We talked about the ratings and who won what – but did the Oscars show work as good TV? The makers of Oscars made some unusual choices this year. We break down the good, the bad, and the ugly.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
It was this announcement that dumped a more than three hour broadcast.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
JOAQUIN PHOENIX: And the Academy Award for Actor goes to Anthony Hopkins, “The Father”.
CORNISH: Anthony Hopkins won best actor at the 93rd Oscars on Sunday, and it was a surprise win that some critics thought was a muted end to the show. To discuss why and how the rest of the Oscars show ran, let’s turn to our reviewer, Eric Deggans of NPR.
Welcome back, Eric. How are you?
ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: I’m fine.
CORNISH: So of course we should note that Anthony Hopkins is a big deal. He is…
CORNISH: … Has been nominated for an Oscar half a dozen times. Winning it isn’t a big shock. But why are people criticizing the victory?
DEGGANS: You know, it’s almost an unfair situation. And above all, I blame the Oscars show producers for setting this up by going against tradition and planning the best actor award for the final announcement of the night. Now the best picture usually closes the night. But Chadwick Boseman, who died last year, was a sentimental favorite to win Best Actor for his performance in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” And I assume the Oscars producers took the chance for Boseman to win and gave them this triumphant moment for diversity and his legacy at the Oscars. Instead, Anthony Hopkins wrongly looked like a spoiler for his excellent work on “The Father”. And to make the situation even stranger, Hopkins wasn’t there to give an acceptance speech. So the show, which didn’t have a presenter, kind of ended.
CORNISH: What, just a sad trumpet or – what happened?
DEGGANS: (Laughter) Well Questlove who was the DJ came up and said, you know, thank you very much and wrapped up the show. But…
CORNISH: DJ saved our lives. Yes.
DEGGANS: It was a strangely unbalanced ending.
CORNISH: What else did the producers do and how effective was it?
DEGGANS: You know, the producers have changed a lot. You have postponed the performances of the Oscar-nominated songs to the preshow. This decision saved time in the awards show, but also an important source of entertainment for the show. They expanded the way presenters talked about the nominees, but it often sounded like these celebrities just wanted to congratulate and congratulate each other.
The in-memoriam tribute to people who died last year felt very rushed and it seemed like it left out some people. And they didn’t show a lot of clips from nominated films. So this program that is supposed to celebrate the movie didn’t spend a lot of time celebrating the actual movies.
CORNISH: I know you are a critic, but what did you do right?
DEGGANS: OK, they had this testing and quarantine system that ensured that many of the winners and moderators could actually go there in person. So it didn’t look like a glorified Zoom meeting. They gave the winners time to talk. So we saw Thomas Vinterberg, director of the best international feature film “Another Round”, talk about his daughter who was killed in a car accident. We saw Travon Free who is co-director of the best live action short film “Two Distant Strangers” – he talked about police brutality against black people. “Nomadland” director Chloe Zhao, who won for Best Picture and Best Director, talked about finding the good in people she met.
And I had to call my husband Questlove because he did a great job as the DJ of the night. He even provided the soundtrack for the funniest moment of the night, when Glenn Close danced to EU’s funky go-go hit “Da Butt”.
CORNISH: And even that didn’t help that much because I hear ratings have dropped more than 50% this year. So…
DEGGANS: In the ratings – yes, 9.85 million – historically very low.
CORNISH: This is NPR television critic Eric Deggans.
DEGGANS: Thank you.
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