Everything is ready for the 2021 Oscars ceremony, but are you?

This year’s ceremony is only the fourth time the Oscars have ever been postponed, in their 93 years of existence. The Academy pushed the date of the ceremony with the hopes of being able to hold it in person, unlike the 2021 Grammys, the BAFTAs, and the Golden Globes, which opted for hosting virtual ceremonies instead.

“Our hope, in extending the eligibility period and our Awards date, is to provide the flexibility filmmakers need to finish and release their films without being penalized for something beyond anyone’s control,” said Academy President David Rubin and Academy CEO Dawn Hudson

The ceremony is scheduled to be held on the 25th of April 8pm ET/5pm PT. Given the current global climate, the number of attendees will be scaled back to 170 people. The event will be held across two venues: Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre and LA’s Union Station, to keep the event as socially distant as possible. The Oscars will be host-less for the fourth year in a row, with multiple artists presenting awards, including huge names such as Bong Joon Ho, Joaquin Phoenix, Brad Pitt, Reese Witherspoon, and Zendaya.

Despite slimmer pickings for the 93rd Academy Awards due to a large number of 2020 releases being pushed back due to the pandemic,  these awards have the potential to host many “firsts”. 

The nominees for the 2021 Oscars were announced by Nick Jonas and Priyanka Chopra and included some historic nominations.

Viola Davis just became the most nominated black woman in academy history thanks to Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Anthony Hopkins became the oldest nominee for Best Actor with The Father with The Sound Of Music‘s Riz Ahmed being the first Muslim ever nominated for the same category. Nomadland‘s Chloé Zhao and Promising Young Woman‘s Emerald Fennell will also make history as two women being nominated for best director for the first time, Zhao being the first woman of color to ever hold that position.

These nominations are a breath of fresh air for the Academy, known for snubbing diverse actors and filmmakers.

Controversy regarding gender disparity and the snubs at people of color in the nominations have surrounded the Oscars for decades, but only recently have the #TimesUp and #OscarsSoWhite movements garnered enough vocal (and tremendous online) support to warrant actual change. The Academy faced immense backlash and vowed to double the number of women and people of color in its membership by 2020. Nonetheless, the question remains: Are enough measures being taken to ensure a fair and equitable nomination process? This remains to be seen on the 25th.

There are numerous systemic factors that play into why more female directors haven’t been recognized. The 2020 Oscars and the infamously all-male nominees for best director in a year when multiple women released critically acclaimed films were highly criticized. Despite the sudden trend of inclusion of women and people of color into the academy, decades of the Oscars being a white man’s game cannot be brushed off.

The lasting repercussions for this lack of inclusivity will reverberate for years to come. Even being nominated to the directors’s branch of the Academy, for example, requires previous directorial credits or Oscar nominations which only go to encourage an inflow of “more of the same”. Female directors also receive fewer opportunities than their male counterparts. As the male-dominated director’s branch is solely responsible for voting for the Best Director, and there have been multiple reports of male voters not even viewing the nominated movies, it is safe to say that there is still a ways to go if we are to level the playing field.

The issue of actors and directors getting nominated for an awards show may seem trivial and inconsequential to us. However, the cultural impact of the Oscars is undeniable.

American Sniper (2014) generated 90.4% of its domestic revenue after getting nominated for an Oscar. The opportunities available to the cast, crew, actors, and directors, as a result, can be career-defining. Withholding these opportunities and suppressing the voices and stories of women and people of color is why almost all of the media that we consume is through the gaze of white cis male creatives, consequentially upholding patriarchal ideas about the world.

However, over 40 million dollars are reported to be spent on the ceremony. Given the current state of the world, with death tolls rising and people unable to even procure COVID testing kits, a non-essential ceremony following in the footsteps of the Golden Globes and the Grammys, having access to instantaneous testing kits, including an on-site COVID safety team with PCR testing capability can be considered insensitive. 

Whether it is because of the amount of money spent on the ceremony, or the Academy’s tendency to snub female and POC nominees, the 2021 Oscars are set to cause controversy, even before the gala begins. Nonetheless, whatever happens, the whole world will be watching.

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  • Izzah Khan is a Pakistan-based freelance writer who is very opinionated and often finds herself launching into politically charged tirades about lived experiences and an ever-growing list of interests. Current passions include climate advocacy and desi indie music.