94th Academy Awards Recap
Well, there’s a lot to talk about from that show, almost none of which involves the actual awards. And since I want absolutely no part of the discourse outside the awards, I’ll only mention this — they decided to cut eight categories from the live broadcast and pre-tape them and the show still went 40 minutes long. And the editing for those categories was the type of editing usually reserved only for Bruce Willis paycheck movies to try to make it seem like he’s on set with the rest of the cast. The whole decision was most glaring when they included those ‘fan favorite’ moments and it was just the most batshit insane list of stuff (which is why you never let the internet vote on anything) and was so glaringly out of place with the rest of the show, because that’s not at all what the show has ever been about and they don’t realize they can never bridge that gap, despite the call of the ratings siren. Someone fucked up, and someone fucked up bad. I hope ratings are terrible (update: they are), because they brought this on themselves, and they deserve every single ounce of it.
But for my purposes, while nice stuff did happen in terms of results, it was one of the most cookie-cutter ceremonies ever in terms of predicting. The only category I would moderately term a ‘surprise’, which you can’t even call that because of the category itself (it’s more a ‘deviation from the expected outcome’) is Animated Short. Otherwise I could have told you the winner of every single one of these categories days ago (and did. Hope all you people that called me about ballots won, because I gave you straight winners, homies).
Best Picture: CODA
You saw this one coming the past few weeks. Once it won SAG, the momentum just swung wildly in CODA’s direction. Which is good, because I just did not understand what the appeal was for Power of the Dog as a winner. And honestly, 8 years ago, it would have just held up and won and everyone would’ve been like, “Yeah, whatever,” because we’d been seeing it win and were conditioned to it as a winner regardless of what we actually thought about it. Probably also because the producer would’ve been one of the big two (who do not need to be named anymore) and they’d have manipulated all the voting like they used to. But this newer Academy… they vote for what they like. And this voting system rewards films that are in the top three on most people’s ballots, which you knew CODA was more likely to be than Power of the Dog. It makes all the sense in the world why it won, and honestly I’m happier this way, because I just wasn’t a fan of Power of the Dog on that level and didn’t think it should have won over at least half that Picture list.
Now, for CODA — and it’s a shame the win wasn’t as joyous as maybe it could have been after the journey that entire ceremony was. It should have had a Parasite type ending we all felt good about — while the pantheon of Best Pictures is an overrated measurement, I do think, all things considered, this is a fine winner. Because I look at everything nominated this year, and when I think about what actually would look good as a winner? There’s really not all that much. I think they did about as good as they could have possibly done. Because at least this is a winner almost everyone can go back to and think, “Yeah, I really liked that.” There’s no real divisiveness there. The most you can say is, “I preferred this other one more.” Which is really all you want in a Best Picture choice. Compare this to Green Book. See what I mean? The divisiveness isn’t there and this one actually does mean something in the grander scheme of things. So I’m all for this winning on just about every conceivable level.
Best Director: Jane Campion, The Power of the Dog
This one we all knew was happening all the way through. And I can’t really complain about it. Personally I thought there were better choices, but Anderson winning for this and not There Will Be Blood or Phantom Thread would’ve been like Denzel winning for Training Day. It’s cool, but not the best of the nominations. Spielberg has two, so that’s fine that he didn’t win, as much as I liked the effort. Hamaguchi won another category and Branagh won another category. There’s really not a whole lot to quibble about past ‘I don’t think the effort was the best’, which again, is all you can really ask for. I also don’t think enough people are talking about the fact that we’ve just had two women in a row winning Best Director, especially since only three women have won ever and I think only seven have been nominated? I’m not in stats mode now, so that number might be off. The point is, it’s a minuscule figure. So it’s a big win.
Best Actor: Will Smith, King Richard
All I’ll say is — Denzel won without winning. But, category alone, it’s a good win. Good performance, worthy winner. The extracurriculars don’t change what was the case two days ago. Yes, the speech was insane, and yes the fact that they all clapped was insane. But this whole show is insane as a concept and an execution. You can’t rationalize that which is without logic. The town never existed in the real world, and to hold it to real world standards almost feels beside the point, as much as we ought to. The win is fine, the rest is discourse and part of the TV show aspect of it all.
Best Actress: Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye
I can’t believe she won. Almost any other year, she be a third choice who didn’t contend whatsoever. But the category was the category. And honestly, of everyone nominated, she was the best winner, since I think we can all agree that, by now, she was pretty overdue. Plus it’s a great story about how she fought for ten years to make the movie. Not to mention that three of the other four nominees have already won. I don’t really see a downside to this as a choice past ‘she’s done better work elsewhere’. But the amount of times we can say that over the history of these awards is staggering. But, she’s got an Oscar now and I don’t think anyone’s upset about it. So a good win.
Best Supporting Actor: Troy Kotsur, CODA
I don’t know if anyone’s upset about this one. Fantastic win. Again, the only quibble is a matter of preference of one performance over another. Outside of that, incredible choice and a great win. This entire year is doing a lot for inclusion and laying the groundwork for most of this to be able to become the norm in the future. And it saddens me that, in the immediate aftermath, so much of that is getting swept under the rug for something that happened during the ceremony.
