Well, that was weird! Now that Hollywood's first pandemic awards season has officially come to an end, Wonderwall.com is taking a look back at some of the craziest ways COVID-19 impacted the Oscars, Golden Globes, Grammys, SAG Awards and other shows, starting with how the 2021 Academy Awards looked very different this year. Among the biggest changes? The dramatically scaled down, socially distanced ceremony — during which attendees donned face masks unless they were appearing on camera — moved from its usual home inside Hollywood's Dolby Theatre to Union Station … an active train station in a dangerous part of downtown Los Angeles. Nominees were encouraged to attend in person to avoid the awkward acceptance speeches delivered via Zoom that plagued the bulk of awards season 2021, and those who weren't able to make it to the City of Angels due to international travel restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic had the option of watching the show from one of several international hubs. The hubs, which were located in various locations across the globe, featured industry-standard satellite connections and were designed to mimic the aesthetic of the ceremony in L.A. Nominee Sacha Baron Cohen and wife Isla Fisher, for example, watched the show from a satellite hub in Sydney, while Bong Joon Ho presented the Oscar for best director from Seoul. But not everyone made it to a hub. Anthony Hopkins pulled off a major upset when he won the Oscar for best lead actor for his performance in "The Father" over the late Chadwick Boseman, who was favored to win. Adding insult to injury, the Welsh actor didn't make it to the nearest international hub (in London) for the show. The Los Angeles Times reported that, according to a representative for "The Father," the 83-year-old actor opted to stay in his native Wales to avoid exposure to COVID-19. (Ann Roth — who became the oldest woman to win a competitive Academy Award when she won the Oscar for best costume design for "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" — missed the ceremony for a similar reason.) To make matters worse, the Academy presented Anthony's award last, leaving the ceremony to end on a truly anticlimactic note. (Since the late '50s, the show has concluded after the winner for best picture is announced.) Countless industry insiders speculated that Oscar producers assumed Chadwick would win and that his posthumous victory would end the evening on a deeply emotional note. Ultimately, only one person accepted an Oscar from a hub: Florian Zeller accepted the prize for best adapted screenplay for "The Father" from a hub in Paris. Needless to say, it all didn't really work: This year's Oscars had the lowest ratings ever in Academy Awards history, with just 9.8 million viewers tuning in — a 58% drop from 2020, which had been the lowest rated telecast ever.
Now keep reading for more of the year's craziest award show moments…
We have mixed feelings about this big change… The Oscars have delivered many headline-making live performances over the years, but not in 2021! In typical years, nominees for best song perform during the broadcast. This year, however, the Academy did away with live performances — there wasn't even a live performance during the oddly rushed "In Memoriam" segment. On the bright side, producers also did away with "wrap-up music," allowing winners to ramble past the standard 45-second speech limit. As much as we would've loved to hear H.E.R. perform her Oscar-winning track "Fight for You" from "Judas and the Black Messiah," we were also happy to hear the singer-songwriter and other winners deliver their funny and tear-filled acceptance speeches without interruption. The show was still the shortest Oscar broadcast in years — perhaps because it also bid adieu to all pre-recorded sketches and bits (aside from some unplanned comedy gold courtesy of Glenn Close).
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No red carpet? No problem! Many celebrities eschewed formalwear during awards season 2021 due to its predominantly virtual nature. But no one eschewed formalwear with more gusto than Jason Sudeikis, who made headlines when he accepted the Golden Globe for best lead actor on a musical or comedy series for his work on "Ted Lasso" while wearing a tie-dye hoodie from his sister's line of merch for her fitness studio. (He also raised eyebrows with his rambling acceptance speech, which he concluded with this gem: "I gotta wrap this puppy up. Never been my forte. Little windy. 'Little windy,' as my aunt Loretta would say.") A week later, he accepted two Critics Choice Awards while wearing a hoodie featuring a logo for Crockett High School — the fictional school in "Booksmart," the feature film directorial debut of his ex-partner, actress-filmmaker Olivia Wilde. Then in early April, he accepted his first SAG Award while rocking a Gucci sweater featuring the slogan "My Body My Choice," which is part of the fashion house's campaign to support pro-choice initiatives. How's that for award-winning style?
