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The Strangest Moments from the 2021 Oscars

This year was filled with some real doozies...

2021 Oscars

In any given year, awards season is already painfully awkward.

Whether it be La La Land mistakenly receiving Best Picture or Jimmy Kimmel asking Steven Spielberg for weed, the Oscars are often riddled with puzzling moments. But after a year like this one, the 2021 Oscars were filled with some especially jarring moments that set the internet ablaze.

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Film News

Here Are All the 2021 Academy Award Nominees

See the full list of historic nominations.

We may still be thinking about this year's unusual Grammy Awards, but it's already time to focus on the next big show of awards season: the 2021 Academy Awards.

The 93rd annual Oscars ceremony is scheduled to go down on April 25, more than two months later than last year's show. Like most regularly-scheduled events in the past year, it's going to be a weird one, especially considering that most movie theaters have been empty since social distancing guidelines were first set into place.

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Film News

What's the Deal With These New Oscar Diversity Standards?

Things might look different at the 2021 Oscars.

As is the case with many of the United States' most-viewed award shows, the Academy Awards have never really been known for their inclusivity.

Despite Parasite's record-breaking sweep back in February (marking the first non-English-language film to take home Best Picture), the Oscars have historically favored the white and the male, to put it lightly. Finally, the Academy is actually trying to do something about the rampant homogeneity of their nominees.

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Natalie Portman Had the Perfect Response to Rose McGowan's Criticism

Rose McGowan had harsh words for Natalie Portman this week, but Portman channeled the drama into a message of solidarity

Rose McGowan came at Natalie Portman hard on Wednesday, saying that her Oscar's dress was "deeply offensive."

The dress in question featured a Dior cape that had been specially embroidered with the names of prominent female directors who didn't receive nominations that many people feel they deserve. The names included Lorene Scafaria (Hustlers), Céline Sciamma (Portrait of a Lady on Fire), Greta Gerwig (Little Women), Marielle Heller (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood), Melina Matsoukas (Queen & Slim), and Lulu Wang (The Farewell).

Calling out the Academy for overlooking female talent has been a popular theme this year, from Issa Rae's "Congratulations to those men," while announcing the nominations, to Chris Rock and Steve Martin's onstage joke that there's something missing—va*inas. All of which could be seen as callbacks to Natalie Portman's 2018 comments at the Golden Globes, when she introduced the directing category by saying, "here are the all-male nominees."

Natalie Portman at the Golden Globes

But apparently this sort of "activism" does not exactly impress Rose McGowan—at least not on its own. It's understandable that McGowan—whose 2018 memoir Brave detailed her experiences of sexual assault at the hands of Harvey Weinstein and others—would have some strong opinions on how to fight back. She attributes the decline of her acting career to her efforts to resist Weinstein's attacks—after he (allegedly) raped her in a hotel room in 1997.

She also names several other women whom she claims were similarly punished and is working on a follow-up memoir, Trust, about learning to move forward. She has championed the #MeToo movement and made it her mission to change the toxic misogyny within Hollywood—that uses and abuses and discards talented young women. In that light, her problem with Portman's fashion choice was not so much with the cape itself, but with Portman failing to back up the sentiment in her professional life.

In a post on Facebook, McGowan made her point clear, accusing Portman of being "an actress acting the part of someone who cares." She decried the idea that members of the media would refer to such a superficial expression of solidarity as "bravery" and addressed Natalie directly, saying, "Natalie, you have worked with two female directors in your very long career-one of them was you. You have a production company that has hired exactly one female director- you… You are the problem. Lip service is the problem. Fake support of other women is the problem."

Rose McGowan Rankin

While McGowan's claim overlooked some shorts and anthology movies, others have noted that of the seven feature-length films that Portman's production company, Handsomecharlie, has been involved in, only Portman's own directorial debut, 2015's A Tale of Love and Darkness, was directed solely by a woman. That paints a pretty clear picture of a problem, and it would obviously be hard for Portman to deny it. Fortunately, she didn't. She didn't go on the attack or get defensive. She came out with a statement on Thursday striking a tone of hope and solidarity.

