Recapping the 2020/21 Awards Season

Recapping the 2020/21 Awards Season

In my short time on this Earth (23 years), there has never been an awards season that has lasted this long. At the very beginning of COVID-19 shut downs and pushbacks, the Academy decided to do what they felt was right and delay the 93rd Academy Awards from its usual February date, 2 months to late April. Here are some of my thoughts from this past season!

$mall Budget$!!

This year included a lineup of films that we will likely never see again budget wise. For reference:

2021 Nominees:

  1. The Father – $6 million
  2. Judas and the Black Messiah – $26 million
  3. Mank – $25 million
  4. Minari – $2 million
  5. Nomadland – $5 million
  6. Promising Young Woman – $5-10 million
  7. Sound of Metal – $8 million
  8. The Trial of the Chicago 7 – $35 million

AVG: $14.6 million a nominee (taking the $10 mill estimate for Promising Young Woman)

*Numbers from Google searches

2020 Nominees:

  1. 1917 – $100 million
  2. Ford v. Ferrari – $97.6 million
  3. Joker – $55 million
  4. Jojo Rabbit – $14 million
  5. The Irishman – $159 million
  6. Little Women – $40 million
  7. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood – $90 million
  8. Parasite – $11 million
  9. Marriage Story – $18.6 million

AVG: $65 million a nominee

*Numbers from Y.M. Cinema Magazine

An average budget of $14.6 million means that there were no large studio epics or major blockbusters in the lineup. Yes, in a COVID world this isn’t our Best Picture lineup, and the Oscars as a whole looks massively different, but I still think it is exciting that small budget indies were able to have their time to shine on the big stage. Films like The Father, Sound of Metal, Minari, Promising Young Woman, and maybe even Nomadland are ones that in a “normal” year feel more like Spirits and Critics players rather than full Oscar favorites. In a year where big budget films were forced to push in hopes of a better return on investment, these smaller budget films didn’t have that luxury and had to find other modes of release to get their films out to a wider audience. Not only did this allow more of these films to find an audience, it allowed for its true greatness to be shown an to get recognition for them. Will something like this ever happen again? After the absolutely abysmal ratings from this years show, likely not. There will always be some major blockbuster from an acclaimed director that tells a massive story that gets in, but it is exciting to experience something like this where the usual “underdogs” of awards season get their chance to be the “giants” of the film industry.

A Loooong Season…

14 months separated the 2020 Academy Awards from the 2021 Academy Awards. During those 14 months, we were riddled with delays and push backs that made this awards season feel like it was never going to end. Some films like The Father and Judas and the Black Messiah waited until the last possible second to get their films in front of audiences and voters. For some movies, like the two previously mentioned, the strategy of joining the race in the eleventh hour ended up being a smart one, but for one of the most frontrunner heavy crop of winners, this prolonged season forced many, including myself, to second and third guess themselves constantly. There was a level of excitement in not knowing what was going to happen, but that excitement turned to dread quickly as most people just wanted this awards season to be done and on to the next. For the most part, this awards season was an interesting and fun one, but let’s please never push back again.

Organic Love ❤

One benefit from this longer season was the ability for performances that would normally get overlooked to receive the love they deserve. Paul Raci, Youn Yuh-jung, and Maria Bakalova are three people who gave outstanding performances and who got recognized without being the face of their films. Youn was even able to come home with an Oscar win at 73 years old. It was really neat seeing these performances really garner love and attention from critics groups and guild without receiving a major push at the start of the season. I hope we can see some more nominees like this in the future, because it is fun to watch.

Delroy Lindo </3

Every year there is a critics darling that doesn’t make it into the line-up. I honestly thought it was going to be Riz Ahmed, but it winded up being Delroy Lindo. Da 5 Bloods had an early release date, and in this long season that didn’t help them at all, but Lindo’s performance should have been in the top 5. If you haven’t seen the film, go do so, and see just how incredible he is in this movie.

An Insane Best Actress Race

Best Actress this year was unlike any that I have seen. At the 5 major televised events we had:

  • Viola Davis – SAG
  • Andra Day – Golden Globe
  • Carey Mulligan – CCA
  • Frances McDormand – BAFTA, OSCAR

Only Vanessa Kirby managed to go without a win at the televised awards. It was such a hard race to narrow down, as any of the five could have pulled it out in the end. Alas, McDormand stood tall, and won her third Lead Actress Oscar. Her win is historic for many reasons, but if people aren’t putting her in GOAT territory… they should be.

Diversity!!

This awards season we were blessed with an insane amount of diverse storytelling and nominations. Of the 20 acting nominations, 10 were from people of color, including the first ever South Korean Best Supporting Actress winner. When it came to director, we had 2 women directors in the same race for the first time ever, one of them being a person of color, and we had another person of color as well. Only 2 of the 5 nominees were white men. The stories that were told this Awards Season, and the people telling them, were unlike any Awards Season we have seen yet. It was a historical night, and one that needs to become the “norm” moving forward.

Pre-Show Songs (HUSAVIK!)

Here is one decision made during this Oscars night that I actually enjoyed. Witnessing the songs live is incredibly special, but allowing the songs to give the grand performances they want to give was a real treat in my eyes. Every song was wonderfully performed and captured allowing each artist to truly shine. My favorite moment of the entire night was actually the moment that kicked off the night, and that was Molly Sanded’s performance of Eurovision‘s ‘Husavik.’ The song was able to be performed in the city of Husavik, Iceland with young Husavik children, highlighting the beautiful city and people, finishing with an incredible fireworks display in front of a beautiful mountain. This will go down as my favorite song performance in history, and while I love the live performances, I hope they can maybe try to do more performances like this in the future of the show.

A Shocking and Disappointing Ending

I would be shocked if anyone didn’t know what happened at the end of the 93rd Academy Awards, but in case you don’t know, I’ll explain. In an unprecedented move, and one that hasn’t happened since the 1940s, Best Picture was handed out before Best Actress and Actor. It was a strange move that left many people confused, but gave the feeling that the Academy was building up to a highly emotional ending. You could tell that everyone was looking forward to that “moment”, as Nomadland was rushed off stage after winning Best Picture, and McDormand was as well after winning her third Best Actress award. Everything was built up, and then it fell flat on its face. Anthony Hopkins took home the trophy for Best Actor (or… well accepted it the next morning), and the show hit an abrupt halt and ended on a cliffhanger similar to a TV show. Hopkins absolutely deserves and earns the win. He wasn’t my favorite performance of the bunch (Boseman was), but he still gave the best performance he has ever given in his already historical career. This moment was a risk by the producers, and was one that never should have been taken. Not only did it feel like the Academy used Boseman’s death and potential moment to keep viewers engaged in the show, it also made Hopkins out to be the villain who stole his moment, when he is just as much of a victim in this situation. We never got the chance to fully appreciate Nomadland‘s Best Picture win, McDormand’s historical, or Hopkins record-breaking win. We were left feeling empty, cheated, and hurt, and after one of the most important and historical Oscars of all-time, we were left with an abrupt and disappointing ending.


What did you guys think of this Awards Season? Was it what you thought it would have been? Don’t forget, even though 2020’s season just ended, 2021’s is right around the corner!

Jacob is a film critic and co-founder of the Music City Drive-In. He is a member of the Music City Film Critics’ Association and specializes in the awards season. You can find him on Twitter @Tberry57.

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