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Hollywood Reflects on an Awards Season Unlike Any Other

Chris Pizzello/AP/Pool Via PMC
Carey Mulligan, Chloé Zhao and more mourn the in-person fun but celebrate the accessibility of a virtual awards season.

This year's awards season has been unlike any before (and hopefully, after): virtual events, at-home press tours and films consumed almost entirely on streaming services rather than in theaters. As it comes to a close after an in-person Oscars — also breaking tradition with limited attendees and a location change to Union Station — some of this year's nominees and winners reflect on the highs and lows of this year's historic race, which decreased the fun but increased the access.

Carey Mulligan

"We were doing lots of press in March of last year and just about to open in cinemas in the U.K. and then suddenly everything stopped. Of course there’s a disappointment in that happening but in the grand scheme of things, the world and its issues were so much bigger so it was very easy to get over it and move on," said the Promising Young Woman star. "I think it’s been so interesting releasing the film like this. There’s definitely an argument to say that if this film had come out at a normal time, in a conventional way, perhaps it might have reached people who had already given this sort of stuff quite a lot of thought and there would’ve been a risk of preaching to the choir a bit. But because we came out in the way we did and was sort of online in people’s homes, certainly my experience has been there’s a far broader audience than I imagine we might have had.

"In some ways that’s so great because this film, in and of itself, is such a brilliant movie, but also the stuff that it has to say — the questions that it asks, the conversations that it starts; a real bonus of making this film is the conversations that have happened around the dinner table in people’s homes and the people who might not have seen it getting to see it," Mulligan said. "We’ve been completely thrilled by the reception and how it’s come out and unconventional way that it reached people."

Chloé Zhao

The virtual season has allowed Zhao to stay connected with the real-life nomads featured in her film, but the in-person connection has still been missed. "I can’t wait to hug them, I need to hug somebody," Zhao said. "Virtually is great, it’s better than nothing. We were really lucky, we had our premiere at the Rose Bowl. We were all there together, we couldn’t hug each other but we were there so we always had that memory. It’s also awesome to see where they are, they’d be traveling and be in their vans somewhere. We’re super grateful for it."

Crip Camp directors Jim LeBrecht and Nicole Newnham

"I think we all feel a huge amount of sadness that we’re not able to hang out with our fellow nominees who we admire so much and who are such amazing people," Newnham said after taking home the Independent Spirit Award for best documentary. "We’re so sad not to be a part of the real-life experience of the Independent Spirit Awards, which is something that has been so inspiring to us as filmmakers — just to have people championing the work that we do specifically is so meaningful so to be here is extraordinary. But I think we’ve also found that especially for people with disabilities, the virtual world has allowed us to engage with people who might not come to film festivals or events; to reach audiences who haven’t otherwise been reached and do that with accessibility and inclusion, that’s been really meaningful."

LeBrecht added, "We haven’t had to worry about the number of wheelchair seats for virtual screenings. We were really fortunate when we were at Sundance we had a large entourage of folks that Sundance helped pulled some seats out of the Eccles Theatre so we could all sit together like every other group. It’s been a positive in a lot of respects." 

The Father writer Christopher Hampton

After winning best adapted screenplay Oscar, Hampton noted how momentous the win feels "particularly in these circumstances because we are in different countries," referencing co-writer Florian Zeller, who was celebrating remotely in France. "It is unlike any Oscar ceremony there has ever been, which is strange but great."

Nomadland producer Peter Spears

"This was the most fulfilling [night] because it was the first time we were all able to be together," said Spears of the Oscars, where his film took home the prize for best picture. "Usually, you spend a lot of time together through the awards circuit, but this was the first time we were able to be reunited and see the other filmmakers behind the amazing films."

My Octopus Teacher director Anthony Giacchino

"Intimate is the best word for it," said the doc short winner of the Academy Awards ceremony. "I just remarked outside that I was glad that I was at this [Oscars] because it is so small. I feel very safe. I know all of the tests I had to do and I know everyone else had to do the exact same thing."

Love and Monsters visual effects supervisor Genevieve Camilleri

"The Academy setup a remote live satellite broadcast of the event from Sydney, Australia, which I  attended and participated in the ceremony from," Camilleri said when asked about how she watched the ceremony (she was among those unable to attend the ceremony in L.A. due to the 24 days quarantine it would have required, meaning 10 days on arrival in L.A. followed by 14 days upon return to Australia). "Although I was not part of the traditional ceremony in LA, it was still a very surreal and exciting experience to of been part of the 93rd Academy Awards from a satellite studio in Sydney. A media wall, mini red carpet, camera crew and photographers were all on site, which made it feel just as real as the ceremony in LA."

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