Events Academy Awards

2021 Oscars: How they will work and hat to know about this year’s ceremony

Hollywood’s biggest night has (belatedly) arrived, and producers are promising a movie-quality experience like nothing seen before.

When, how, and what surprises to expect on the 2021 Oscars tonight.
When, how, and what surprises to expect on the 2021 Oscars tonight.

2021 Oscars organizers have kept the details fairly vague in interviews about what the event will look and feel like — with a few breadcrumbs. The secrecy may be intended to add to the hype for the in-person event, as showrunners are no doubt hopeful they can finally reverse the downward awards show ratings trend with this year’s event. 

“You can expect a really great celebration. We’re honoring storytellers,” Glenn Weiss, who will be directing the Oscars broadcast for the sixth time this year, told Vulture, adamantly responding “No!” when asked if he could possibly offer a bit more detail. 

The host-less 2020 Academy Awards, broadcast before the start of the pandemic, was viewed by the smallest ever audience for the ceremony. Here’s what we do know about Sunday’s show, which will start at 8 p.m. EST on ABC.

No gown, no tux, no awards

The 2021 Oscars are aggressively pivoting away from the pandemic-necessitated trend of casual, virtual attendance: Academy Awards producers Jesse Collins, Stacey Sher and Steven Soderbergh wrote nominees in March to let them know that there will not be a Zoom attendance option for stars who don’t attend due to problems. Casual dress will also be banned from the red carpet, producers wrote. Sorry Jason Sudeikis.

Masks will not be required on camera

In another break from what has become the norm over the past year, the Academy is not mandating face coverings during the live ceremony. The show, an Academy staffer explained in a recent Zoom meeting, is being treated like a movie production and guests will thus not be required to wear masks on camera, Variety reported. When not on camera, though — including during commercial breaks — the 170 guests will be asked to wear masks. 

Safe set design

While the COVID-era norms of constant masking and remote attendance have been nixed, the Academy is putting the ongoing pandemic first in terms of set design. David Rockwell, founder of NYC architecture firm Rockwell Group, has outfitted Los Angeles’ Union Station — which recently wrapped a massive renovation, and where the event will take place — with scenic but coronavirus-conscious designs including distanced tables, couches and a generally living room-like setup, according to renderings. The proceedings will also take place at LA’s Dolby Theatre and 20 international satellite locations.

Oscars nominees for best picture

No host

This year’s event will, for the third consecutive year, not have a host, but an “ensemble cast” of presenters. This long cast of names includes Harrison Ford, Angela Bassett, Halle Berry and Laura Dern.

It will “feel like a film”

While the specifics may still be somewhat vague, producers promise that viewers and attendees alike will enjoy a truly cinematic experience this Sunday. “The most exciting thing about this show is that it is going to feel like a film, in the sense that, at the end, we hope it’ll feel like you watched a movie,” producer Steven Soderbergh told Vanity Fair.

“Everybody will be a character: Every nominee, every person that gives an award, will feel like characters in a film. And in the end, you’ll know who everybody was and what they wanted. You’ll have a connection to everyone in this show. What we want to do is have this three-hour movie in which some awards are given out.”

2021 Oscars

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