The annual Academy Awards have not skipped a year once during the past nine decades… and they’re not about to start now. At least not yet. Confirming a report from earlier this morning in Variety, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences confirmed this afternoon that the Oscars will be delayed in 2021 from February to April, which comes on the heels of new rules also being put in place by the Academy.
In a new announcement, it was confirmed that next year’s Oscars will now be held on April 25, 2021, as opposed to Feb. 28. Almost two months later, the move’s clear intention is to allow more time for movie theaters, and thus moviegoers, to return to some semblance of normalcy. For that reason, the deadline for a movie opening in time to receive Oscar consideration has also been moved from Dec. 31, 2020 to Feb. 28, 2021.
The news is not entirely shocking, even as one wonders how far the Academy might be willing to push this postponement. While the Oscars have never skipped a year, to hold a ceremony in 2021 might require a large degree of scaling back and considering more streaming options since it is unlikely there will be a mass-produced vaccine by February.
This bombshell comes after the continued debate around the lack of diversity among Oscar nominees is leading to new rules. For starters, the Academy is returning to its original format of a mandatory 10 nominees being recognized in the Best Picture category. It is little remembered that for more than a decade of the Oscars’ earliest years, voters were required to nominate 10 movies for Best Picture. That rule returned briefly in 2009 and 2010, ironically after a much more benign controversy of the Academy (unfairly) snubbing Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight in the Best Picture race in favor of a Harvey Weinstein-produced Holocaust drama with mixed reviews.
However, after several years of complaints by Academy members, the Oscars changed the rules again in 2011, allowing as few as five and as many as 10 nominees for Best Picture, depending on how much popularity a movie accrues in the Academy’s preferential voting ballot methods. Since then there has been no years with 10 nominees; most have had nine nominations and some only eight.
Additionally, the Academy is partnering with the Producers Guild of America to create a task force that will implement “representation and inclusion” standards. What exactly that will look like is currently unclear since the new rules will not be announced until next month. Finally, the Academy will begin hosting quarterly screenings of new movies for Oscar voters with the aim of spotlighting smaller films and voices that are often drowned out by the campaign-heavy season of fall and holiday releases.
The idea of returning to 10 nominees appears prudent to us, if only because it guarantees more opportunity for pictures outside the traditional “Oscar movie” box. Of course even with up to 10 nominee slots, the Academy has often struggled with diversifying its tastes in every sense of the word. This is, after all, why #OscarsSoWhite began trending in 2015 after all 20 acting nominations were white actors, and it went viral in 2016 when wall-to-wall white performers dominated the acting categories once again.
Notably, the only Best Picture nominee in either year starring People of Color was Ava DuVernay’s Selma, which even then was notoriously snubbed for Best Director and Best Actor in regards to David Oyelowo’s performance as Martin Luther King Jr. Earlier this month, Oyelowo revealed he heard they were snubbed because Oscar voters were repulsed by cast members attending the premiere in T-shirts demanding justice for Eric Garner, who was killed by the NYPD in 2014 after being placed in a chokehold.
For all these reasons, the move to force the Academy to change with the times is the correct impulse, although these new standards need to be further defined.