By Ryan C. Showers
The most extended Oscar season in most of our lifetimes has finally ended and we’re very well, deep into a new film year at this point. But for people who follow the Oscars and award season very closely, the most essential part of any season is not making the final predictions. In my opinion, it is the post-mortem after the fact, reflecting on why things happened, learning from your mistakes, and what you predicted correctly in order to be better at the game the next time around.
Below are some of my key takeaways from some of the more surprising developments at the 93rd Academy Awards.
- “Mank” winning Best Cinematography stunned everyone because “Nomadland” had the impression of being unstoppable. I blame the critics for this false impression because “Nomadland” swept the critics association awards all season long. Combined with the fact that “Mank” underwhelmed and even inspired loathing by many pundits, it was easy to think “Nomadland” would simply continue winning. However, the “Mank” win should have been something we saw coming. I did actually; I was the only member of Next Best Picture to predict “Mank” to win Critics Choice (who are usually predictive of the Oscars) for Best Cinematography. I caved and wish I had not because whoever predicted this category correctly deserves major kudos for knowing who Academy members ultimately are. But “Mank” is the type of movie in aesthetic that is the most stylized and obvious, and it fits into the club of recent winners of this category like “Blade Runner 2049,” “1917,” and “The Revenant.” The most obvious cinematography is likely what will win the majority of the Academy’s vote in this category.
- Anthony Hopkins’s upset for “The Father” over Chadwick Boseman in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” in Best Actor can tell us many things about future predictions. But the takeaways as I see it:
- Listen to Academy members when they consistently note passion for certain films and performances. This was a statement repeated time after time in anonymous Oscar ballots. We saw this pattern materialize in Olivia Colman’s win for “The Favourite,” a slew of wins for “Parasite” last year,” and now Hopkins this year. Even though Boseman won the televised precursors, which felt more critical than anonymous Oscar ballots, many members said the same thing. In the future, when you hear the same level of passion repeated, coming straight from the horses’ mouths, we need to listen, even if the results on the ground feel as though they are trending in a different direction.
- Boseman won the SAG, Critics Choice, and Golden Globe for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” same as Close two years ago for “The Wife.” Neither had Best Picture nominations, and both lost to BAFTA winners in Best Picture nominees. This year proved SAG/CC/GG is not necessarily a winning combination without BAFTA or a Best Picture nomination. Because it seems like such a haul to win three of the four televised precursors, we need to remember how powerful BAFTA is.
- The BAFTA voting block, which is about just over a fifth of the entire Academy, is a powerful force in determining Oscar winners. They need to approve big wins, and when united, they can move the needle. The British voters likely made “The Father” wins in Best Actor, and Best Adapted Screenplay happen.
- On the topic of lead acting winners, I recently wrote extensively about an important rule regarding the highly competitive Best Actress. Check it out here.
- And lastly, the fact that 7 of the 8 Best Picture nominees won at least one Academy Award this year is something to note. The wealth was spread pretty far, and my guess is that it will continue into the future until the next “Titanic” or “The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.” Even “Nomadland” could not stretch beyond three wins. I thought this would be a year where the Best Picture winner crossed the finish line with a solid four wins, but losing Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Cinematography made that impossible. The only Best Picture nominee to go home empty-handed was “The Trial of the Chicago 7.” With the final record of 0-6, Aaron Sorkin’s big directorial project failed to connect in what we could have argued was the most traditionally Oscar-friendly movie in the Best Picture lineup.
As a final note of the season, it is important to remind everyone: Progress is slow. And there was a lot of progress made in the 2020-2021 award season. The Oscars gave us a less mainstream, artful film with a female protagonist win Best Picture; a second woman Best Director winner and first woman of color woman Best Director winner; the first black women to win Best Makeup and Hairstyling; the second Asian woman to win Best Supporting Actress; a representation of a radical historical figure like Fred Hampton won Best Supporting Actor, and the list goes on. We should celebrate these fantastic achievements, rejoice, and move onward.
What are some of your biggest takeaways from this year’s Oscars which you will carry with you to next year’s season? Let us know in the comments section below or on our Twitter account.
You can follow Ryan and hear more of his thoughts on the Oscars and Film on Twitter at @rcs818