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The Academy, which presents the awards, implemented a controversial plan this year to hand out awards in eight categories prior to the main telecast, then edit those selections into the show.
In those early results, the science-fiction epic “Dune” claimed Oscars for sound, film editing, production design, and Hans Zimmer’s musical score. It was the prolific composer’s second win out of a dozen nominations, the first coming for “The Lion King” in 1995. The Warner Bros. film added another later for cinematography, dominating the technical categories. (CNN and Warner Bros. are both part of WarnerMedia.)
The televised show underscored the emphasis on bringing more entertainment into the telecast, opening with Beyoncé performing the nominated song from “King Richard” outside the venue, before turning it over to hosts Regina Hall, Amy Schumer and Wanda Sykes, who gently roasted some of the nominees (“House of Gucci” was referred to as “House of Random Accents”) and taking aim at Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, promising, “We’re gonna have a gay night.”
Supporting actress represented one of the night’s least-suspenseful selections, with Ariana DeBose winning for Steven Spielberg’s remake of “West Side Story.”
After thanking Spielberg and co-star Rita Moreno, who played the role in the original, DeBose spoke of being a queer Afro-Latina woman, quoting the movie in saying to those who might be questioning how they fit in, “There is indeed a place for us.”
“The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” starring Jessica Chastain as Tammy Faye Bakker, was honored for best makeup and hairstyling, with the other three preliminary awards coming in the short-film categories.
Although the Grammys and Tonys employ a similar format, many Academy members have complained about the perceived slight to those nominees. Nevertheless, there was a heightened sense of urgency to streamline the presentation after the Oscars slumped to record-low ratings last year, as did many major award shows.
Based on results from other awards leading up to the Oscars, this year is being viewed as a possible coming-out party for streaming services, which, led by Netflix, have steadily chipped away at industry resistance to seeing them as full competitors with major studio releases.
Including this year’s contenders “The Power of the Dog” and “Don’t Look Up,” seven Netflix movies have been nominated for best picture, but thus far none have won. The global pandemic, which forced the entire entertainment industry into streaming mode for a time, has helped hasten that process, with last year’s winner, “Nomadland,” having been directed to a rival streamer, Hulu.