Only Tina Fey and Amy Poehler could pull this off! It was a major first for the Golden Globes in 2021: Due to pandemic travel restrictions, the live ceremony was bicoastal, with the "30 Rock" star hosting from the Rainbow Room in New York City as the "Parks and Recreation" actress co-hosted from the award show's usual home: the Beverly Hilton hotel in Beverly Hills. It was odd, but somehow, it worked. The two women were perfectly in sync as they mined the distance between them for laughs. (Remember when Tina pretended to stroke Amy's hair?) Adding to the unique nature of this year's show, there weren't famous faces seated in the audience but rather frontline and essential workers who got all dolled up for occasion. (All audience members were tested for the coronavirus, and COVID-19 compliance officers were on hand to make sure safety protocols were followed throughout the evening.)
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A technical difficulty nearly derailed one of the biggest moments in Daniel Kaluuya's career. The "Get Out" and "Black Panther" actor won his first Golden Globe on Feb. 28 for his performance in "Judas and the Black Messiah," but when he launched into his acceptance speech — the first of the evening during the partially virtual show, which saw winners accepting their awards from their homes or from other locations across the globe — fans were devastated to see he'd been left on mute. A grimacing Laura Dern, who presented the award, had the unfortunate task of moving along the show without allowing Daniel to have his moment in the spotlight. But right when all hope seemed lost, the Globes fixed the issue and returned to the acclaimed actor, who exclaimed, "You did me dirty! You did me dirty! You're doing me dirty! You're doing me dirty! Am I on? Is this on? A'ight, cool. Can you hear me now? Alright, cool, I'm on. We got this. We got this. We're cool." Needless to say, the technical difficulty did not inspire confidence in awards season 2021…
Another headline-making fashion moment during the 2021 Golden Globes? Jodie Foster donned pajamas (how quarantine of her!) while accepting the award for best supporting actress in a movie for her performance in "The Mauritanian." Her understated award show look might have had something to do with the fact that she didn't expect to win — as she acknowledged in her acceptance speech: "Are you kidding me? I think you made a mistake. I'm a little speechless. I just never expected to ever be here again," she said while seated beside wife Alex Hedison, who also donned chic pajamas, and their dog Ziggy. (Because the show was partially virtual, several stars' four-legged friends were able to steal the spotlight from their famous humans.)
One of the 2021 Golden Globes' most divisive moments came courtesy of Catherine O'Hara and her husband, Bo Welch. As the first-time Globes winner accepted the award for best lead actress on a musical or comedy series for her work on "Schitt's Creek," her hubby began playing "wrap-up music" — a staple of any award show — on his cellphone while seated beside her on a sofa. While industry insiders got the gag, fans watching from home were left befuddled, questioning why the production designer would behave so disrespectfully during his wife's big moment. It was the type of chaotic energy we grew to expect from a pandemic award show!
Awkward! The 2021 Golden Globes probably should've warned nominees they'd be on camera and unmuted for a few seconds here and there as the show rolled into commercial breaks. Instead, viewers were privy to the uncomfortable chit chat between A-listers appearing on the broadcast from different locations around the globe. Early in the show, as he realized what was happening, Dan Levy gasped, "Oh my god. Are we on?" At another point, Michelle Pfeiffer was overheard telling her fellow nominees, "I don't have my glasses on, so I can't actually tell who I'm speaking to." Later, viewers were treated to Jason Sudeikis and Don Cheadle cracking jokes about Tracy Morgan's "Soul" mispronunciation flub. It truly set the bar for unexpected awkwardness during a pandemic awards season!
The only thing worse than overhearing the awkward chit chat between A-listers who weren't aware they were on camera during the 2021 Golden Globes? Spying them completely check out from the show. At one point, Al Pacino was pictured apparently napping during the broadcast (he's seen here during a more wakeful moment). At another, the camera cut to Catherine O'Hara and her husband, Bo Welch, as they both looked down at their phones, texting away (or scrolling through Instagram, perhaps?) while seated beside each other on a couch.
Unlike the 2021 Golden Globes, many stars were on hand in person for the 2021 Grammys. Still, music's biggest night was a significantly smaller affair than in previous years. The show typically takes place at Los Angeles's Staples Center in front of thousands of industry insiders and lucky music fans. This year, only select nominees, performers and presenters scored seats to the Trevor Noah-hosted show, which spread out across multiple locations throughout Staples Center and the neighboring Los Angeles Convention Center — including a theater-in-the-round where different artists played back-to-back. The audience-free, multi-location setup actually worked in the Grammys' favor, allowing performers to deliver bigger, bolder and, conversely, more intimate performances — some of the best in Grammy Awards history, in fact! (Meanwhile, on the subject of presenters, the 2021 Grammys featured a special nod to some true heroes of the music biz: Employees of independent music venues that were hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic appeared virtually to serve as presenters.)
