New look Oscar ceremony in a time of Covid

New look Oscar ceremony in a time of Covid Chadwick Boseman in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.

“The show must go on.” Notwithstanding the pandemic, the Oscar ceremonies are taking place next Sunday – and not by Zoom as previously thought.

They’ll be held at two venues in LA, the familiar Dolby Theatre and outdoors at Union Station. Because of the time difference, in Ireland we’ll have to wait until the news on Monday morning to hear who won.

Some people feel America is opening its cinemas too early despite the huge number of vaccinations being rolled out daily, though most of this year’s contenders were shown on streaming platforms rather than in actual venues. The ceremonies have also been pushed back from their usual February date due to safety concerns.

It seems to be a foregone conclusion that Chadwick Boseman, who sadly died of cancer last year, will win the Best Actor award for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. When Peter Finch won a posthumous Oscar for Network in 1977 (he got a heart attack after being nominated) some cynic remarked, “Dying was a good career move for him.” Sentiment often rules OK for the Academy – though it didn’t work for James Dean two decades before.

Anthony Hopkins is a dark horse for The Father. Third favourite is Riz Ahmed for Sound of Metal.

Carey Mulligan looks likely to win Best Actress for Promising Young Woman. This is a lady I’ve admired for many years now. She’s overdue a gong.

Her most likely competition will come from Andra Day for The U.S. Versus Billie Holiday. Biopics always do well at the Oscars. Another possibility is Frances McDormand for Nomadland.  McDormand won recently so that will cut her chances.

The ‘Overdue Oscar’ might also come into play in the Best Supporting Actress category where the multiple-nominated Glenn Close is up for Hillbilly Elegy. Yes, her again. Close recently got a Golden Raspberry award for this. The ‘Razzies’ are sardonic Wooden Spoon awards. But strange things happen at Oscar time.

Olivia Colman may pip her for The Father, or the unknown Belgian actress Maria Bakalova. She’s getting a lot of publicity for her comedic turn in the sequel to Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat, the clumsily-titled Borat Subsequent MovieFilm.

Cohen himself has been nominated in the Best Supporting Actor category for this. His main threat comes from Daniel Kaluuya for Judas and the Black Messiah.

The hot favourite to win Best Film is Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland. Second favourite is Trial of the Chicago 7. Zhao will probably get Best Director for this too. Long shots are David Fincher (Mank) and Lee Isaac Chung (Minari).

It’s a multi-ethnic line-up for sure. For those of us starved of actual films for so long it may be as close as we’ll get to “the good old days,” albeit in radically transformed circumstances.

There isn’t going to be a host this year. That will come as some relief to those of us who’ve been recently underwhelmed by Jimmy Kimmel’s spectacularly unfunny attempts at joke-making.