Best Supporting Actress: Ariana DeBose, West Side Story
Amazingly deserved win for every single reason you can think of. Great speech. There’s no downside to this. Although, I will say, as I saw someone point out — she’s become only the second Latinx woman to win an acting Oscar, and it’s for the exact same role as the first winner. But that speaks to a larger issue than the performance itself, which, as I’ve said many times in the past few months, is the most worthy of 2021.
Best Original Screenplay: Belfast
First, I’m glad Kenneth Branagh’s finally won. I think he’s been nominated across 8 categories over 30+ years and finally gotten something. So good for him. I think there were a few good winners to be had, so chances are they were gonna get it ‘right’. On a ballot level… this was really the only major category where I wasn’t entirely sure what was gonna happen. Everything else either had a clear winner or was between two choices. This one was the only moderately cloudy one. So I’m glad I was able to parse through all of it and guess correctly. In hindsight, it was the obvious choice, but it still feels nice. At this point for me, most of this is easy, and there’s way more chances for me to be randomly wrong than to get a questionable category right in a way that wasn’t just a tossup going my way. So it’s nice when I can get that nice bit of validation. Keeps it fun.
Best Adapted Screenplay: CODA
This was the category where you knew CODA was winning Picture. I was so happy when they called this one. It was literally two categories that took this from another ‘ho hum’ Oscar night to ‘oh wow, this is awesome’. Is it the best choice? Who cares. A woman was gonna win either way. Campion already had a Screenplay win and just won Director. I’ve got no problem with this whatsoever. And, on the ballot level, it’s one of the only places I was able to get it right rather than have something beat me, so that was nice.
Best Editing: Dune
And this is the run where Dune wins six of the eight tech categories in the least noteworthy fashion ever. Mostly because they pre-taped four of the wins. The rest was because it never caught that Oscar wave of ‘everyone loves it’ the way Fury Road did. I never felt like anyone did more than just respect the film. It helps that all the people who work on it are loved and great people who deserve awards, but man, have you ever seen a film win six awards so quietly? But, for this category specifically, I’m very happy for Joe Walker won. This is his past decade of work: Shame, 12 Years a Slave, Sicario, Arrival, Blade Runner, Widows, Dune. That’s probably worth two Oscars. So yeah, I’m happy with this as a choice.
Best Cinematography: Dune
It was a terrific category, but again, great choice only because Dune’s crew are some of the best people working. Greig Fraser is one of the best DPs out there. Leaving aside his work on Bright Star, Zero Dark Thirty, Killing Them Softly, Foxcatcher, Lion and even just this year The Batman… he was the DP on episode 1 of The Mandalorian and had a lot to do with the look of that show and all the technical aspects that went into it. So yeah, he’s absolutely worthy of an award, as good as all the rest of the efforts in this one were.
Best Original Score: Dune
Hans Zimmer — who scored Thelma & Louise, A League of Their Own, True Romance, Cool Runnings, Crimson Tide, The Rock, Muppet Treasure Island, As Good as It Gets, Black Hawk Down, The Last Samurai, the Christopher Nolan Batman films, the Pirates of the Caribbean films, Inception, 12 Years a Slave, Interstellar, Dunkirk, Blade Runner 2049 and No Time to Die — until now had only won a single Oscar, for The Lion King. And I know the knock against him is that he has this entire factory of composers doing a lot of the work with/for him (some of whom have started to only recently get credited alongside him), but still… dude’s worth more than one at this point. So it’s nice that he got his second one.
Best Original Song: “No Time to Die,” from No Time to Die
Bond songs are three in a row now. It was the obvious winner, and who doesn’t feel happy for Billie Eilish? Sure, you could’ve been rooting for Beyoncé or Lin-Manuel (or I guess Van Morrison), but this is still a great winner.
Best Production Design: Dune
Another solid winner. Sure, the team from West Side Story also did French Dispatch and should have won for either of those, but purely as a winner outside of what it beat, Dune is perfectly fine. No complaints, even if I feel they could have done better.
Best Costume Design: Cruella
Obvious winner. Pretty much anything that won was gonna be meaningless historically. But otherwise perfectly fine and was one of the categories on the night that fully assured me how boring everything was gonna be for winners.
Best Makeup & Hairstyling: The Eyes of Tammy Faye
The problem with them pre-taping categories was that people in the audience leaked the winners. So I knew 8 winners before the show ever started. And this was the one where, when I saw it I went, “Oh yeah, I’m gonna do well.” And also, “Chastain’s for sure gonna win.” There’s always those indicator categories that you have marked that’ll determine how the rest of the night goes. So when I saw this come in, I knew I was set for that other category and was gonna get like 20 right at minimum.
