The Oscars took a huge hit on Sunday — not only did it irk fans with the debut of a new format and snub of the late Chadwick Boseman, but it also garnered record-low ratings — and now it’s being largely panned by critics.
The show was made to look and feel different from past years, likely due in part to both constantly dropping viewership and the coronavirus pandemic.
Clips from movies were mostly cut out of the host-less ceremony, while original song nominees were performed at a pre-show rather than during the broadcast.
Additionally, winners were given much more time to offer acceptance speeches and were encouraged by the show’s producers — including lauded director Steven Soderbergh — to tell a personal story while on stage.
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Finally, the order of the awards was shuffled, with the best picture award coming before the awards for leading actors — another factor that drew criticism from fans considering the best actor award was expected to go to the late Chadwick Boseman but was instead awarded to Anthony Hopkins.
It seems professional critics were largely unhappy with what they saw as well.
Variety’s Caroline Framke said that the night ended “on an abrupt ‘huh?’ instead of the moving swell of grief producers appeared to bank on” after Hopkins’ win.
Furthermore, she found some of the unneeded changes to be “confusing,” specifically noting Lil Rel Howrey’s “bafflingly” late appearance, though she applauded the comedian himself.
Changing the order of the awards — particularly putting the best actor award at the end — was “genuinely shocking and completely absurd,” she said.
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However, she also noted that “in its concerted effort to scale the show down, the evening achieved an intimacy that, while forced by the circumstances, felt exactly right.
“The fact that it pulled off so much at a time when every single human interaction requires forethought is a feat that, should it prove to have been safe for participants, is undoubtedly impressive,” the critic stated. “And yet, it’s telling that the adjustments that didn’t work had nothing to do with the pandemic, but the show’s insistence on upending its own order for the sake of it.”
The Hollywood Reporter’s Daniel Fienberg said that several of the big changes “failed to pay off,” particularly the best actor switcharoo, leaving “the show [to be] hastily wrapped with no ending at all” when Boseman’s predicted, would-be emotional win did not occur.
However, he offered praise for the “lovely” change in location and said that ultimately, he’d choose to watch award shows like this one over glitchy ones like the most recent Golden Globes ceremony.
However, eliminating clips from movies eventually “annoyed” him.
“Every creative person in that room has heard the cliché “Show me, don’t tell me,” and yet we had presenters giving weak descriptions of costumes and hair & makeup and sound editing with no way of illustrating for viewers at home (who maybe haven’t seen the movies) what the fuss was all about,” he wrote. “Shows like this tend to use clips as a structural crutch, but the absence of clips here proved not to be a solution (and they returned later).”
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Furthermore, he said that he doesn’t “see how anything in this show is going to inspire anybody to seek out ‘Mank’ or ‘Ma Rainey’ or even ‘Nomadland,'” and criticized the decision to eliminate musical performances from the main ceremony.
“Yet we’re going to remember the long airless patches of self-seriousness; the oddly accelerated In Memoriam segment; the almost endless presentation Bryan Cranston gave about the Motion Picture & Television Fund; and the second tribute to Tyler Perry in less than a year from a major award show that will never give Tyler Perry any awards for the actual TV and movies he makes,” he continued. “And we’re going to remember the disquieting strangeness of giving out the biggest award of the night early, taking a commercial break as a build-up to… a final award that was supposed to go to a young star who could no longer be with us and instead went to a venerable star who was simply absent.”
Deadline’s Dominic Patten, however, felt completely differently, calling the show “a true Hollywood reinvigoration,” praising the “relatively fast-paced and deeply personal ceremony.”
Additionally, the critic said that the broadcast poses “a calibrated sense of timing, glamour and grandeur and literal and figurative intimacy” and praised the show for being “something we haven’t seen or felt in almost any awards show in way too long.”
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“Freed up by moving the Original Song contenders off the main show and significantly mixing up the usual run of show, there was no walk-off music insultingly cutting winners short as in past years,” he added. “As exemplified by the wolf cry from ‘Nomadland’s [Frances] McDormand, the show directed by Glen Weiss with musical direction from Questlove wasn’t afraid to let those it celebrates and honors ‘celebrate life,’ as Best Supporting Actor winner [Daniel] Kaluuya declared — though we might not have needed the bit about the actor’s parents having sex to have him.”
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He did admit, however, that “things got wobbly and anticlimactic toward the very end” and that “the whole thing still should be about an hour shorter.”
He concluded by expressing hopes that the ceremony will not receive to its former ways in the coming years.