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The show must go on: Oscars 2021

For a third year in a row, the Oscars will have no host.

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HOLLYWOOD: After the longest award season in history, the 93rd Academy Awards ceremony will make its mark after major setbacks due to the Covid2019 pandemic and its producers have promised a show like no other before it. The ceremony will begin Sunday, 25 April at 8 p.m. Eastern Standard Time or on Monday, 26 April beginning at 5:30 a.m. Indian Standard Time. Traditionally, the Oscars are held at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. However, this year the historic Union Station in downtown Los Angeles will host the gala, with additional events at the Dolby and other international locations via satellite.

The ceremony will have three first-time Oscar producers: Emmy-nominated Grammy show producer Jesse Collins and filmmakers Stacey Sher and Steven Soderbergh. During a widely reported virtual press conference the trio revealed details about the show. Soderbergh declared that the ceremony will look unlike any Oscars ceremony we have seen before. He stated, “We’re just trying to create an experience that has the aesthetics of a film as opposed to a TV show.” He added, “The presenters will be weaved into a story during the ceremony, changing the usual format.”

In an interview with Vulture, Glenn Weiss, who returns for his sixth time directing the Oscars broadcast stated, “You can expect a really great celebration. We’re honouring storytellers. So, what better way to honour storytellers than to become storytellers and make everyone at home come into the room and be part of it?”

For a third year in a row, the Oscars will have no host, but will have a superlative roster of presenters including last year’s winners Joaquin Phoenix, Renee Zellweger, Brad Pitt and Lauren Dern, as well as, reported A-listers including Don Cheadle, Bryan Cranston, Reese Witherspoon, Harrison Ford, Angela Bassett and others.

As far as Covid protocols, Variety reported that the Oscars will count as a film production, meaning audience members won’t have to wear masks on air. However, attendees will need to wear masks when off-camera and there will be a limit to the audience capacity. During the virtual press conference, Soderbergh stated, “Masks are going to play a very important role in the story of this evening.”

Diversity will also play a big and important role in this year’s Oscars. Potential headline-making moments may be in the works with a diverse field of Oscar nominees. Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal) could become the first actor of Pakistani heritage to win best actor. Steven Yeun (Minari) could be the first actor of Korean descent to win best actor and along with them Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) makes the first time three out of five nominees in the Best Actor category are non-white performers. Anthony Hopkins (The Father) at age 83 holds the honour of being the oldest best actor nominee and should he win he would be the oldest person of any sex to win an acting Oscar in any category.

In the volatile best actress race, Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) is the most nominated Black actress in Oscar history with four nominations thus far. In addition, with Andra Day’s nomination (The United States vs. Billie Holiday), it marks just the second time two Black women have simultaneously been up for best actress – the first being when Diana Ross and Cicely Tyson were up for the award in 1973. Should either Davis or Day win, it would become the second time a Black actress would win, the first time 20 years ago when Halle Berry won for Monster’s Ball. In the best supporting actress category, Yuh-Jung Youn (Minari) would be the first actress of Korean descent to win.

In the best director category, this year is the first time two women directors have been nominated at once: Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman) and Chloe Zhao (Nomadland) who is also the first woman of colour and the first woman of Asian descent to be nominated.

The predictions are already in but with the Oscars there’s always room for a surprise or two or three. Here are some of the races to watch:

In the winner’s circle, Nomadland is expected to be the leading film winner with four including best picture followed by Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom with three including Chadwick Boseman.

In the much-watched actress in a leading role category, it’s a tight race boiling down to three: Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom); Frances McDormand (Nomadland) or Andra Day (The United States vs Billie Holiday). Then again, Vanessa Kirby (Pieces of a Woman) has become a late favourite among some pundits.

Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) seems to be the hands-down favourite to win best performance by an actor in a leading role. The actor, who died of cancer last August, will follow Peter Finch (Network) as the only previous posthumous winner in the category.

Another lock is in the category of best performance by an actor in a supporting role where Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah) has won at all the previous televised award shows this season.

In the tightening best performance by an actress in a supporting role category, Yuh-Jung Youn (Minari) is racing toward the finish but followed closely behind by Olivia Colman (The Father) and Amanda Seyfried (Mank).

In best achievement in directing, a Chloe Zhao (Nomadland) win seems assured with previous wins for her at the Critics Choice Awards, Golden Globes and DGA Awards.

The best original screenplay category seems also to have a favorite in Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman) after wins at BAFTA, Critics Choice and the WGA. Fennell is poised to become the second solo female winner of this category after Diablo Cody (Juno) in 2007.

The best adapted screenplay race seems competitive with Chloe Zhao (Normadland) an early favourite but shifting tides are seen flowing toward Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller (The Father) or  Kemp Power (One Night in Miami).

Another Round (Denmark) has been an early favourite in the best international feature category but some pundits are betting Qua Vadis, Aida (Bosnia and Herzegovina) could be a spoiler.

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