2021 Oscars uses ‘movie magic’ to deliver diversity and groundbreaking moments

By Yzzy Arias and Moustafa Elhadary, May 4, 2021

The 93rd Annual Academy Awards aired on April 25 with one of the most diverse slates of nominees in the awards show’s history.

This year, the awards show took a different route than the usual award order and ended with the Best Actor category instead of Best Picture.

With the current state of the pandemic, things were bound to be changed and shuffled around, but the last thing Jacob Garcia, a third-year engineering student, expected to be rearranged was the presentation of awards.

“The weirdest part about the ceremony was that best picture was not the last award,” Garcia said. “It’s tradition for them to save it for last and that is why I watch the Oscars. It was an overall weird choice to end with the two best acting categories.”

Most people expected the late Chadwick Boseman to win the Best Actor award for his spectacular performance in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” a film with a mainly Black cast following a blues singer and her band recording an album in 1927 Chicago.

If Boseman had won, his wife and Cal Poly Pomona alumna Taylor Simone Ledward (‘14, music industry studies) was expected to deliver a heartfelt speech honoring her late husband.

The most evident change of the night was the venue. Since 2002, the awards ceremony has been hosted at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood but, due to the pandemic, it was moved to the Los Angeles Union Station to tailor to a smaller audience and take advantage of the outdoor areas for social distancing.

Some other changes included the replacement of a live orchestra with Questlove as the first DJ for the awards show, where he brought hip hop to the Oscars and oversaw the musical introductions and transitions. Winners were not played off in the middle of their acceptance speeches as they had been in the previous years.

“Since the academy brought in a lot of new members in the past couple of years, we are starting to see people moving toward a modern perspective, and I am here for that,” said Mario Rodriguez, a third-year business administration student. “I love the tradition of the glitz and glamour of the old movies, but we should also broaden our ranges.”

With the Oscars receiving criticism since 2015 for the lack of diverse nominees, the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite trended on Twitter with viewers boycotting the award show.

However, history was made that night when Yuh-Jung Youn became the first-ever Korean to win an acting Oscar. Youn won her first Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in the film, “Minari.”

Ty Chow, a third-year computer information system student, was moved by Youn’s award, noting that his parents moved to California at a young age to pursue “the American dream.”

“This directly correlates to Yuh-Jung Youn’s achievement of winning an Oscar for her performance in ‘Minari,’ the film about an immigrant family pursuing the American dream,” Chow said.

Frances McDormand won her third Oscar in a lead acting category and acquired another one for producing “Nomadland,” a film about a woman who goes on a journey throughout the American West after losing everything due to the Great Recession. While McDormand is a white woman winning a major category, the award show did not lack in diversity.

“As part of the Asian community, I am proud that we are able to celebrate the diversity that was shown at the Oscars with Chloé Zhao winning best director for Nomandland,” Chow said.

Chow shared that with Asian hate crimes on the rise across the U.S., “by giving our Asian leaders such as Yuh-Jung Youn the spotlight, we are able to show that Asians are not to be left in the dark.”

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