Best Visual Effects: Dune
Obvious winner. Anyone who thought anything else was gonna win should reevaluate how they pick ballots. Mostly the only takeaway I had from this was how badly they cut the winners off when they were talking. Which is so fucked up and was a recurring theme throughout the night. Remember when they announced they were cutting categories from the show and were so quick to say, “Oh, but don’t worry, everyone’s gonna have their chance to go up and talk.” THIS WAS LIVE AND THEY STILL CUT THEM OFF. I know the Academy is not a reflective branch, otherwise the show wouldn’t be what it is. But goddamn, guys. This is like when you had two nominees in Song. Something’s gotta change. We’re at the point now where even you guys should realize it because it’s beyond the blatant it’s been for the rest of us.
Best Sound: Dune
Another obvious winner, and the last of Dune’s six wins. Hard to argue with. The sound design in the film was great. Though this was one of a few times they sort of low-key called their shots. They had Momoa and Brolin announce this, clearly because they knew Dune was gonna win. Now, if it lost, not the worst thing in the world, not quite ‘put Actor on last because Chadwick’s gonna win and then Chadwick loses’, but still. Why would you even risk that? And they did it like three separate times. You know a ceremony is bad when you have more to talk about outside all the winners than you do the winners themselves. And it’s been most categories.
Best Animated Feature: Encanto
Great choice in a category full of good choices. Mostly I thought it was funny that they announced this within the first hour I guess to try to let the kids watch, and yet the “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” number went on at like 10:15 ET. Sometimes people do things where you wonder if anyone actually thought about what they were doing. So, good choice, weird show scheduling.
Best International Feature: Drive My Car
The most obvious winner on the night. My big takeaway was how fucked up it was that they IMMEDIATELY cut him off during a PAUSE. That was so disrespectful, for a show that is supposedly committed to giving people their moments to shine. They were literally on a hair trigger on that music cue. And dude was literally taking a breath between sentences. (Also, was it a bit that he had a translator next to him, taking notes as he spoke? I feel like no one brought up that part.)
Best Documentary Feature: Summer of Soul
This was the category Chris Rock announced, and a great winner (and touching speech from Questlove) got overshadowed by what came before it. But this, while an incredibly telegraphed choice, was one of the better wins of the night.
Best Documentary Short: The Queen of Basketball
Great win. Good story. The solo white guy accepting the award for it was a jarring image, but other than that, no notes.
Best Live Action Short: The Long Goodbye
I figured this was the likely outcome, but I still think Please Hole was the better choice. But I can’t argue with Riz Ahmed having an Oscar, no matter what category it’s in. Good for him.
Best Animated Short: The Windshield Wiper
I’m surprised they voted for it. I love it as a choice. It’s one of the two best shorts in the category, so I’m not unhappy, even though I really wasn’t sure what they were gonna do here. Though honestly, as long as Robin Robin didn’t win purely because it was made by Aardman, I’m happy.
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- Dune — 6 wins (Editing, Cinematography, Original Score, Production Design, Visual Effects, Sound)
- CODA — 3 wins (Picture, Supporting Actor, Adapted Screenplay)
- The Eyes of Tammy Faye — 2 wins (Actress, Makeup & Hairstyling)
- Belfast — 1 win (Original Screenplay)
- Cruella — 1 win (Costume Design)
- Drive My Car — 1 win (International Feature)
- Encanto — 1 win (Animated Feature)
- King Richard — 1 win (Actor)
- No Time to Die — 1 win (Original Song)
- The Power of the Dog — 1 win (Director)
- Summer of Soul — 1 win (Documentary Feature)
- West Side Story — 1 win (Supporting Actress
- The Queen of Basketball won Documentary Short, The Long Goodbye won Live Action Short and The Windshield Wiper won Animated Short.
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I did real well here. I knew I did. I was writing 1s all night.
- Best Picture: +1
- Best Director: +1
- Best Actor: +1
- Best Actress: +1
- Best Supporting Actor: +1
- Best Supporting Actress: +1
- Best Original Screenplay: +1
- Best Adapted Screenplay: +1
- Best Editing: +1
- Best Cinematography: +1
- Best Original Score: +1
- Best Original Song: +1
- Best Production Design: +1
- Best Costume Design: +1
- Best Makeup & Hairstyling: +1
- Best Visual Effects: +1
- Best Sound: +1
- Best Animated Feature: +1
- Best International Feature: +1
- Best Documentary Feature: +1
- Best Documentary Short: +1
- Best Live Action Short: +2
- Best Animated Short: +4
I got 21/23 straight up, and despite being worried when I caught a 4 in the pre-show, that was really the only thing I caught all night. Crazy. I ended up +4, 27, which ranks as the second best year I’ve ever had, next to 2019.
- 2010: +12 (36)
- 2011: +14 (38)
- 2012: +10 (34)
- 2013: +5 (29)
- 2014: +8 (32)
- 2015: +9 (33)
- 2016: +11 (35)
- 2017: +5 (29)
- 2018: +9 (33)
- 2019: +3 (27)
- 2020: +13 (36)
(P.S. My Oscar trivia article is updated with the results from this year.)
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