Experiencing the Virtual Oscars Media Interview Room & Recap of the Good and Bad From the Show
The 93rd Oscars will always be remembered for the unique show that it was. Emanating from LA’s…Union Station?! Yes, a train station, not the regular customary location of the Dolby Theater on Hollywood and Highland (although there were musical performances emanating from there).
VIRTUAL PRESS ROOM:
I had the privilege the cover my first Oscars as part of the press. The press room was virtual this year for the first time, due to the pandemic. Over 400 media outlets from around the world were present. Plenty of room for everyone and no shoulder-to-shoulder, or the usual tight and small spaces on the red carpet.
As part of the virtual press room, we had a chance to speak to the winners of the night.
How It Worked:
We were given a Zoom link on the day of the Oscars to log into, hours before the start of the show. It was an easy and seamless process. After I logged in to Zoom, there was a live feed of the red carpet of the arrivals. At a designated time you logged into the virtual media center where the host of the event let you into the media lounge along with a couple hundred of your international friends.
Once there, you were able to request a sound check. It was all simple and straightforward. We were all muted, the chat was open to communicate with the folks running the press event. We were notified when the winners were approaching the media stage.
To ask a question, all we had to do on our end was to raise the virtual hand (it’s a button option). The moderator picked the journalists at random. With 400 plus, I’d imagine it wasn’t easy, especially when you have a couple hundred hands go up at a given time.
All the winners that were present at the show did participate in the press room, aside from Frances McDormand (she’s not the biggest talker with the media, so that was at least expected on my end). We had anywhere from 5 to 8 minutes with each winner, so at least a few questions.
Things got kinda clunky as the night went on. I felt the organizers did the best they could picking a variety of journalists and giving them opportunities. Sure, the big media (Extra, E!, Access Hollywood, etc.) had their turns with each interview, but I didn’t think that was unfair.
The only issues that presented itself were mainly from the journalists who either had connection issues, bad lighting, microphone troubles, or unfortunately were not ready to ask questions or even be present on-video when they were called on.
I give a lot of credit to the talent, as they had to wait for the issues to settle to speak to the journalists. I just felt that some of these journalists didn’t have much experience doing Zoom interviews, hence the issues. If there is a virtual press room again next year (hopefully by choice, not pandemic reasons), some sort of tutorial in advance would helpful. Also, dress up a little, journalists. I mean it’s the Oscars. T-shirts aren’t a good look, even if you are on Zoom.
Overall, it was an interesting experience and good opportunity for everyone to participate, no matter where in the world they were, you had a chance to be part of the Oscars. That’s pretty damn cool. I was able to do it from my home in Chicago. I can now say I played a tiny part in the Oscars and even had the opportunity to ask a question to the Mank “Production Design” winners.
Now that you had a bit of an idea what the experience for the press was like, I have many thoughts on the show itself. The show was unlike any Oscars before, so naturally there was plenty good and bad to talk about. Let’s start off on a sour note and end on a good one. So here comes the bad…
Location, Location, Location:
Ok, I still don’t understand why this event couldn’t have been held at the home of the Oscars, the Dolby Theater? It was there. It was available. I get it, there was a limited amount of attendees this year, but why go through all the trouble of turning a TRAIN STATION into the awards stage? It didn’t look cool. The sun was hitting the windows and the brightness didn’t make it look any better. There is something comfortable about the bright lights shining on a stage, but not the sun being that bright light. Just looked like a fancy corporate lunch in the daytime.
Call me traditional, but if you were to go with another location outside of the Dolby, LA is littered with fancy ballrooms and theaters. A location such as the Samuel Goldwyn Theater would be a lot more suitable and fitting. Union Station still had an essence of a train station you just want to get out of.
Where Is The Climax:
So these Oscars felt anti-climactic. There wasn’t the usual buzz that surrounds this show. If the Oscars are the Super Bowl of movies, then this just felt and looked like a first-round playoff game. Now, I wouldn’t blame the Academy for that, it’s just the nature of this unique and odd awards season. The awards season had a really late start this year. This was the furthest date ever that an Oscars telecast has been pushed to. Days away from May, not the usual February-March timeline.
The movie theaters were closed for majority of the year, so people consumed movies at home. It’s hard to create a buzz when everyone is watching whatever they want, and streaming was the only option to do so. Big blockbusters usually don’t factor into the Oscars, but many people weren’t even aware of the movies that would be in consideration this year. I didn’t know where to find Nomadland until a couple weeks ago (Hulu), but that’s a problem, considering I’m in the media, imagine your regular casual moviegoer?
No Host, No Problem:
Let’s finally give some credit to hosts out there. After a couple host-less ceremonies in the last few years, can we finally agree that a host makes a show like the Oscars a lot better? Regina King did a nice job opening the show, but we could have used some humor and time settling into the show. Everyone could use a laugh after a year like we had. Bring back hosts.
Where The Stars At:
It seems like we have had some familiar faces over the last few years at the Oscars. Lots of new blood joined them this year though. Hello newbies! Riz Ahmed, Steven Yeun, Andra Day, Vanessa Kirby, Leslie Odom Jr., Maria Bakalova, Emerald Fennell, Chloe Zhao to name a few of them. The returning familiar faces that they joined included David Fincher, Viola Davis, Frances McDormand, Gary Oldman, Daniel Kaluuya, Glenn Close and Olivia Coleman.
