Chadwick Boseman’s loss exposed how manipulative the Oscars can be
The Oscars had a weird ending that was all of their own makings, but even if it had gone to plan, reshuffling the order so Best Actor was awarded last now seemed very contrived.
Well, I guess there’s one thing for sure after the 2021 Oscars. No, not that Glenn Close is a national treasure, we’ve known that for a long time. It’s that very few people know who is going to win a golden statue on the night. And that small group apparently does not include the show’s producers.
Steven Soderbergh, Stacey Sher and Jesse Collins, the Oscars producers made the decision to move the night’s biggest and most prestigious award, Best Picture, from being the last award of the night to earlier on. Best Film has been the last award presented at the Academy Awards for the majority of the Oscars 91-year history.
This year, free of the rankles of expectation (Covid-19 and the dearth of film releases in the last twelves months mean no one expected it to break audience records), they decided to get experimental.
They moved Best Actor in a Lead Role to the ultimate award of the night, an odd choice considering the Academy’s experience with accusations of discrimination and misogyny.
However, it all made sense when you took a look at the nominee list, or more specifically, one nominee.
Chadwick Boseman was posthumously nominated for his role as young and brazen trumpet player Levee Green in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Boseman died last year at the age of 43 from colon cancer before the film was released, filming it while privately undergoing chemotherapy.
His performance was met with a sweep of awards this season, including A Golden Globe, a Screen Actor’s Guild Award and a Critic’s Choice Award. His widow, Taylor Simone Ledward accepted them on his behalf and proving her own ability to hold a room, giving powerful, beautiful and moving speeches.
— Variety (@Variety) March 1, 2021
It appears that producers were hedging their bets that Boseman would make a clean sweep and win the oscar too, allowing his widow, who was in the audience on Sunday, time to make one final speech to close out the show.
By now, we all know that didn’t happen. Anthony Hopkins won for his portrayal in The Father instead and in his absence (he was back home in Wales) Joaquin Phoenix quickly accepted the award on his behalf and rushed offstage.
Taking away the fact that Chadwick Boseman didn’t win (and there was much acrimony about that on Twitter), isn’t it a little jarring that the Academy attempted the leverage the loss of this actor as a way to close out the telecast some gravitas?
Let’s say he had won and it had been the second or third-last award of the night. It wouldn’t have been any less potent.
His widow and family wouldn’t have been any less proud, his fans wouldn’t have celebrated less just because there were one or two award left to be handed out. So if not for them, who is the rework order reshuffle for?
It was done because producers felt that Boseman winning would make for a better ending, close the evening out on an emotional high and gloss over any other potential issues with the telecast (of which there are many).
To put it frankly, it would make for better television. These are film, theatre and television producers, they know how to put on a show. They also know you don’t put your final act in the third quarter or viewers will change the channel.
The plan backfired, and maybe only because it did that we noticed the uncomfortable emotional manipulation underneath it all.
But mostly, it’s just sad that in all the Academy’s Hollywood experience, they couldn’t have scripted a poignant and touching close the 2021 Oscars ceremony that did not rely on the very recent and very raw loss of Chadwick Boseman.