Vive la difference.

Or not .

So last night’s Oscars were a departure from anything ever staged before. Plenty of diversity, not much of same-same, virtually no entertainment in the process of announcing the winners. The party started with lots of anticipation. It ended with a thud.

Now Monday Morning Quarterbacks are pondering the lowest-ever ratings. Nomadland became Nowatchland. The numbers are in: 9.8 million viewers, and a 1.9 rating among the priority adults 18-49 age bracket, a dramatic decline from last year’s 23.64 million and 5.3 in the demographics. The figures reflect a 58 per cent drop of viewers, 64 per cent in demos. But the Academy Awards are not alone. All awards events have lost viewers in these pandemic times. The Grammys dropped 51 per cent, the Golden Globes 62 per cent and the Screen Actors Guild 52 per cent.

Are viewers fatigued with the genre? The Oscars used to be the centrifugal force of awards ceremonies, with entertainment segments in-between envelope-opening, and a tradition for Hollywood’s best to strut their stuff.

This year’s telecast broke many of the roles. No red carpet (did I see blue?). OK, some chit-chatting from Union Station’s exteriors, with the enough gowns and tuxes to dazzle.The best song contenders were via videos displayed outside of the main telecast.The on camera boasted a coterie of nominees, heavy on the dark side of filmmaking: hair ad makeup, cinematographers, screenwriters, etc.

No emcee; Regina King, a nominee, opened the evening and announced a few winners. The site – a tiered, circular venue with a teeny stage – included a few nominees like Glenn Close, Viola Davis, Frances McDormand and Daniel Kahuuya – but minus heavy hitter names (not nominated this year) from the recent past, like Leonardo di Caprio, Angelina Jolie, Meryl Streep, Michael Douglas, and, well, you get the idea.

The size of the room – looked like a filled restaurant – mandated only nominees and presenters filling the seats. No limit on acceptance speeches – a few went on and on – from many worthy tech winners, whose names and faces were not widely known to home viewers.

Some highlights:

–Youn Yu-Jung, first Korean to win an acting award (best supporting actress) and a delightful acceptance speech, clutching her Oscar and telling her two boys mama was coming home with a statue.

— Frances McDormand and her out-of-the-box, never-mind-the-fashions presence and perkiness; ‘twas her third Oscar, for best actress (“Nomadland”).

–The unexpected upset of Anthony Hopkins (“The Father”) upsetting Chadwick Boseman (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”) and the former acknowledging the latter in his acceptance speech.

— Best Director winner Chloe Zhao (“Nomadland”) and her pigtail ‘do, an Oscar first?

After tossing away the usual parade of winners, normally leading up to the final Best Picture presentation, the producers anticipated the aforementioned Boseman to win Best Actor, so obviously delayed the actor nod to follow Best Picture. The surprise created an embarrassing and sour finish. Some traditions should prevail.


Sunday’s Academy Awards telecast on ABC is the industry’s most abnormal Oscarcast ever, one that’s frustrating to plug into due to the pandemic. Though I’ve seen a clutch of nominees, none were viewed in a traditional movie theater. Streaming has been the only option for most, and viewing a film via streaming is, well, akin to watching TV. You miss the bells and whistles of large screen watching, and popcorn with arare, too. I mean, do you make homemade popcorn to sit in front of the tube?

Didn’t think so. Still, it’s fun to predict who’ll win. It helps to have seen a flick and a performance, so the fewer movies you’ve streamed, the more you feel distanced. How was he, or she, in a touted role?

Nonetheless, I’m posting my choices, but only in films I’ve seen, Happily, what I’ve viewed seem to be among the wider-reaching films in a year of unfortunate circumstances limiting access, and consequently, viewing.


Best Picture: “Nomadland.” Hulu exhibited this one – a dark, often gloomy, fascinating and organic glimpse of a subculture of folks who aren’t homeless, but live like those without a roof, traveling hither and yon in vans. It’s mobile home folks, inhabiting camps and thus co-exist as a tight, itinerant community with shared woes and hopes.

Best Director: Chloe Zhao, “Nomadland.” She yielded an artistic stroke, converting the somber and lonely landscape into a character with a commanding sense of reality. Besides directing, she wrote, edited and produced the film.


Best Actor: Chadwick Boseman, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” Netflix screened this one, and Boseman (he died last August) is a sentimental posthumous winner playing a brilliant but stubborn musician in the band of a luminous blues singer in difficult times.

Best Actress: Frances McDormand, “Nomadland.” She was gritty, grand and commanding as the turf she frequented as a roving gypsy in her van, a difficult journey and a demanding challenge.


Best Supporting Actor: Daniel Kaluuya, “Judas and the Black Messiah.” He inhabited the role of Fred Hampton, the Black Panther Party chairman and activist, dominating the film in what clearly is a leading actor performance, which sort of gives him a better chance of winning this category. Premiered on HBO Max.

Best Supporting Actress: I have to pass here, since I’ve not seen Yuh-Jung Youn, the favored winner from “Minari.” Streamed on YouTube and Apple TV. I’ve seen the other nominees (Glenn Close, “Hillbilly Elegy;” Amanda Seyfried, “Mank;” and Maria Bakaloa, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”) but if Youn doesn’t win, I’ll go with Close.

Two categories I can vote for, on titles I’ve seen:

Best Documentary Feature: “My Octopus Teacher,” a stunning diary of undersea mystery (streamed on Netflix), following a favored octopus, who appears, disappears, and reappears in the watery forests off the coast of South Africa. Kudos to co-directors James Reed and Pippa Ehrlich for this visual journal that doubles as a love story of dedication and perseverance between a sea creature and a filmmaker. In pandemic times, this was a splash with flash.

Best Animated Film: “Soul Story,” a joyous triumph by Pete Docter, whose Pixar experience yielded a stunning, entertaining, and about a jazz musician who goes to heaven. Should win for Best Score. Easily could have been a contender for Best Picture. Streamed on Disney+.