No doubt these are some of the finest actors in the business, but how many are major name superstars? Where were the Christian Bale’s? Julia Roberts? Denzel Washington’s? Leonardo DiCaprio’s? Matt Damon’s? Charlize Theron’s? Halle Berry’s? George Clooney’s? Ok, you get the point. The major superstars we are used to seeing grace our screens were nowhere to be found. Brad Pitt was the biggest name, and he was a presenter.
Oscars should feel big, not only due to the prestige of the event, but also due to the collection of the most recognizable stars that attend. This year none of that was there to be witnessed. Bring back the star power to make the Oscars feel special.
Sadly each year we look back on the lives lost. The “In Memoriam” is a big part of every Oscars telecast. Acknowledging the influential and prominent members of the industry who have passed. Unfortunately we lost some of these people way too early, Chadwick Boseman comes to mind. Thee problem with this years memorian is that it sped through as if there was an incoming train (not trying to make a pun or light of it).
There was barely enough time to see the name of the person before it jumped to the next slide. Not a good way to acknowledge and pay respects to those who passed. To omit Naya Rivera and Jessica Walter was uncalled for? What, we didn’t have a more extra seconds to mention them? For real? I don’t know who was in charge of this segment, but it was a noticeable failure.
Keepin’ It Loose:
This Oscars show had several cool and fun moments. The show had a very casual feel to it and it actually fit the vibe of it. It’s the smallest attended Oscars show in memory. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, each invitee was allowed to bring one guest with them. It seemed like the attendees enjoyed themselves.
That chill vibe allowed for moments to happen. One of the most memorable one of them being Glenn Close demonstrating “Da Butt!” Who knew Glenn had all this swag? I sure didn’t, but it was fun to see.
Lil Rel Howery had to run of the place and he genuinely seemed to be enjoying himself. It was fun to watch.
Daniel Kaluuya was so comfortable that he even made mention of his parents sex life! That would fall into the super awkward and funny category. I didn’t know Daniel was just in the moment or maybe had a refresher prior, either way, it was memorable.
I always disliked when someone was giving an impassioned speech and the music would start playing in the background with the obvious cue that screamed, “get the hell off the stage!” These shows run long and everything is timed out, I get it, but let the winners have their moment and thank who they need to.
All that being said, it was refreshing to see everyone get their time to speak and say what they needed to say, without any music playing them out. The one that stood out was the passionate and emotional speech from Thomas Vinterberg, who whose film Another Round aka Druk won for Best International Feature Film. Vinterberg spoke about losing his daughter while making the film. It was touching and powerful. He certainly went “overtime,” but I’m glad he was allowed to speak and share his feelings with the world. It was beautiful and raw.
If we are staying on the topic of speeches, I felt the night had some great memorable ones. Tyler Perry won the night for the most heartfelt and impactful speech. Perry talked about coming together and finding the middle, as the human race. He shared a touching story about meeting a homeless woman asking him for a pair of shoes. Perry has this innate ability to deliver a message with passion and meaning. It was spectacular. Well deserved Humanitarian award winner.
The other speech that stood out was Best Supporting Actress winner Youn Yuh-jung who dazzled the live audience with her charm and deadpan humor. The Brad Pitt encounter hit the mark. She brought some much needed humor to the show. It’s hard not to love her for her genuine transparency and quick wit.
Out Of Order Is The Order:
One of the most talked about things from the night ended up being the show order. For years it was an unspoken rule that the show closes with the Best Picture, but this year a wrench was thrown into that and the show ended with Best Actor. What’s the fuss all about? People are losing it over this though. Tradition? Probably, but what’s wrong with a little unpredictability? The Oscars and most award shows in general have become so predictable, so why not add some controllable intrigue.
Every year there is at least one surprise winner, this year felt a bit more surprising than usual. The biggest shock to many was Anthony Hopkins edging out Chadwick Boseman for Best Actor. Was Boseman snubbed? I wouldn’t say that. There is no such thing as a snub when you have five highly qualified individuals vying for the award. A solid case can be made for each of the nominees. Was Chadwick deserving? Absolutely. Was Hopkins deserving? Definitely. Go watch The Father and you’ll know why.
Personally, I was surprised that Frances McDormand won for Best Actress. I was under the impression that it would be Viola Davis or Carey Mulligan. I had Mulligan as my personal favorite for her memorable performance in Promising Young Woman. Vanessa Kirby did receive a nomination, but didn’t get the buzz she should have.
Nomadland won the night. The movie took the biggest awards for Best Director (Chloe Zhou), Best Actress (Frances McDormand) and Best Picture. That’s quite the coup of top awards. I wasn’t a fan of the Nomadland, but gotta give credit where it’s due, they dominated. The technical awards were fairly split, multiple wins for Sound of Metal, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and Mank taking majority of those technical awards.
The 2021 Oscars were unlike any other. It had the look of a corporate luncheon, but made you feel you were among regular everyday people, not celebrities. Chill, would be a great way to describe the event. It was different, and sometimes different is good and needed. Here is to hope that the 94th Oscars are back to a more familiar surrounding, with a full-house of people.
What did you think of the 94th Oscars? Feel free to share your thoughts and comments below.