She started out by agreeing with much of McGowan's criticism, saying, "I agree with Ms. McGowan that it is inaccurate to call me 'brave' for wearing a garment with women's names on it. Brave is a term I more strongly associate with actions like those of the women who have been testifying against Harvey Weinstein the last few weeks, under incredible pressure." She then went on to acknowledge that she hasn't worked with as many female directors as she would like, while also calling out systemic issues that prevent female-helmed projects from getting made and taking the opportunity to name check a host of talented female directors who deserve more work:

"In my long career, I've only gotten the chance to work with female directors a few times—I've made shorts, commercials, music videos and features with Marya Cohen, Mira Nair, Rebecca Zlotowski, Anna Rose Holmer, Sofia Coppola, Shirin Neshat and myself. Unfortunately, the unmade films I have tried to make are a ghost history… I have had the experience a few times of helping get female directors hired on projects which they were then forced out of because of the conditions they faced at work… So I want to say, I have tried, and I will keep trying. While I have not yet been successful, I am hopeful that we are stepping into a new day."

Natalie Portman We Should All Be Feminists A pregnant Natalie Portman speaking at the Women's March 2017

While McGowan's anger is understandable, Portman handled the situation perfectly. She took the energy of that discontent and the criticism and channeled it toward opening the conversation to the larger issues that prevent female directors from getting work—issues that one small production company can only do so much to address. With luck maybe this conversation will begin to push Hollywood institutions to rethink the sexist calculus that robs so many talented women of work.


The Oscars Needed Parasite Way More Than Parasite Needed the Oscars

The Oscars needed to cling to Parasite, kind of like a...well, a parasite.

Noel West for The New York Times

If there's ever been a Best Picture-winning movie that actually deserved every ounce of the surrounding hype, it's Bong Joon-ho's Parasite.

Parasite is nothing short of a masterpiece. The story about the parasitic relationship between two families––one rich, one poor––was unique, wholly original, and specific to Korean culture, but the intensely anti-capitalist themes of class warfare resonated with audiences around the world. It's a film that proves great storytelling transcends language, and more importantly––much like Korea's other international phenomenon, BTS––Parasite's overwhelming popularity proves that Western media is no longer the pinnacle of pop culture. We live in a globalist society; Pop culture is global now, too.

All of this is to say that Parasite earned all four of its history-making Oscars (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best International Feature Film), becoming the first non-English language movie to win Best Picture since the Academy Awards' inception in 1929. Parasite's four Oscars also tied Bong Joon-ho with Walt Disney for most Oscars won in a single night (barring the technicality that "Best International Feature Film" is awarded to the country instead of the Director/Producer). But in a larger cultural context, what is an Oscar actually worth?

Undoubtedly, Parasite's Oscar sweep will lead to more people seeking it out and, hopefully, diving into the rest of Bong Joon-ho's backlog, which includes other fantastic movies like Snowpiercer and The Host. And, of course, anything that leads to more global renown for a once-in-a-generation creative voice like Bong Joon-ho is a cause for celebration.

Still, it's important to remember that the Academy is a systemically sexist and racist organization with a majority white male voting body that has historically promoted the voices of white male filmmakers above everyone else. The fact that they made the right Best Picture call this year doesn't change the fact that they failed to nominate any female directors and only nominated one non-white actor, or the fact that they awarded Green Book Best Picture last year. It also doesn't change the fact that, while they acknowledged Bong Joon-ho, the Academy didn't nominate any members of Parasite's incredibly talented all-Asian cast, any of whom should have easily qualified.

The Oscars are losing relevance in the greater public conscience. From media outlet boycotts to viewers simply deciding not to tune in, more and more people seem to be realizing that the Oscars are, more often than not, nothing more than a masturbatory award show wherein wealthy people hold up white hegemony while pretending that they're pro-diversity. In some sense, the Academy needed to award Parasite Best Picture if they had any hope of staying relevant to viewers. After all, Parasite was the best movie of 2019 by a longshot, far better than anything that came out of Western media, and a failure to recognize that would have clearly exposed the Academy as overwhelmingly biased.

