Hey there beautiful people! It’s Tre’vell Anderson, Xtra’s editor-at-large. Did you miss me? Lucky for you, I’m spearheading this week’s newsletter in anticipation of this weekend’s Oscars. Unfortunately, I just missed the qualifying cutoff and am not in contention for the best actress honour. Nevertheless, we persist.
And remember, “Topline” is just a sampling of all that good good my fellow editors and I provide—an amuse-bouche, if you will—so be sure to subscribe to Xtra Weekly to get the full, multi-course experience delivered to your inbox every Friday!
What’s the buzz 🐝?
For anyone interested in the glitz and glamour of Hollywood’s film awards season, the time has come for us to prep for the collective release of our tension and uncertainty this weekend. After an entirely too-long run-up to the industry’s biggest night (aided by an unrelenting pandemic), the 93rd Academy Awards will air live from Los Angeles at 5 p.m. PT on Sunday. I’ll get to my thoughts on the nominees and who will likely win shortly, but first: Why the hell are the Oscars doing an in-person ceremony?
The short answer is that the Film Academy, ABC (the network that airs the show) and their many partners have the money to do so. We are, after all, talking about an industry that loves showing off its extravagance as a means of escapism and entertainment. The long answer? We’ve all seen the potential ramifications of a virtual award show—everything from faulty Wi-Fi connections that blur a nominee’s video to muted acceptance speeches. The producing team behind the Oscars didn’t want that, and purposefully postponed the ceremony (which would’ve happened at the end of February) in the hopes of being able to gather with looser COVID restrictions.
They’ve since decided that the show will broadcast from L.A.’s Union Station with multiple satellite locations, including the Dolby Theatre. All nominees will take at least three COVID-19 tests in advance of the big night and have temperature checks the day of. While masks won’t be required during the on-air broadcast, audience capacity will be limited to 170 people, and nominees will be cycled in and out of said audience based on a strict personalized itinerary. There will be an abbreviated red carpet—no more living room or backyard photo shoots for the celebs—but only a limited number of press will be allowed on the carpet, with a minimum seven-foot distance between reporters and interviewees.
What were we thinking 🏆?
Now, for the nominees… This year’s slate is the Film Academy’s most diverse ever—particularly in the acting categories, with nine actors of colour earning nods even as GLAAD lamented the lack of “significant LGBTQ representation.” While it’s obvious, in the words of icon-in-the-making Issa Rae, that “I’m rooting for everybody Black,” here’s a quick rundown of some of the categories I’m keeping an eye on:
The leading ladies in contention for the best actress Oscar came to play this year: Viola Davis in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Carey Mulligan in Promising Young Woman, Andra Day in The United States vs. Billie Holiday, Frances McDormand in Nomadland and Vanessa Kirby in Pieces of a Woman. My money is on queen Viola for her role as the bisexual, larger-than-life mother of Blues—mainly because I just need another one of her impeccable acceptance speeches to shoot directly into my veins. That said, McDormand could easily win out.
Best supporting actress
This is officially a Yuh-Jung Youn stan account! One of the many beating hearts of Lee Isaac Chung’s Minari, she absolutely gave the best supporting performance of the nominees. Sorry Glenn Close! (Youn is nominated alongside Olivia Colman in The Father, Maria Bakalova in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, Amanda Seyfried in Mank and Close in Hillbilly Elegy.)
Best live action short film
From bi-king Travon Free and his co-director, Martin Desmond Roe, Two Distant Strangers takes the groundhog day approach for a tale about a Black man’s ongoing encounters with police. Though many Black folks are tired of films in what I call the “Black Lives Matter Cinematic Universe,” I have to applaud the film’s intent and message. It’s up against Feeling Through, The Letter Room, The Present and White Eye.
The best documentary of last year, Sam Feder’s Laverne Cox-produced Disclosure (which you should watch on Netflix!), did not land a nomination. But I’m happy to root for Crip Camp, a Netflix doc about an unorthodox summer camp in the early 1970s for teens with disabilities that birthed a generation of activists. You can read my capsule review from its Sundance 2020 premiere here.
With the nomination of Judas and the Black Messiah, Charles King, Ryan Coogler and director Shaka King became the first all-Black producing team in the almost 100-year history of the Oscars to have a film nominated for the night’s top prize. Coupled with the brilliant performances by Daniel Kaluuya, Lakeith Stanfield and Dominique Fishback, and the film being about Chicago Black Panther Party chairman Fred Hampton, this is enough reason to want to see Judas win. But I’d also be content with a win for Minari, though Nomadland is the frontrunner.
In other Xtra news 🌎
👉If you want more Oscars and award season musings, turn to Thomas Leblanc and Tranna Wintour: “The Best Supporting Actress category is the most important category for queer people.”
👉“Unlike other social media platforms like Twitter or Instagram, TikTok doesn’t prompt you to start following your friends or celebrities right away. Rather, like butch in a hardware store, it gets right down to business.” For all the olds out there like me, Mel Woods has a beginner’s guide to queer TikTok.
👉“I’m afraid my family will reject me for being non-binary. How do I come out to them?” Kai Cheng Thom’s advice here.
👉And in light of the guilty verdict rendered in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the white police officer who murdered George Floyd last year, I’d like to re-up this explainer from writer Cameron Perrier about the movement to defund (and abolish) the police.
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Me posing on the Oscars red carpet (from home!):