Salty Air

Play It Again, Tim — And the winner is: Huh?

Tim Miller
Written by Tim Miller

Never, ever, trust me. I clearly don’t know what I’m talking about.

In my Oscar preview, I suggested that Sunday would be an unpredictable awards night with only one certainty: that Chadwick Boseman would win the best-actor trophy posthumously for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.”

I couldn’t have been more wrong. The favorites won in five of the six top categories, with only one surprise (well, shocker): Boseman losing to Anthony Hopkins (“The Father”). Even Hopkins says he didn’t think he would win, and since he didn’t show up for the show, there’s a good chance he’s telling the truth.

To be honest, I really don’t care much about how predictions turn out. OK, the egomaniac inside of me gives me a little kick when I get one wrong. I got two out of six wrong, also having guessed that Viola Davis might pull a minor upset by winning best actress for her Ma Rainey over favorite and eventual winner Frances McDormand from “Nomadland.”

I’m much more interested, though, in seeing the right nominees — that is, my idea of the right nominees — win. And that didn’t happen in the Big Six, with one exception: Daniel Kaluuya taking best supporting actor for “Judas and the Black Messiah.” He deserved it and he got it. Yay!

Of all of the nominees, I was rooting hardest for Carey Mulligan for “Promising Young Woman.” McDormand, who would be my last choice this particular year, won instead. Then I wanted Boseman to win, but Hopkins, my third choice (with Riz Ahmed of “Sound of Metal” my second), pulled the big upset. I hoped for “Promising Young Woman” for best film, but my fourth choice (out of eight), “Nomadland” prevailed.

Chadwich Boseman

No Oscar for Chadwick. (David Lee/Netflx)

Then there was Emerald Fennell of “Promising Young Woman” for best director, but Chloé Zhao, my second pick of the nominees, took it. (Fennell did win best original screenplay, though, to kick off the show; it gave me false hope, and turned out to be my favorite award choice of the night.) Next, Kaluuya (to repeat: Yay!). As for best supporting actress, I had no strong feelings one way or the other. My fourth choice, Yuh-jung Youn, won for “Minari,” which wasn’t a surprise and wasn’t a bad pick.

So as far as the awards themselves were going most of the night, I couldn’t do much more than shrug. That is, until the bizarre finale.

First, the show’s producers pulled a switcheroo and had the best picture winner announced before the best actress and best actor categories came up. Odds are, the idea behind the change in awards order involved the perceived likelihood that Boseman would win, and there wouldn’t be a dry eye in the house.

Instead, the one candidate who wasn’t around — Hopkins — was announced, no one was there to pick up the prize, and the show ended with an almost comical whimper. “Almost” comical because — no reflection on Sir Anthony and his fine performance — it was so disheartening that Boseman’s final, and award-worthy, portrayal wasn’t recognized.

It put a damper on a night that, other than the questionable award choices, wasn’t all that bad. Regina King (director of “One Night in Miami”) opened the hostless show with the kind of charisma that would make her a good candidate if subsequent shows do go back to an sole emcee. Fennell took the first award, which suggested what would follow had potential.

Danish director Thomas Vinterberg, upon receiving the award for best international film for “Another Round,” gave a moving speech in which he paid tribute to his daughter, who died in a car crash just as work on the movie had begun. Tyler Perry, in accepting the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, was inspiring as he talked about working for good and refusing to hate.

Meanwhile, the show moved along without the usual fluff. No production numbers. (Thank you. Thank you so much. These aren’t the Tonys.) The nominated songs were played before the official telecast, a good move that led to things ending somewhat earlier (11:20ish) than usual.

Then, a big mistake: a contrived, unfunny Oscar-music trivia contest that ended with Glenn Close vigorously shaking her butt for the audience. (Haw-haw.) Because of that wasted time, the In Memoriam segment zipped by, Evelyn Wood style, so quickly that it was a challenge to keep up with who among the deceased was now on the screen. Very bad move.

So the show had already stumbled by the time we got to the grand finale. And then we were left with … “Um, what just happened?”

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Tim Miller is a Cape-based member of the Boston Society of Film Critics. He and music producer Tony Raine host “Tim ’n’ Tony’s Rock ’n’ Pop Show” from midnight to 3 a.m. Sunday nights/Monday mornings on WOMR (92.1-FM), WFMR (91.3-FM) and Those who aren’t night owls will find archived recordings of the shows at He also teaches film at Cape Cod Community College in West Barnstable. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or follow him onTwitter @TimMillerCritic. Or you can ignore him completely.

About the author

Tim Miller

Tim Miller, a member of the Boston Society of Film Critics, was the Cape Cod Times film critic for nearly 36 years. A Detroit native (and hardcore Tigers fan), he’s been obsessed with movies since skipping school in 1962 to see “Lawrence of Arabia” with his parents when he was 7. Miller earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and his master’s from Suffolk University, where he taught film and journalism for 10 years. He continues to teach film at Curry College and Cape Cod Community College. He is a juror each year for the short-film competition of the Martha’s Vineyard International Film Festival, has moderated several panel discussions at the Woods Hole Film Festival and frequently is heard as a guest on Cape & Islands NPR station WCAI. His work appeared as a chapter in the book “John Sayles: Interviews.” His favorite movie is Cameron Crowe's “Almost Famous” – because it makes him feel good to be alive.

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