2020 isn’t a year that anyone is going to look back on with much pleasure, but awards ceremonies have to award ceremony, if only to ensure advertising revenues are swept up. Even with a weakened field due to the lack of obvious blockbusters (West Side Story, Dune, In The Heights, Top Gun; Maverick), there were plenty of good films to choose from.
After some shonky work from the Golden Globes and BAFTA, the Oscars made good on their iconic position and made their own front-runners this year. Nomadland has been a front-runner from day one, but it’s also a tough watch for anyone but Oscar-watchers, so it’s nice to see entertaining, funny films like The Trial of the Chicago 7 and Borat 2 garner noms for Sacha Baron Cohen and Maria Bakalova, plus screenplay nods too. The most popular of the bunch is likely to be the blistering, provocative and issue-driven Promising Young Woman, ridiculously denied a nomination in the BAFTAS for Carey Mulligan, an error resolved happily here. And it’s a nice bonus to see the rousing song from the Eurovision movie rewarded here…
Elsewhere, talking points include Glenn Close demonstrating her versatility by snaring a Razzie AND an Oscar nom for Hillbilly Elegy, strong showings for Netflix titles like Mank, less so for Da 5 Bloods, News of the World or Amazon’s One Night in Miami, the last three all left out of the best picture category. The ongoing problem is that most of these films are familiar from streaming months ago, or not familiar to audiences at all because they haven’t been released and don’t even have a release date; as with the miserable ratings from the Golden Globes, having awards without a complete field of films is a downbeat business that is likely to turn viewers off.
The bottom line is that movies with big money-making potential were understandably not released with cinemas closed, leaving the streaming services largely competing against themselves. While the awards appear to have tackled their diversity problems successfully (two female directors, Riz Ahmed, Minari, Leslie Odom Jr), the point of the Oscars, to celebrate excellence in movies, is left somewhat in tatters. The Academy deserve credit for picking the best of the eligible bunch, but low public awareness and dismal, underwater ratings beckon at a time when cinema desperately needs a leg up.
Full list of 2021 nominations can be seen at https://oscars.org/