MCC Live-Tweeting: The Oscars 2021 Pandemic Dinner Theater

Oscars 2021 telecast title card.

At least not all the awards went to white folks this year, so there’s that.

At a cozy and snappy 217 minutes (two minutes longer than last year’s), the 93rd Academy Awards went hostless for its third straight year in its very special pandemic edition co-produced by director Steven Soderbergh. A maximum of 170 guests were allowed into an auditorium furnished like a company Christmas party inside L.A.’s Union Station, while all the European nominees who cared to participate holed up in a rented UK theater, and someone let Bryan Cranston have the Kodak Theater all to himself. In pre-show interviews Soderbergh insisted strict COVID-19 protocols were in place, same as they’re using for current Hollywood productions, and AMPAS president David Rubin swore from the red carpet that everyone was “100% safe”. Here’s hoping all the scaled-down glitz and glamour wasn’t for the sake of an awkward super-spreader event.

(Occasionally a mask could be seen in the crowd. At one point the camera lingered on a seated, masked Frances McDormand glowering in repose. She was among the few celebs I spotted taking measures for the public to see. In that one moment, at least.)

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Oscars Quest 2021: All the Other Viewing I Could Fit In Before the Big Event

Promising Young Woman, Carey Mulligan

Do you…like to watch?

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

It’s that time again! Longtime MCC readers know this time of year is my annual Oscar Quest, during which I venture out to see all Academy Award nominees for Best Picture, regardless of whether I think I’ll like them or not, whether their politics and beliefs agree with mine or not, whether they’re good or bad for me, and whether or not my friends and family have ever heard of them. I’ve seen every Best Picture nominee from 1988 to the present, many of which were worth the hunt. The eight nominees for Best Picture of the Pandemic Year may pose more of a viewing challenge…

Whenever I’ve been away from here over the past six weeks, I was either hiding out in Skyrim again, getting a good night’s sleep because I’m needing those more than ever, or seeing how many of this year’s Oscar nominees I could watch. Many were on streaming services to which I already subscribe. Two were released on Redbox for us old folks who like physical media. Some were available for rental on Vudu or YouTube, though those were lowest priority. Five nominees were sadly, annoyingly beyond my grasp on services not in our household (three were exclusive to Amazon Prime, two to Apple TV). Otherwise, I was willing to let myself get carried away. I arguably did.

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The MCC 2021 Oscar-Nominated Documentary Revue

Ann Cupolo Freeman from "Crip Camp".

Retired social worker and physical rehab specialist Ann Cupolo Freeman, among the many campers who grew up to become activists in Netflix’s Crip Camp.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

It’s that time again! Longtime MCC readers know this time of year is my annual Oscar Quest, during which I venture out to see all Academy Award nominees for Best Picture, regardless of whether I think I’ll like them or not, whether their politics and beliefs agree with mine or not, whether they’re good or bad for me, and whether or not my friends and family have ever heard of them. I’ve seen every Best Picture nominee from 1988 to the present, many of which were worth the hunt. The eight nominees for Best Picture of the Pandemic Year may pose more of a viewing challenge…

In my youth and young-adulthood, seeing any of the Oscar-nominated documentaries before the ceremonies was usually impossible. Or after the ceremonies, for that matter. Streaming media changed the game and broadened access and opportunities for ordinary viewers even before the pandemic turned the convenience into a lifesaver. I’ve yet to enjoy a year in which all the nominees for Best Documentary Short Film or Best Documentary Feature were universally clickable, but the percentages have been generously high. It’s been fun seeing how many I could chase down legally without overpaying for the privilege.

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The MCC 2021 Oscar-Nominated Live-Action Short Film Revue

"Two Distant Strangers" short film

Two strangers from “Two Distant Strangers”, but not the actual distant ones in the title. Points for dramatic irony.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover

Each year since 2009 my wife Anne and I have paid a visit to our city’s singular, fully dedicated art-film theater to view the big-screen release of the Academy Award nominees for Best Live-Action Short Film and Best Animated Short Film. Results vary each time and aren’t always for all audiences, but we appreciate this opportunity to sample such works and see what the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences deemed worthy of celebrating, whether we agree with their collective opinions or not.

