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Once Upon a Pre-Pandemic Time in Hollywood

Doesn’t the Oscars 2020 Feel Like a Lifetime Ago?

Director Taika Waititi Backstage at the 92nd Academy Awards:

Way back when in early 2020, Hollywood––and everyone else––was enjoying its pre-pandemic innocence. 

Early 2020 was an exciting entertainment awards season with the Golden Globes kicking things off on January 5th; then came the British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards (BAFTA) on January 9th; The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards on Jan 19th; The 62nd Grammy Awards on January 26th; and ultimately, the awards season big finale: The 92nd Academy Awards ceremony on February 9th. Things were certainly good in the ‘Wood back then, but what we didn’t know at the time is that the 2020 Oscars would be one of the country’s last major entertainment events before lockdown began.

In fact, by March 2020, actress Rita Wilson and her husband Tom Hanks, who was nominated for his performance as Fred Rogers in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, had landed in an Australian hospital with coronavirus and the world was collectively worried for them.

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Oscars 2020 to Oscars 2021: That Was Then, This is Now

Fast forward to February 2021: the global pandemic remains, but the Oscars are still standing, just like the golden statue that’s become its iconic symbol. The Oscars 2021 date is postponed to April 25th. The 93rd Annual Academy Awards will be an in-person show broadcasted from multiple locations, including the famous Hollywood movie theater––the Dolby Theatre––where celebs have walked on the Oscars red carpet since 2001, despite the 2012 name change of the classic venue. The Oscars 2021 will be produced by “a dream team who will respond directly to these times,” said Academy President David Rubin and Academy CEO Dawn Hudson in a statement.

The dream team includes Emmy-nominated producer Jesse Collins, Oscar-nominated producer Stacey Sher, and Oscar-winning filmmaker Steven Soderbergh. “The Academy is excited to work with them to deliver an event that reflects the worldwide love of movies and how they connect us and entertain us when we need them the most.” A spokesperson for the Academy added this on February 10th, when announcing the multiple-venue solution for the show: “In this unique year that has asked so much of so many, the Academy is determined to present an Oscars like none other, while prioritizing the public health and safety of all those who will participate.”

Hey, that’s us! We’re all participants, too. Our screens have become a lifeline, our couches could get an achievement award, we’ve perfected our loungewear look, and our dream team (or should we say stream team) is our very own family and friend bubbles. Hollywood movies, television, and miniseries binge-watching have been our bright light all year long, perhaps more than they ever have been.

Hollywood Movies Have Been There – for Us and With Us – All Year Long

Now is a good time to pause and recognize that we all owe a debt of gratitude to Hollywood. Thanks to all the talented and dedicated actors, directors, writers, producers, costume and set designers, animators — and everyone else in the entertainment industry that pours their heart and soul into their work––people around the world managed the stress of this global pandemic a little easier.

With sports on hiatus for months in the early start of the lockdown, couples and roommates found themselves spending more quality time with one another enjoying movies streaming online early while families spent their days and nights discovering entertainment that was fun for the whole family.

The truth is, movies, television, and streaming have kept us entertained despite the worry of falling ill; in many cases, it was even more crucial to those who suffered in isolation. 

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(Author’s note: Anya Taylor-Joy in The Queen’s Gambit was so brilliant, that binging the series helped to take my mind off my own significant coronavirus symptoms on one of the most difficult days of my two-week COVID scare. In fact, I loved it so much that I watched it twice in a row. So to all who were involved in the making of that series, I send my most heartfelt thank you!)

Rolling Out The Oscars Red Carpet

As we look ahead to Oscars 2021, we’re rooting for our favorite movies and actors and, honestly, longing for the sparkle of the Oscars red carpet tradition that never disappoints. We want to see how Hollywood celebs put their own imprint on the pandemic. And, no, we’re not talking about head-turning face masks. (OK, maybe we are a little bit.) Rather, we’re hoping to peek at something poignant or surprising that reminds us that the struggle is real, but we’re all getting through it together.

Before dreaming ahead to this year’s Academy Awards, let’s enjoy a little reverie about last year’s major Academy Award winners for Best Actor, Supporting Actor and Best Actress, Supporting Actress. The Oscars 2020 winners will present this year’s winners, so it’s worth revisiting them and their successes.

Joaquin Phoenix, Renée Zellweger, Brad Pitt
Brad Pitt at the 92nd Academy Awards

Oscars 2020: Best Supporting Actor

Brad Pitt won his first acting Oscar ever—yes, you heard that right–for his role as Cliff Booth in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood. Cliff was the stunt double for fading TV and movie star Rick Dalton, played by Leonardo DiCaprio. And Pitt played Cliff with style and mastery. In his acceptance speech, Pitt gave a shout-out to stunt crews, saying “Once Upon A Time in Hollywood, ain’t that the truth?” We see the gritty glam of 1969 Los Angeles, and the sicko-hipster Manson Family taking root in a ramshackle movie ranch set (who knew that was their real-life camp?). Tarantino’s showdown between Cliff and the Manson Family, featuring Cliff’s pit bull Brandy, is fable meets fireworks. Pitt is the crackling star at the center of it all.


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Oscars 2020: Best Actor

Joaquin Phoenix

Joaquin Phoenix won for his performance in Todd Phillips’ Joker. The Joker received a total of 11 nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director, making it the most nominated film last year. Phoenix portrays the Joker’s origin story—his severe mental illness, his mother’s early abuse of him, his painful loserhood in a cold and bullying Gotham City. Phoenix’s performance of the Joker’s downward spiral is so brilliant and disturbing that we are wrecked throughout this movie. Phoenix reportedly improvised Joker’s dancing after being inspired by the movie’s soundtrack. 

Fans still love Heath Ledger’s Joker in 2008’s The Dark Knight, for which he won Best Supporting Actor posthumously. Apparently, Michael B. Jordan used Ledger’s performance as inspiration for Blank Panther. But Ledger’s villain was a demented sociopath who churned out unpredictable chaos—he keeps you on your toes, but perhaps doesn’t get inside your head quite as much as Phoenix’s Joker does, whose early glimmers of humanity are somehow just as frightening as his depravity. 

Laura Dern

Oscars 2020: Best Supporting Actress

Laura Dern won for her outstanding supporting role in the critically acclaimed Netflix movie Marriage Story, which in total received six Academy Award nominations. As the strong, brilliant divorce attorney Nora Fanshaw representing Scarlett Johansson’s character Nicole, Dern delivers a memorable performance and countless iconic scenes, most notably her observations on the difference between fathers and mothers where she says, in part: 

“Let’s face it, the idea of a good father was only invented like 30 years ago. Before that, fathers were expected to be silent and absent and unreliable and selfish, and we can all say we want them to be different. But on some basic level, we accept them. We love them for their fallibilities, but people absolutely don’t accept those same failings in mothers. We don’t accept it structurally and we don’t accept it spiritually.”

Renée Zellweger

Oscars 2020: Best Actress

Oscars 2020 Best Actress winner Renée Zellweger was lauded for her marvelous portrayal of Judy Garland in the biographical drama Judy. Zellweger was dedicated to the role––she reportedly lived like Judy for two years. The film highlights the painful struggles Judy Garland suffered in the later years of her short life, including substance abuse, loneliness, and financial woes, with frequent flashbacks to the terrible manipulation and abuse she endured in her early childhood. Prior to Oscar night, she also took home the BAFTA, the SAG, and a Golden Globe</