With so much attention spent on the logistics of creating a live show in the middle of a pandemic, most of the evening was centered on the business of handing out awards with little of the pomp that audiences are used to. Soderbergh and his producing partners for the event, Stacey Sher and Jesse Collins, succeeded in eschewing Zoom and implementing enough protocols to enable a mask-free environment for the nominees.
And presenters as varied as Zendaya, Brad Pitt and Bong Joon Ho, last year’s winner for best director, joined in the festivities.
Yet, the ceremony, which typically includes performances of the five tunes nominated for best song, instead moved them off the main stage and onto a preshow, which allowed them to be performed in their entirety.
The academy did decide to hand out two honorary Oscars during the primary show. (Since 2009, honorary statuettes have been awarded during a nontelevised banquet in the fall.) The nonprofit Motion Picture & Television Fund, which underwrites a nursing home and retirement village for aging and ailing “industry” people (actors, executives, choreographers, lighting technicians, camera operators), received one. The organization, founded in 1921 by stars like Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin, also provides a wide range of other services to Hollywood seniors.
The second went to Tyler Perry, who the academy cited as a “cultural influence extending far beyond his work as a filmmaker.” Perry, of course, started his entertainment career as a playwright. Since ending his popular “Madea” film series in 2019, Perry has focused on making television shows like “Bruh,” “Sistahs” and “The Oval” for BET. He owns a studio in Atlanta.
The Dolby Theater, which holds more than 3,000 people and has been the home of the Academy Awards since 2001, was not the epicenter of the telecast. This year, with just the nominees and their guests in attendance, an Art Deco, Mission Revival train station in downtown Los Angeles served as the main venue.