Parasite CJ Entertainment

That's not to say Parasite's win won't do legitimate good for the future of Hollywood. It very well might. If this win means that Hollywood starts to turn an eye outwards to global media, and actively seek voices from outside their bubble, that would be a huge shift in the right direction. But that's not a guarantee. The danger is that instead of viewing Parasite's massive success as an indicator of a major shift in global media consciousness, Hollywood executives could instead spend the next year trying to reproduce endless, doomed-to-fail Western takes of "Parasite meets X," and then write global cinema off the following year when none of their rehashes succeed.

While Parasite might get a visibility boost from its Oscars wins, the Oscars can never be credited with making Parasite a success. Parasite succeeded entirely on its own merits, spreading through word-of-mouth due to its incredible artistry and resonant message. On the other hand, had Parasite not won, every subsequent article would be focused on how an incredible Korean film lost to the likes of Joker or Once Upon a Time in Hollywood––yet another forever stain on The Academy. This year, if they had any hopes of staying relevant, The Oscars needed to cling to Parasite, kind of like a...well, a parasite.

But does that mean 2020 will see mainstream Hollywood cinema moving in a fresh direction, or will the next Best Picture be Green Book 2: Green Books Never Sleep? That remains to be seen.


Was Janelle Monáe Attacked with "Too Much Tuna?"

John Mulaney and Nick Kroll think that giving people giant mounds of tuna fish is a fun prank, but mercury poisoning is no joke

Getty Images

It was announced yesterday that Janelle Monáe will be joining the impressive lineup of musical acts performing at the Oscars this weekend.

It's reassuring news for anyone who may have been concerned about Monáe's health following an interview with The Cut released on Monday. In the interview, Monáe discussed her desire to be a mother, with the caveat that she is still recovering from a recent case of mercury poisoning that she developed as a result of her pescatarian diet. She said of the experience, "I started feeling my mortality."

Methyl-mercury—which is easy for the human body to absorb, but it takes a long time to filter out—can cause serious neurological symptoms and presents a particular danger to developing fetuses. That's why doctors advise avoiding or limiting intake of certain mercury-rich fish during pregnancy. But for an adult to develop mercury poisoning requires much higher doses.

Monáe also spoke of a desire "to skydive into different parts of my life." Taking that sort of leap into unfamiliar challenges has been a hallmark of a career in which she has found tremendous success as a singer, a songwriter, a rapper, a producer, and an actor. Without that bold approach to life, would she have ever starred in Moonlight or Hidden Figures? But perhaps it was a similarly head-long embrace of pescatarianism that caused her mercury issue. In a previous interview with Glamour she attributed her smooth, radiant skin to "a really great diet, you know, lots of vegetables and fish," but according to a video entitled "A Medically Inadvisable Amount of Tuna," a serious case of mercury poisoning can cause fatigue, muscle weakness, and even… peeling skin.

Is it possible that Monáe's poisoning was no accident? Was it part of "prank" to sabotage her flawless skin?!

That clip is part of Nick Kroll and John Mulaney's prank show Too Much Tuna, in which they take on the characters of Gil Faizon and George St. Geegland in order to surprise celebrity guests with sandwiches stacked with humiliating amounts of tuna. Past guests subjected to this indignity have included Chris Pratt, Leslie Jones, and Adam Driver. It seemed that Kroll and Mulaney's reign of terror was finally over when their Broadway show Oh, Hello closed in 2017, but with Chance the Rapper's revival of the Punk'd series, the pair may have felt it was time to reunite.

We do not currently have the evidence to prove that Kroll and Mulaney were behind Monáe's illness, but tuna is among the most mercury-rich fish, meaning that "too much tuna" is a likely cause. If they relied on Monáe's pescatarian diet and her bold approach to life—did she "skydive" into actually eating one of those sandwiches?!—in order to inflict their brand of "comedy" on one of our most celebrated musical and dramatic talents, they must be stopped. We need to send a message that there's nothing funny about acute chemical poisoning: #TooMuchTooMuchTuna

"Too Much Tuna" Luke Fontana

Monáe also spoke with The Cut about the strangeness of being a public figure and how people create elaborate stories about celebrities based on scraps of information and figments of their imagination. Janelle Monáe will be performing at the Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday, February 9th, along with Billie Eilish, Elton John, Idina Menzel, and Randy Newman.