Due to travel bans amid the coronavirus pandemic, one of the biggest acts in music today, K-Pop boy band BTS, wasn't able to make it to Los Angeles for the 2021 Grammys. Instead, the group contributed a pre-recorded rendition of their hit "Dynamite," which they shot across multiple locations in a high-rise in Seoul, South Korea. It was another case of COVID-19 restrictions oddly working in the Grammys' favor where performances were concerned: The guys delivered a unique, high-energy performance featuring flawless choreography, strong vocals and pyrotechnics. Adding to the "wow" factor, they kicked off their number in a recreation of the Grammy Awards stage, giving viewers the impression they were on hand in Los Angeles. But when they concluded the number on a rooftop helipad, it became clear they were actually halfway around the world! (How do you say "epic" in Korean?!) Grammy Awards host Trevor Noah said it best, gushing, "They were in Seoul, Korea, the whole time. They literally recreated our whole set over there 'cause they couldn't be here — but they wanted to be here, so then they rebuilt here, over there. I mean, there should be an award just for that."
The Screen Actors Guild Awards were truly odd this year. The annual award show was entirely pre-recorded during the week leading up to the hour-long television special. (Typically, the live show runs two hours.) Although the broadcast featured some highly produced segments — including sketches featuring the cast of "Ted Lasso" and longtime couple Mary Steenburgen and Ted Danson — the actual award ceremony was essentially a glorified recording of an A-list Zoom meeting.
The 2021 Critics Choice Awards truly embraced their virtual format: Throughout the broadcast, Taye Diggs brought the quarantine vibes by hosting the ceremony with his appearance altered by social media-inspired filters. At various points, he appeared as a potato, as a banana and as a man with a moose head. Whether you found the running gag funny or cringe-worthy… well, that's a personal "choice."
Bummer! Gillian Anderson experienced major technical difficulties while accepting the award for best supporting actress on a drama series for her work on "The Crown" during the 2021 Critics Choice Awards. Her video froze, and the sound cut out frequently throughout her minute-long acceptance speech. Earlier in the evening, while chatting with host Taye Diggs, she also fell victim to her shoddy Internet connection.
One of the most delightful moments of the 2021 Critics Choice Awards came courtesy of Seth Meyers and his parents: Lawrence and Hillary, who were seated beside him just outside the frame as he accepted the award for best talk show for "Late Night with Seth Meyers." As their son's acceptance speech went on, the longtime couple could be heard giggling off screen… until they ultimately leaned in to join him in the frame. It was a rare treat — a scene-stealing moment that couldn't have occurred at an in-person award show.
What's there to say about the 2021 Film Independent Spirit Awards? The annual show, which typically lands on the Saturday before the Oscars, moved to the Thursday before the Oscars for this year's virtual edition, which flew totally under the radar in spite of the hilarity brought by "Saturday Night Live" star Melissa Villaseñor, who served as the evening's host. While the Indie Spirits aim to honor smaller films that don't always score mainstream recognition, most of this year's winners were also Oscar nominees. We expected as much considering the past year saw indie films reigning supreme as bigger studio projects pushed their release dates amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The 2021 BAFTA Awards also experienced a major scheduling change this year. Due to pandemic safety protocols in the U.K., the annual London-based award show — which typically takes place on a single evening — was spread out over the course of two consecutive evenings in mid-April, with only a handful of presenters attending the event in person. Winners accepted their awards from home… which is probably the only reason why actress Youn Yuh-Jung felt comfortable calling British people "snobbish" while accepting the award for best supporting actress for her work in "Minari." Meanwhile, two of the evening's other big winners — Anthony Hopkins and Frances McDormand — disappointed by failing to appear at the virtual ceremony at all.
All the world's a stage! Like many annual award shows, the 2021 NAACP Image Awards were virtual this year. But unlike the SAG Awards, they put their format to good use: A-listers presented awards not just from their homes but also from significant landmarks in Black history — from Black-owned businesses in Los Angeles to Atlanta's Morehouse College — breaking the mold in the best way possible! (Samuel L. Jackson, for example, presented an award in front of the HBCU's Graves Hall.)
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, several smaller award shows flew almost completely under the radar this year. In typical years, A-listers can be counted on to show up to honor their colleagues in the Directors Guild of America, the Producers Guild of America and the Writers Guild of America (among other guilds representing individuals who work behind the scenes) at the award shows celebrating their finest offerings — even though those ceremonies aren't televised. This year, however, only a small handful of celebs participated in the smaller award shows. Nicole Kidman, for example, presented during the 32nd Annual Producers Guild Awards on March 24. That ceremony (and a few others) streamed online. It just wasn't the same as the big red carpet affairs to which we're accustomed!