Oscars 2021 ‘Ask me Anything’: Who will win, where can I watch and how is the ceremony taking place?

Days before the delayed Academy Awards finally take place, Jacob Stolworthy tackles your pressing questions about the latest odds, the ceremony’s Covid regulations and the films that should have made the cut

Jacob Stolworthy@Jacob_Stol
Thursday 22 April 2021 18:14
<p>The Independent’s culture reporter Jacob Stolworthy will be tackling your burning Oscars questions</p>

The Independent’s culture reporter Jacob Stolworthy will be tackling your burning Oscars questions

The 2021 Oscars are finally upon us after a two-month delay – and, because of restrictions, the ceremony will look far different than it has ever done before.

The thought of such a high-profile ceremony having to drastically restructure itself in order to proceed is an intriguing one – but that’s precisely what the organisers of this year’s Academy Awards have had to do.

It left some people wondering what form the ceremony will take when it takes place on Sunday (25 April) in the US, and the early hours of Monday (26 April) in the UK.

Who will win? Will there be a host? Will the nominees be able to attend? What goes on behind-the-scenes for us to cover the ceremony through the night? Jacob Stolworthy answered Oscars questions live ahead of the ceremony.

Can nominees tie for an award? Is this possible this year for one of the category awards in your opinion?

They can indeed. Should two nominees receive the exact same number of votes from the 6,000 Academy members, they will both be named as winners and will both be given time to give their speeches. It’s happened six times before!

Most famously was when Barbra Streisand and Katherine Hepburn tied for Best Actress in 1969 (for films Funny Girl and The Lion in Winter). Most recently, it occurred in 2011 when Skyfall and Zero Dark Thirty both won Best Sound Editing. I dunno about you, but i’d be quietly annoyed...

Could it happen this year? There’s always a chance. Both Best Actor and Best Actress are close calls this year, so it’s not outside the realms of possibility there’ll be two winners named. Slim chance, though. From a journalist stand point, it’ll make the evening a bit more exciting so fingers crossed!

Who are your picks for the top five categories? Are there any uncertainties?

I think Nomadland will end its incredible awards run by winning Best Picture and Best Director for Chloé Zhao (if you haven’t yet seen her film The Rider, check it out – it’s great).

Beyond that, I’m calling Chadwick Boseman for Best Actor. If he wins for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, he’ll become the third actor to do so posthumously after Peter Finch (Network, 1976) and Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight, 2008). I’d say Anthony Hopkins – who is 83 and this year’s oldest nominee – is his closest competitor for The Father.

Best Actress is a tough one to call. I would have said Viola Davis for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom if you’d asked me back in December, but there’s a lot of (deserved!) love flying around for Carey Mulligan’s performance in Promising Young Woman. It would mark Davis’ fourth nomination and second win (she won Best Supporting Actress for Fences), and Mulligan’s second nomination following An Education a whole 12 years ago. Time flies, hey?

Who will win?

I think at this stage it’s practically a certainty that we’ll be reading “Nomadland wins Best Picture” headlines on Monday morning.

Will there be a host?

No set host this year (thank heavens). Instead, there’ll be a series of presenters introducing certain awards, including Brad Pitt, Harrison Ford, Regina King and Zendaya. As is the norm, last year’s winners will return to present also, so expect to see Joaquin Phoenix and Renée Zellweger popping up to make you remember a time before the pandemic.

Will the nominees be able to attend?

Yep, the nominees are permitted to attend should they have negative covid tests and have completed 10 days of quarantining after arriving in the US. However, being associated with a nominated film won’t get you access – it’s strictly invites for nominees and their chosen guest only.

For those who can’t or don’t want to travel to Los Angeles, where the ceremony will be taking place, there will be hubs so that possible winners can give acceptance speeches. This includes in Paris and in London at the BFI Southbank. It’s unknown which UK stars are currently in London, but British nominees include Carey Mulligan, Sacha Baron Cohen, Daniel Kaluuya, Anthony Hopkins, Vanessa Kirby and Promising Young Woman director Emerald Fennell.

What goes on behind-the-scenes for you to cover the ceremony through the night?

Well, usually a crack team of movie reporters head into the office for approximately midnight to cover the ceremony, which we stream on a big screen in the newsroom. It’s pretty bizarre commuting late on a Sunday evening, I must say. We then just write up the evening’s biggest events and keep the winners list updated in between eating slices of pizza and mainlining coffee.

This year, we’ll be doing this from our respective homes so there won’t be the same camaraderie. But we’ll be keeping in touch online to make sure we have everything covered. The ceremony kicks off at 1 and usually wraps by 4, after which we’ll work for an extra few hours. Then, the AM team will sign on to pick up the reins. It’s usually the quickest shift ever! It’s honestly over before it begins. Then we head to bed for a few hours and wake ourselves up so that our sleeping routine isn’t completely shot for the remainder of the week!

Why isn’t First Cow nominated? Does the Academy hate Kelly Reichardt or just hate ungulates?

Aha, we have a Kelly Reichardt fan in our midst! I’m actually yet to see First Cow but am very much looking forward to doing so. From what I hear, though, it’s exactly the kind of brilliant film the Academy would sleep on purely because it’s slightly obscure and not enough voters have seen it (which kind of renders the whole thing a bit pointless...). For example: it’s amazing that Chloé Zhao is getting recognition for Nomadland, but her previous film The Rider is much better (in my opinion, of course) and in an ideal world would have won all the Oscars for that instead of this. Considering The Rider features multiple horses, you could have landed on something with the ungulate shout... Might have to investigate this.

