performance by any conceivable metric.

K at the Movies: It was stupid and someone deserves to be fired over it. It really should have been Chloé Zhao’s night, and I find it completely disrespectful that they moved the Best Director award to the first hour. It’s a bad look that the first time a woman of color and following Bong Joon-ho’s big win that all of a sudden they’re burying it out of its prime slot. To also rob her of closing the night and instead replacing it will the disastrous finish was unintentionally disrespectful to all involved.

Jack Edgar: Nope, sorry, don’t do that ever again. It undercut Nomadland‘s enormous, climactic moment in the service of a narrative that failed (and they had no control over). If we learned anything on Sunday, we learned that the results are indeed a surprise to all.

Brennan Dubé: It was a bad ploy and a gamble by the producers that clearly did not pay off. However, on an interesting note, this really does mean no one knows who the hell is going to win these awards until the card is read.

Richard Keaney: The actor switch-ups at the end were a risk that clearly didn’t pay off and made the ending extremely abrupt and anticlimactic.

Nick Kush: Soderbergh’s gonna Soderbergh. Sometimes his experimentation is pure bliss, other times it’s totally bizarre. The move makes sense in theory: Best Picture was a lock for months, so why not clear the floor for an emotional resonant win and send-off for Chadwick Boseman. But when you add in that Hopkins was clearly surging in the final weeks and Joaquin Phoenix is unbelievably awkward, you’re going to get egg on your face. Hopkins was totally deserving of the award, but setting up the categories this way only left more room for possible scrutiny.

Other than Hopkins over Boseman, what was your biggest surprise win of the night?

James Lee: Erik Messerschmidt winning Best Cinematography for Mank. I genuinely believed that Joshua James Richards and his vibrant, breathtaking, Malick-esque camerawork for Nomadland was an obvious lock, but I suppose the Oscars were more inclined towards a well-crafted replica of 1930s Hollywood’s black-and-white aesthetic, which I can’t say I’m mad about. If it wasn’t going to be Richards, it was bound to be Messerschmidt, and both of them definitely delivered some of last year’s best cinematography.

K at the Movies: While I think Mank‘s cinematography win, or Glenn Close’s Da Butt moment are acceptable answers, I’d argue that it was The Trial of the Chicago 7 getting shut out. While a few weeks back I personally felt this was a nice-to-be-nominated type of flick having not seen it, I was surprised by the traction it was getting in late Oscar predictions. I’m surprised the film didn’t win anything at the very least.

Jack Edgar: Other than Glenn Close and her caboose, gotta go with Mank (Cinematography). Thought for sure Nomadland would stomp through this category, but what a delight that such a technically great film snagged multiple awards on Sunday. Mank!

Brennan Dubé: While I knew she was CERTAINLY still in the running to win, seeing Frances McDormand go up on stage to claim Best Actress after she had just howled for the Best Picture win was an interesting surprise. However, I must say that it does indeed fix my OCD over Nomadland potentially only walking away with Picture and Director (which would have been such a strange BP package).

Richard Keaney: I was pleasantly surprised by Frances McDormand’s win, but that was also one of the least predictable categories of the night.

Nick Kush: I’m one of maybe five people to watch all the shorts, and I did NOT see Colette‘s win coming.

Given all the upheaval to this awards season (and to life in general), how do you think we’ll remember this year’s show and this crop of nominees and winners?

James Lee: If 2017’s ceremony was any indication, we’re going to remember it primarily through the Best Leading Actor fiasco. Not Chloé Zhao’s historic Best Director win, not Youn Yuh-jung’s delightful Best Supporting Actress Win, not Glenn Close enthusiastically (drunkenly? What was going on with her?) recounting the history of “Da Butt”, not anything else — no, primarily the Best Leading Actor fiasco. And honestly, it’s kind of a shame, because this was a really good year.

K at the Movies: As a whole, I think this year’s Oscars will be quickly forgotten, to be honest. However, I think the year will be significant in highlighting some diverse and interesting people in the industry. I don’t think this is the last we’ll hear of Chloé Zhao, Emerald Fennell, Daniel Kaluuya, Riz Ahmed, and the Octopus. I look forward to seeing where their careers go with the extra spotlight and/or prestige this year’s award show gave them.

Jack Edgar: Human films won out. Wealth was spread among some truly beautiful, captivating films that each told singular stories that expanding our understanding of life and humanity. Youn Yuh-jung melted us, Anthony Hopkins devastated us, Emerald Fennell provoked us, and Nomadland shared its heart with us. This was a great year for film, and I better not see an asterisk on it.

Brennan Dubé: People will be inclined to asterisk this awards season. And while I do indeed agree that the general public was not really as in tune with it as they were in recent years, you cannot take anything away from the incredible quality of films. Whether it be the historic win of Chloé Zhao, or that superb acting lineup of McDormand-Hopkins-Kaluuya-Jung, I think there was enough quality here that this season will be remembered.

Richard Keaney: Despite some great films being nominated, I think this year’s Oscars will be fairly forgettable beyond the change in format and the circumstances surrounding them. We may still remember Kaluuya reminiscing about his parents conceiving him though.

Nick Kush: As someone who’s almost always pessimistic towards the Oscars, I felt great about the nominees. In my book, seven out of the eight Best Picture nominees were pretty terrific (get The Trial of the Chicago 7 out of my face). I hope we continue to remember these films as the fascinating achievements they are; in terms of conversation starters, I have way more to say about this crop of nominees than those of previous years. They’re so interesting and clearly handmade.

But if you’ll allow me to give into my pessimism for a moment, I think the divide between the common person who watches a few movies a year and those that frequent Film Twitter continues to grow. Viewership was at an all-time low, and the only reason the Academy holds any value is so that it can introduce a massive amount of people to filmmakers like Bong Joon-ho, Barry Jenkins, and other greats that may not necessarily have mainstream appeal. Even though these nominees were widely accessible on streaming, the conversation around them was pretty limited in scope. I doubt this ceremony will carry much weight in the culture at large, but I hope I’m wrong.

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Bob Mann April 28, 2021 - 11:39 am

No comment on the appalling “In Memoriam” sequence? I felt so incensed with it I wrote a specific article: https://bob-the-movie-man.com/2021/04/26/oscars-2021-in-memoriam/

K at the Movies April 28, 2021 - 3:01 pm

I mean you’re not wrong it was very bad. I understand they were trying to edit it to the song tempo but why. Not great song choice, and it broke basic editing rules that if you put a title up you want to leave it up so you can casually read it twice. Honestly with how the nominate the best editing category it’s not surprising that the Oscars are incompetent in that department but you’d think they’d try a little bit with an In Memoriam. All I can say is they forgot to put in the speedrun timer to show how much they really care.

Nick Kush April 28, 2021 - 10:37 am

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