This year’s environment threw a wrench into the works. On the bright side, by the end of the pandemic Indianapolis may have as many as three such theaters to its credit if our old standby and the two hopeful newcomers can stay solvent till then. On the downside…well, there’s that notorious pandemic. Unlike certain Best Picture producers we could denigrate here, the folks at Shorts.tv, which packages the nominees for theatrical release each year, realizes not everyone is ready for theaters yet, and won’t be for a good while to come, not even for Oscars season. In their benevolent cognizance they made special arrangements to let email followers of participating theaters rent streaming access to this year’s shorts for a limited time and a fair price, with the respective theaters receiving a cut of our proceeds. Those theaters get a little help living a little longer, and in exchange so do we…

Our annual shorts rundowns continue with the Live-Action Short Film nominees, ranked from Most Adrenalizing to Most Side-Eyed. Relevant links are included where applicable. As a value-added bonus, the following week after the Oscar Shorts were released in theaters, our first two nominees hit Netflix and increased their potential audience hundredfold.

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The MCC 2021 Oscar-Nominated Animated Short Film Revue

Mole and bunny from "Burrow".

In my mind the mole is lecturing the bunny about his code violations in the voice of John Ratzenberger from House II: The Second Story.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

It’s that time again! Longtime MCC readers know this time of year is my annual Oscar Quest, during which I venture out to see all Academy Award nominees for Best Picture, regardless of whether I think I’ll like them or not, whether their politics and beliefs agree with mine or not, whether they’re good or bad for me, and whether or not my friends and family have ever heard of them. I’ve seen every Best Picture nominee from 1988 to the present, many of which were worth the hunt. The eight nominees for Best Picture of the Pandemic Year may pose more of a viewing challenge…

Each year since 2009 my wife Anne and I have paid a visit to our city’s singular, fully dedicated art-film theater to view the big-screen release of the Academy Award nominees for Best Live-Action Short Film and Best Animated Short Film. Results vary each time and aren’t always for all audiences, but we appreciate this opportunity to sample such works and see what the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences deemed worthy of celebrating, whether we agree with their collective opinions or not.

This year’s environment threw a wrench into the works. On the bright side, by the end of the pandemic Indianapolis may have as many as three such theaters to its credit if our old standby and the two hopeful newcomers can stay solvent till then. On the downside…well, there’s that notorious pandemic. Unlike certain Best Picture producers we could denigrate here, the folks at Shorts.tv, which packages the nominees for theatrical release each year, realizes not everyone is ready for theaters yet, and won’t be for a good while to come, not even for Oscars season. In their benevolent cognizance they made special arrangements to let email followers of participating theaters rent streaming access to this year’s shorts for a limited time and a fair price, with the respective theaters receiving a cut of our proceeds. Those theaters get a little help living a little longer, and in exchange so do we.

Our annual shorts rundowns begin with the Animated Short Film nominees. I’d offer links to watch them if I could, but nominees in this category are traditionally removed from their previous posts until sometime after the awards are over. I also usually rank them, but this year’s lineup were so apples-and-oranges that I’m sticking with unhelpful alphabetical order because no one’s forcing me to rank things and in this case I don’t feel like it. Onward!

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“Sound of Metal” and the Beat of a Different Drum

Riz Ahmed in "Sound of Metal".

I honestly thought all the band T-shirts in this film were fake till they brought out one with Einstürzende Neubauten. Them I recognize.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

It’s that time again! Longtime MCC readers know this time of year is my annual Oscar Quest, during which I venture out to see all Academy Award nominees for Best Picture, regardless of whether I think I’ll like them or not, whether their politics and beliefs agree with mine or not, whether they’re good or bad for me, and whether or not my friends and family have ever heard of them. I’ve seen every Best Picture nominee from 1988 to the present, many of which were worth the hunt. The eight nominees for Best Picture of the Pandemic Year may pose more of a viewing challenge…

Of all the Best Picture nominees I hadn’t seen prior to nominations, Sound of Metal was among the 2020 films I’d been most eagerly anticipating even if AMPAS had snubbed it. I was denied the chance to see it in its exclusive Amazon Prime cage, as one of maybe six Americans who refuse to subscribe out of a sense of monopoly subsidy fatigue. (There’s also my personal rule that I never, ever pay monthly or annual fees for shopping perks, which is equally confounding to Amazon and Barnes & Noble.) As is the annual Oscars season tradition, post-nom Metal was re-released to exactly one (1) local theater, in case any non-subscribers wanted to catch up mid-pandemic. My son and I lucked into a Monday night showing entirely to ourselves without paying AMC a $100-$200 private screening fee. Chalk up another win to my non-patented four-step H.I.D.E. method for pandemic theater survival.

The ironies compounded as we went. I was anxious to immerse myself in a theatrical speaker setting to experience the unparalleled sound design of a simulated world of encroaching deafness. And just as we were alone in the theater, so did Our Hero grow increasingly alone in his own world — sometimes though not always through no fault of his own.