Outside of Best Actress, can you see any upsets happening in the Best Picture/Director/Acting categories this year? Bookies have them all with pretty clear favourites....

I’d say the only upset that could happen at this time would be Anthony Hopkins beating Chadwick Boseman to Best Actor. I say “upset” – Hopkins is incredible in The Father. But, it would be hugely rewarding to see a Chadwick victory for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. He has one or two standout scenes that would make it a very worthy win. Plus, Hopkins has won before... share the love, Tony!

Are there any new categories this year?

No new categories this year. In 2019, they were going to introduce a new category called Best Popular Film for the movies that are great but would have no chance at ever winning Best Picture (Game Night, basically). Obviously, this was met with derision, and they cancelled the plan as quickly as they announced it. It was very much the Oscars’ equivalent to the Super League AKA a waste of everyone’s time.

How many different hubs and red carpets will there be?

There will be quite a few hubs peppered about in Europe for the international nominees who aren’t able to make the actual ceremony in Los Angeles. The most high-profile one will no doubt be London’s BFI Southbank.

Why isn’t there an award for best cat?

That’s a great question, Abe. Tom Hooper’s mega flop Cats sadly seems to have sent felines plunging into the Room 101 of Hollywood. Not helping is the fact that cats don’t get cast in films as much as dogs do – a nightmare to direct, I hear.

If you could do a switch in the Best Picture category, what film would you add and which would you remove?

The film that should have 100% been nominated for Best Picture is Babyteeth. It got a Bafta nomination, thankfully. It’s on Netflix at the moment so, for anyone reading this who hasn’t seen it, give it a watch this weekend! As for which nominee I’d remove, I did actual jury service last year and hated it – but still enjoyed it more than The Trial of the Chicago 7.

What’s your favourite ever acceptance speech?

Olivia Colman’s speech for The Favourite a few years back was the recent one I’ve re-watched the most. Just seeing her have the entirety of Hollywood in the palm of her hand was such a great moment. But, going back, Julia Roberts for Erin Brockovich is a goodie. Big fan of Joe Pesci just saying “thank you” and leaving – short and sweet: the complete opposite of what my speech would be.

I couldn’t stand The Trial of the Chicago 7, and I’m very confused that Sacha Baron Cohen got a nomination with that terrible accent of his. Can you explain what happened?

I couldn’t agree with you more – the love for that film baffles me. I’m all for giving films a free pass but the fact it got quite as much awards love is indicative of why I find the Oscars frustrating; if Aaron Sorkin hadn’t been involved, it would be nowhere to be seen.

I’m a fan of Sacha Baron Cohen but, again, flummoxed by his nom for this. He deserved it far more for the Borat sequel, which came out just before Trial and was a zillion times better.

The only award it’s in danger of winning is Best Original Screenplay, but even then I don’t think it will win –my prediction is Promising Young Woman.

Hi Jacob! Which actors/actresses are most overdue for an acting Oscar in your opinion? (Now that Leo got his...)

Hello! The obvious shout here is Amy Adams who will totally get one in the future for something she doesn’t deserve (this seems to be what’s about to happen with Glenn Close for the truly awful Hillbilly Elegy – give us all strength).

Personally speaking, though, people I’d love to see win are: John Goodman, Michelle Pfeiffer, Samuel L Jackson, Annette Bening, Matthew Modine (he’s never been nominated!) and, of course, Sigourney Weaver. Oh, and Chris Messina because why not? Their time shall come!

Hi Jacob! If the ratings are really bad this year, do you think they’ll write it off as a pandemic-y fluke, or something far graver?

Hey there! I think they will do that, for sure – it’s a get out of jail free card, in a sense. Steven Soderbergh is directing the ceremony and he himself has been trash talking it almost in an “I know it’s gonna do badly” way. Much of the appeal is being eliminated – seeing everyone in Hollywood interact with each other in one place – and add to that the fact that it’s pretty much a dead cert Nomadland will win Best Picture, there’s not much anticipation beyond seeing how people will accept awards from their respective hubs.

What ever happened to that “Best Mainstream Movie” award they were going on about by the way?

Oh yes, the infamous Popular Movie award. This was the Oscars’ Super League debacle – why did they even bother? They scrapped that doomed plan after a Twitter backlash and swept it under the rug. I doubt they’ll ever try and introduce a new award again because of the furore it caused, to be honest with you.

Saying that, if it was in existence this year, I’d give it to Tenet because I stand by the fact that film is great (yes, I saw it three times to understand it).

Hey Jacob! What should we expect from Steven Soderbergh? And if there was any Soderbergh movie you’d like the Oscars to use as a kind of mood board for the night, which would it be?

Ooh, I like this question. Certainly not Haywire because I’ll be too tired for that. Perhaps Ocean’s Twelve – competently done and filled with glitz in a self-aware kinda way. Actually, Ocean’s Thirteen because then Al Pacino will be there, and I’m a firm believer that Al Pacino makes everything better.

As for what he’s doing, he’s basically been tasked with making it seem a bit more intimate than usual – a bit like a movie, funnily enough. He wants viewers to feel as if it’s been created by a small number of people who are truly passionate about movies and not just a soulless corporation. We shall see if he succeeds...

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