What to Expect at the Oscars 2021

When you watch tonight’s Oscars, there’s a chance they will look a little different than you expect.

If something feels a little off or tad bit unusual, rest assured, there are technical reasons. The producers of this year’s Oscars have said the ceremony will be broadcast in a wide-screen format at a frame rate of 24 frames per second.

As a point of reference, most television viewers are used to watching their favorite shows at a higher frame rate of either 30 frames per second or, these days, 60 frames per second. The difference can be hard to discern during many shows, but higher frame rates can help smooth out action sequences and live sports.

So what do these changes mean in practice for the Oscars?

“We are just trying to create an experience that has the aesthetics of a film, as opposed to a TV show,” one of the show’s producers, Steven Soderbergh said at a news conference over the weekend. “It means compositionally setting up shots that look more like movie shots than television shots, where people aren’t just nailed to the center of the screen all the time.”

“It’s going to sound different in terms of how Questlove is approaching the scoring of the show,” Soderbergh added. “So we just want the whole thing right out of the gate to announce itself as being different. And if you like movies, you will feel like you are watching a movie.”

That’s about as much specificity as we’ve gotten from officials so far. We’ll update this post after the show begins, and we’ve all gotten a chance to register what exactly is different.

What to Expect at the Oscars 2021

Gleaming: the polished interior of Union Station, where part of the Oscars will take place this year.
Credit…Chris Pizzello/Invision, via Associated Press

Dr. Erin Bromage, a professor of immunology and infectious diseases at UMass Dartmouth, is the lead Covid compliance consultant for the Oscars, which means he is responsible for health and safety protocols at the awards show. He has overseen on-set compliance for more than 35 film productions since last June. But live events are different.

“With TV and film, you’ve got time to get it right,” he said. “With the Academy Awards, it’s live. There’s no learning on the go, and there is no second time around.”

Safety at the show has been a team effort. Steven Soderbergh and Stacey Sher, who are producers of this year’s Academy Awards and helped create the movie “Contagion,” consulted many of the same epidemiologists who weighed in on the 2011 film to help safeguard the awards ceremony.

Mr. Soderbergh has said that the awards will celebrate the way the entertainment industry has paved the way for others to open up again — though in March he called the logistics “mind-numbing” and described the show’s plans as “etched in Jell-O.”

“This is the biggest global production that’s out there,” Dr. Bromage said, noting that attendees will be traveling from all over the world. (Quarantine will be shorter for those who traveled in a “low-risk manner,” such as in first or business class, and for those who are vaccinated.)

Guests and presenters have been sent at-home testing kits, and most people received day-of PCRs for a test total of around 15,000. The Academy has said that masks are not required for people on camera.

What to Expect at the Oscars 2021

This is not going to be a Zoom awards show, or a part-Zoom awards show, or a dressing-up-from-home show: It’s going to be a full-on red carpet moment. In a letter sent to all Academy Award nominees in mid-March, the show’s producers, Steven Soderbergh, Stacey Sher and Jesse Collins, laid it out:

“You’re wondering about the Dress Code (as well you should),” they wrote — after specifying that nominees were going to have to show up in person, or risk the Academy accepting on their behalf — “We’re aiming for a fusion of Inspirational and Aspirational, which in actual words means formal is totally cool if you want to go there, but casual is really not.”

In other words, forget the Jason Sudeikis hoodie at the Golden Globes, or even the formal pajama look Jodie Foster modeled at the same event, and start thinking bedazzlement. Word on the street is that big fashion brands are pulling out all the stops and the style/star industrial complex (with all the financial calculation that implies) is back in full swing. What that means for independent designers and designers of color remains to be seen.

One thing that will definitely not be seen, though: designer masks. Because the event is being treated like a full-on show, attendees will bare their faces while on camera. Get ready for a lipstick renaissance.

What to Expect at the Oscars 2021

Chadwick Boseman, left, and Viola Davis are both nominees for their performances in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” This year could be the first time that people of color sweep the acting categories.
Credit…David Lee/Netflix, via Associated Press

Preventing the TV ratings from plunging to an alarming low, while celebrating movies that, for the most part, have not connected widely with audiences. Attempting to jump-start theatergoing when most of the world is more than a year out of the habit. Integrating live camera feeds from more than 20 locations to comply with coronavirus safety restrictions.

This is going to be one hard-working Academy Awards ceremony.

The surreal 93rd edition — a stage show broadcast on television about films mostly distributed on the internet — will finally arrive Sunday night. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences delayed the event, which typically takes place in February, in hopes of outrunning the pandemic. Still, the red carpet had to be radically downsized and the extravagant parties canceled.

The night could go down in Hollywood history for happier reasons, however. The famed “and the Oscar goes to” envelopes could contain these names: Chadwick Boseman, Viola Davis, Daniel Kaluuya and Yuh-Jung Youn. If that happens, as some awards handicappers have predicted, it would be the first time that people of color swept the acting Oscars — an indication that the film industry has kept its promise in response to the #OscarsSoWhite movement and implemented meaningful reforms.

Though Kaluuya is considered a lock for supporting actor for his performance in “Judas and the Black Messiah,” voters, of course, could always veer in different directions on the three other categories. Is this the year that Glenn Close, a supporting actress nominee for “Hillbilly Elegy,” finally gets to take home a little gold dude? Or will she tie Peter O’Toole’s sad record for eight winless nominations? Carey Mulligan (“Promising Young Woman”) or Frances McDormand (“Nomadland”) could edge past Davis (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”) to win best actress. And a posthumous best actor win for Boseman (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”) has lately been less of a sure thing thanks to a surge of academy support for Anthony Hopkins (“The Father”).

In other words, it could be another Lucy-pulling-away-the-football moment for those who hope the film academy is on the verge of revealing itself as a definitively progressive organization.

What to Expect at the Oscars 2021

An Oscar statue from the 2020 festivities. This year is expected to look a lot different.
Credit…Valerie Macon/ AFP via, Getty Images

This year’s Oscars are nearly two months late — and you might not have seen any of the films in a theater. But the academy is hoping that by ruling out Zoom acceptance speeches, this in-person ceremony will make for compelling TV.

If you plan to tune in, here are the basics: On television, ABC is the official broadcaster. Online, if you have a cable login, you can watch via, or if you’re an ABC subscriber, via the ABC app. Depending on where you live, there’s also Hulu + Live TV, Sling TV, AT&T TV Now, YouTube TV or FuboTV, which all require subscriptions, though many are offering free trials.

The official Academy Awards preshow, “Oscars: Into the Spotlight,” begins airing on ABC at 6:30 p.m. Eastern, 3:30 p.m. Pacific. That’s when you can watch prerecorded performances of each of the five nominees for best original song.

The actual ceremony begins at 8 p.m. Eastern, 5 p.m. Pacific. It will be split between the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, the Oscars’ usual home, and Union Station in downtown Los Angeles. Some overseas nominees will call in from hubs around the world, including in London and Paris.

We know there won’t be an official host, but after that all bets are off.

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