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“Judas and the Black Messiah” and the Madding Crowd

Daniel Kaluuya in "Judas and the Black Messiah".

Knock knock, America.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

It’s that time again! Longtime MCC readers know this time of year is my annual Oscar Quest, during which I venture out to see all Academy Award nominees for Best Picture, regardless of whether I think I’ll like them or not, whether their politics and beliefs agree with mine or not, whether they’re good or bad for me, and whether or not my friends and family have ever heard of them. I’ve seen every Best Picture nominee from 1988 to the present, many of which were worth the hunt. The eight nominees for Best Picture of the Pandemic Year may pose more of a viewing challenge…

I don’t subscribe to either HBO or HBO Max and try not to get attached to their programming announcements. That’s included everything from Jumbo Largo Justice League to Judas and the Black Messiah, despite the latter’s two awesome lead actors.  When it was announced as one of this year’s eight Best Picture nominees, I had a quandary on my hands: do I (a) wait for the eventual release on other home video platforms (as will be granted next week to Wonder Woman 1984), even if that means waiting till after the Oscars ceremony on April 25th; (b) sign up for a free HBO Max trial and pull the plug seconds before the first charge hits my credit card; or (c) see it in theaters and take every possible measure to avoid the COVID?

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Our Retroactive “Nomadland” Vacation Memories

Frances McDormand and friend in "Nomadland"/

“We’ll keep pushin’ till it’s understood / And these Badlands start treating us good…”

It’s that time again! Longtime MCC readers know this time of year is my annual Oscar Quest, during which I venture out to see all Academy Award nominees for Best Picture, regardless of whether I think I’ll like them or not, whether their politics and beliefs agree with mine or not, whether they’re good or bad for me, and whether or not my friends and family have ever heard of them. One of my few accomplishments in 2020 was at long last filling a gap in my list by catching the elusive 1996 nominee Secrets and Lies, which had been out of print for ages but of course is just now scheduled for a Criterion physical release at the end of this very month. Regardless, having crossed that off, I can now say I’ve seen every Best Picture nominee from 1988 to the present, many of which were worth the hunt, Secrets and Lies enthusiastically included.

The eight nominees for Best Picture of the Pandemic Year may pose more of a viewing challenge. In a standard Oscar season, the Best Picture nominees would be re-released to theaters for a limited time, I’d run out and see each one, and that would be that, a bit costly but easy-peasy. Since March 2020 I’ve walked into theaters exactly twice (which each left me frustrated and disappointed) and haven’t been eager to test those revolutionary new air filtration systems or the other patrons’ pandemic manners. Using my four-step listicled viewing method helped calm my fears and, I think, helped not to get myself or my family killed, so it wasn’t all for naught. I’m not sure how many more times I feel like tempting fate. Getting fully vaccinated would allay all remaining concerns, but as my schedule happens to be working out, I won’t reach peak immunization (i.e., 14 days after my second Pfizer shot) until literally the day before the Oscars.

By the end of 2020 I’d seen Mank and The Trial of the Chicago 7 of my own accord. Two weeks prior to the nomination announcement on March 15th I caught a third nominee in advance, certain that it was a lock for a nomination based on its universal critical acclaim — Nomadland, the one with Two-Time Academy Award Winner Frances McDormand, from the director of Marvel’s eventually forthcoming Eternals. The Powers That Be were kind enough to release it on Hulu as well as in theaters. I appreciated the humane gesture, and was surprised to see several scenes were filmed in locations familiar to me and to longtime MCC readers who’ve followed along on our road trip experiences.

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Yes, There’s a Scene During the “Wonder Woman 1984” End Credits

"Wonder Woman 1984" poster at AMC Perry Crossing.

A rare sighting of a movie poster in its deserted natural habitat.

Yes, we are going to stubborn lengths to avoid subscribing to HBO Max. Thanks for asking!

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2020 at the Movies at My House

Tom Hardy as Al Capone.

If Tom Hardy is determined to play only inaudible characters from now on, might I suggest he grab a corncob pipe and reboot Popeye?

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: I saw four (4) whole movies in theaters in 2020, the Purgatory That Only Pretended to Be a Year on the Calendar. For those of us who didn’t live cocky, selfish lives, home video was our best possible escape hatch into other worlds, a lifeline out of this farcical fiasco of a reality, and our safest way to take a scenic cross-country walk in other shoes. And walk I did.

I don’t usually rank my home video viewing. I’d stopped keeping track of all that years ago because my posts about home video arrive with stats DOA. In 2020 I felt moved to devote full entries to a few key works, but by and large I watched them, I processed my feelings, I shut up, and I saved it for later. At long last, later is now.

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