Oscar Here I Come – But Are You Covid Ready? Hollywood is gearing up for its biggest award night and we are here to answer all your questions about Academy Awards in the time of Covid.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock (which would be perfectly understandable, if not downright encouraged given the havoc of the third Covid wave in the country), you would know that the biggest award night of Hollywood (both the industry and the area) is around the corner. With the SAG awards wrapping up on Sunday (4th April), it’s time for the grand finale of this award season – The Academy Awards.
Just like everything the COVID pandemic has devastated in its wake, the film industry was also not exempted. The year saw major shifts in every division of global entertainment. From the way films were shot to the way they were distributed. People realized they didn’t need a hundred-people crew to make a film after all. Covid-era filmmaking unlocked the limitless potential of creative minds to innovate and tell stories with limited resources – both technical and human.
Naturally, once the award season started, the 2020 Emmys became the litmus test for the award show creators to deliver a ceremony which may look unusual but should not be unnatural. The Emmys paved the way for the 2021 Golden Globes and the Grammys, which (minor technical glitches that felt endearingly personal, aside) went smoothly.
Award Shows In The Post-COVID World
Watching all these pandemic era award shows was a surreal experience for me. It felt only fair that a sense of occasion is diminished by the fact the year had given us so much loss and suffering. The Emmys helped me in recalibrating my senses as I watched the ‘celebrities’ casually dressed, in their private spaces, sitting with their loved ones, peeking into their webcams with faces looking just like ours. Some were all dressed up, others dressed down with nowhere to go-just like ordinary people.
It made perfect sense for the winners to give acceptance speeches in the company of only those who matter, a room full of flashing light bulbs became distracting all of a sudden. A personal triumph truly became so in an isolated room. That’s why I am hoping for more of these behind-the scenes- documentary-like moments from the Godfather of all award shows: The 2021 Academy Awards.
So here is everything that you need to know about the Oscars 2021 ceremony, whose nominations were announced on 15th March.
And The Oscar Goes To …
1. The Date
Yup. Mark your calendars people. This year’s Academy Awards will be held on 25th April at 8 p.m ET. These will be the 93rd Academy Awards, organized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). The original date for the Oscar Award Ceremony was 28th February, which was then pushed back two months.
For those in Pakistan, it will be 5 a.m on a Monday morning. While not an ideal time to be up and about – we aren’t encouraging you to give up your treasured post-sehri sleep-you must check this space first thing on Monday to appear well-versed in Oscar 101 in front of your sleep-deprived, stomach-growling work colleagues who couldn’t care less.
The shift in date meant that those films which were released between January 1, 2020, and February 28, 2021 could be considered by the Academy for the nomination. The pandemic has also led to a historic easing of restrictions by AMPAS to allow films not released in theatres to be eligible for an Oscar nod.
2. The Venue(s)
Outside Quaid’s Mausoleum…
Kidding. Not even the most penny-pinching producer would dare venture into Karachi given the heat (no offence to Karachiites). The Academy Awards – since 2001- are held in the Dolby Theatre, Los Angeles and this year is no exception. The Dolby (previously known as Kodak) theatre was constructed in 2001 and has held the Oscar ceremony since its opening; So the live ceremony-as in the winner announcements, maybe a performance or two – will be held there but there would be no audience present.
The nominees and their guests – at least those who can make it to LA on time, will instead be present in the Union Station – another iconic LA trademark. According to sources, you won’t miss the legendary Oscar red carpet either. According to one of the producers, “There will be red stuff on the ground as you walk past [Union] station.”
Fun Fact: If you happen to catch a train from Union Station, you would be able to do so even during the ceremony!!!! So board your train and take a sneak peak at Viola Davis while you are at it. Win Win !!!!
The nominees and their guests would watch the live show (on the Dolby stage) from the courtyard of the Union railway station, which is about eight miles away. There will be a COVID response team on both sites with testing kits !!!! This along with COVID testing for all those arriving in LA prior to the ceremony.
I am thinking all the nominees are cursing their luck for having been nominated in this godforsaken year.
3. The Showrunners
I have added this category because I feel award show creators never get enough credit for putting up a live show with millions watching largely without a glitch. This year’s Academy Awards ceremony has three producers: Steven Soderbergh, Stacey Sher, and Jesse Collins. Fun Fact: Sodenbergh directed the 2011’s Contagion that basically nailed the year 2020 to the tee. Ahh life and its little coincidences.
The director is Glenn Weiss, who has already directed 5 Academy Awards previously. Fun Fact: the guy single handedly stole the show during the 2018 Emmy Awards by proposing to his girlfriend during his acceptance speech for directing … you guessed it, the 2018 Academy Awards!!!! We know the Oscars tend to get dramatic, but I don’t think anything will beat the “You wonder why I don’t like to call you my girlfriend? Because I want to call you my wife”- statement from Weiss.
There is no host confirmed by the Academy yet so we are guessing there won’t be any. I mean, the guys did reach out to me to do the honors but I flatly declined (you know, Ramadan and all…) Anyways, the Oscars have done just fine without one for the last two years.
Lastly, just like the Me-Too gave us intimacy coordinators on set, the pandemic has blessed us on-set Covid consultant. Dr Erin Bromage is the one for the Academy Awards to oversee the Oscars-specific testing facility recently set up in LA county.
4. The Zoomlessness
Breaking away from what at this point has become a new norm for all award shows, the Academy guys (ahem…technophobe grandpas) have socially distanced themselves from Zoom. The attendees CANNOT attend the ceremony by zooming in. A hybrid format-similar to the 72nd Emmy Awards would follow with award presenters on-site, but instead of the nominees joining in from comfort of their homes, they will either have to be present at Union station or at any one of the additional venues in London and Paris that Academy has set up as viewing hubs.
If you are thinking of AMPAS as some variant of Amitabh Bachan from Mohabbatein (technology averse old guys hell bent on making life tough for everyone) then you aren’t the only one. Los Angeles has a 10-day quarantine requirement for all visitors. Just imagine the hassle for all the Best Foreign Pictures nominees from Denmark, Hong Kong, Romania, Tunisia and Bosnia, who will needlessly be travelling to LA.
Thankfully, the London hub has been set up because the number of British nominees this year is crazy. From Riz Ahmed (Sound of metal) to Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah), to Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Coleman (The Father) to The Promising Young Women actor-director due (Emerald Fennell and Carrey Mulligan) to name a few.
5. The Dress Code – No Sweat(s) Please!
According to the letter to nominees by this year’s Academy Award producers on 18th March, nominees can’t show up (whether at Union Station or in one of the European hubs) in casual clothing. Pandemic or not, everyone will be attending suited up in their best formal attire like they would have in normal circumstances. Yet another display of the Academy’s uptightness that not even Covid could infect.
6. Where YOU can watch the 2021 Academy Awards?
On ABC at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m as always. But if you are outside of the US, then you can live stream it on the ABC app by signing up for a fee. If you, like me, get an allergic reaction when paying for something on the internet, then make do with the clips promptly uploaded by the Academy interns on its YouTube channel.
Finally, the showrunners have promised us that this year’s Academy Awards will be unprecedented in more than one way. In a way this year’s Oscar Ceremony already reflects the extraordinary year it has been ( We have a film like Borat Subsequent Movie Film in the running!!!).”Our plan is that this year’s telecast will look like a movie not a television show”, says Glenn Weiss. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that this movie is worth the (socially distanced) wait.
See full list of 2021 Oscar nominations and how they are making history already !