The Oscars this year, like every other major event during this pandemic, was unusual to be sure and I have to say, refreshing and exciting too. There are several reasons why I think this year’s Oscars have become so important from a social standpoint, so – before my big night review and a look at the winners – I want to talk about how Mr. Oscar has evolved and adjusted. the years and how the ceremony has always been a part of any national or world event that surrounded it at the time.
Movies have always reflected the era in which they were made. Whether the stories take place in the past, present, or future, it’s impossible to escape the pitfalls of when they were released. The Oscars ceremony is proof of that.
The socio-economic, political and spiritual events of the time always had an impact on any decision made by the voting academy and many winners for “Better picture” throughout the 93 years of Oscar have shown this precise point in all aspects of production. Whether it is through their visual and audio art, their scriptwriting, their acting and their staging or finally through their themes and their stories, the result is the same – a rich barometer of the moment – of the good and the bad. moments in equal measure.
In the 1930s and 1940s, most of the best Oscar-winning images were dominated by films reflecting social struggles at home and wars abroad. “In the west, nothing is new,” (1930), “Carried away by the wind” (1939), “Madam. Miniver” (1942), “Casablanca” (1943), and “The best years of our life” (1946) were shining examples of the looming shadow of war. While “Great hotel” (1932), “It happened one night” (1934), ‘The Lost Weekend“(1945) and”Gentleman’s Agreement ”(1946) were many examples of the social and class struggles of the time.
In the 1950s and 1960s, there was a shift in perspective as major studios, such as MGM and Paramount Pictures, produced extremely expensive films that delighted with their booming big-screen “ cinemascope ” technology, their brilliant colors and larger than life, realizing and realizing transversal production standards.
“An American in Paris” (1951), “The greatest show in the world” (1952), “Around the world in 80 days” (1956), “Ben Hur” (1959), “West Side Story” (1961), “My beautiful lady” (1964) and “The sound of music” (1965). All of them winning the Academy Awards for Best Picture for their own brilliance and, while seemingly different, were in fact made very much the same and to serve a very controlled film industry – the “The beautiful days of Hollywood” as it has become known.
The 1970s and 1980s represented a change from the great Hollywood control, as many smaller, more independent films, as well as bright young filmmaking, writing and acting talents appeared.
“The French connection” (1971), “The godfather: parts 1 and 2” (1972-1974), “Flight over a cuckoo’s nest” (1975), “Annie Hall” (1977), “Kramer vs. Kramer” (1979), “Chariots of Fire” (nineteen eighty one), “Terms of affection” (1983), “Section” (1986), and “Rain Man” (1988) were all examples of Best Picture winners who, thanks to their intensely well-written and directed production values, as well as their extraordinarily real acting, had brought the movies full circle by showing every aspect of the movie. human spirit, good and bad, let them be turned. against war or peace. It was about the human condition in all its triumph and also about its failure.
In the 1990s and until the 2000s, there was another shift, a shift in consciousness, as many historical films emerged as a kind of acknowledgment of the wrongs of the past.
“Dance with the wolves” (1990), “Unforgiven” (1992), “Schindler’s List” (1993), “Forrest Gump” (1994), “Brave Heart” (1995) and “Gladiator,” (2000) were all examples of Best Picture winners who brilliantly showed us a new take on history. Seen through different eyes and with a sense of true humanity. Indeed, many of these films have become legitimate educational tools for history students.
In the late 2000s and 2010s and until today, many Best Picture winners really became completely unique, breaking down barriers in their own way.
“There is no country for old people” (2007), “The Hurt Locker” (2009), “The artist” (2011), “12 years of slavery” (2013), “Birdman or (the unexpected virtue of ignorance)” (2014), “Moonlight” (2016) and “Parasite” (2019) are all examples of films with no real connection to each other, as I discussed earlier.
Each of these Best Picture winners gained notoriety through style, perspective, and most importantly, their tireless study of the human mind. That same spirit that has been studied in every winner since 1928.
Oscar has always been a test of the social constraints of his time. The release date is everything. Some appear to be ahead of their time, some are simply timed to perfection, but all are representative. One unique thing that only movies have, they are inexorably similar, yet vastly different in many ways.
This year’s ceremony was approached in a different way from the start. The recreation of the event in the smaller space of Grand Union Station in Los Angeles made for a more personal and closer event. Only a few hundred guests were invited, mostly nominees and others from the industry. The style of the shoot, the attention to the real winners, and the fact that they were given unlimited speaking time, certainly resulted in some exciting visuals and thought-provoking discussions. I have to say the whole event was handled brilliantly, and no time was wasted getting straight to the winners.
The clear winner of the evening, which was no surprise, was “Nomadland” and its writer / producer / editor and director, Chloe Zhao. There were several barriers broken that night and for her being the first Chinese / American to win, and only the second woman to win for directing (the other is Kathryn Bigelow for “The Hurt Locker” in 2009), she certainly did an amazing thing, and she deserved it too.
It was a great night for Frances McDormand and Sir Anthony Hopkins. McDormand winning her third Oscar, only the fourth woman in history to do so (Katherine Hepburn, Ingrid Bergman and Meryl Streep being the other three) and she gave a short, sweet speech that seemed to catch everyone off guard.
Hopkins won the second Oscar of his illustrious career but was not there to receive it. Many believed that the late Chadwick Boseman should have received the Oscar for Best Actor posthumously for his brilliant performance in “Ma Rainey’s black background” but in the end a fully deserving Hopkins won.
Another first in the acting category was Best Supporting Actress. Youn Yuh-Yung became the first Korean / American person to win in any acting category, for his stellar performance in “Minari”, and delivered a beautifully heartfelt speech.
Daniel Kaluuya’s imposing performance in “Judas and the Black Messiah” was an incredibly popular victory and his speech was an inspiring and uplifting nod to social injustice and the hope and need for love and understanding to come back to us all.
There was a message throughout the night, not only of the artistry and congratulations to the winners, but from people in the industry who, like all of us, had to face a most extraordinary year of 2020.
The lack of completed productions and therefore Oscar eligibility had created an interesting cinematic void that had been filled with newcomers and filmmakers who might not even have gotten a peek, let alone. steal the show. There is no doubt that the more powerful studios usually have the first say in nominations, they just have the money to promote and promote their films, but not this year.
This year, Netflix, once again, dominated but not as ultimately successful as they had hoped, as Indies shone and, rightly so, showing off their talent and brilliant artistry for being as good, if not better. , than the big studios.
Now there is the discussion about movie theaters and how they will come back and be able to keep people coming back.
Streaming has obviously become a force to be reconnected. All of the nominees were available on streaming platforms, in many cases before or instead of a theatrical release.
But if you think that’s the way it’s going to stay, I hate being the bad news barer. All major studios are fully invested in returning to traditional theatrical release as soon as possible.
But no matter how things turn out, one thing is certain, films will continue to be made and these once hopeful little independent directors have received a boost that I believe has already made a difference. .
Blockbusters will always be made, but now there is something new – a return to that human spirit that defines the very essence of the films themselves and, finally, those that will hopefully not be limited by the movie. budget or conference room.