April 27, 2021




By Leslie Fields-Cruz

Reflections on the 2021 Oscars

First, let me say Ramadan Mubarak (Happy Ramadan) to all our Muslim brothers and sisters. I realize Covid-19 is forcing you to modify the way you observe this sacred holiday. But perhaps the pandemic-imposed restrictions will open the door to new ways to observe the season. 

Speaking of seasons, this year’s media awards season was ... well weird, and yet I’m oddly grateful that it wasn’t like all of the years prior. I get that a televised awards show has to be entertaining — the pre-show, the red carpet interviews, the MC’s jokes, the musical performances, the short happy newbie speeches, the “please cut them off speeches,” the “OMG did they really just SAY/DO THAT moment,” and everything in between. But over the years, as the ceremony became more about Nielsen ratings contests, fashion mentions, the same musical artists performing again and again AND AGAIN, my interest in watching began to wane. Add to that my frustration at the glaring lack of diversity year after year. The last awards ceremony I watched in full was … hmmm … it’s been so long I can’t even remember. Nowadays, I monitor the twitter feed, because what I really want to know is, who are the winners?  

I didn’t watch all of the pared-down Oscars show this year. During the first hour, I launched the Twitter App so I could follow who won and who lost. My husband, who was watching the Oscars on our bedroom TV informed me about Daniel Kuluuya’s win. I was rooting for Lakieth Stansfield or Leslie Odom, but when you have a 3 out of 5 chance of a Black actor winning, when in 2020 it was 0 out of 5, you take the win. Congrats Daniel!


By hour two, I had finished with what I was doing downstairs. My two kids had co-opted the family room TV to watch reruns of Code Lyoko, so I headed upstairs to check on my husband. He usually enjoys watching the fanfare of the awards ceremonies, but this time I found him fast asleep on the bed. The Oscars were clearly watching him. Anyway, maybe it was pure coincidence, but I arrived in time to watch Marlee Maitlin sign the nominees for the documentary shorts category. “And the winner is, Colette." Hmmm … . I didn’t see that one, but I didn’t watch A Love Song for Latasha either.  I’m like Issa Rae … ”I’m rooting for everyone Black.”  

Marlee started signing for the documentary feature category. I’m a huge fan of Garret Bradley’s work. A while back, Denise (Greene, BPM director of programs) and I made an offer for one of her other projects, but alas, she turned us down. That’s ok, though. She’s an amazing artist with a huge future ahead of her. So my fingers were crossed for TIME. “And the winner is, My Octopus Teacher” … WTF? A doc about an octopus? REALLY!! Ok, admit, I didn’t watch that one either. I grabbed my iPad and started looking up the reviews for the film. There are plenty, all glowing. Ok, I’ll add it to my watchlist. But I still wished TIME had won.

I tuned in and out of the ceremony for another half hour before joining my husband in dreamland. So I didn’t get to witness the first woman of color, Chloe Zhao, winning Best Director for Nomadland.   

The 2021 Oscars marks the end of the awards season. I’m not sure what next year will look like. This year’s slate was the most diverse in history. Let’s hope the Academy’s new rules about diversity will keep it that way. And if the Academy hopes to command the attention of people like my husband, those music performances may still be needed between the ceremony's award announcements.  

Congratulations to all of the winners, but a special shout out to:

  • Chloe Zhao for Best Director. 
  • Mia Neel & Jamika Wilson, first ever Black Women to win an Oscar for Makeup and Hairstyle.
  • Daniel Kaluuya for Best Supporting Actor. 
  • H.E.R., Best Song. She’s only 23 and half way on the road to an EGOT.  
  • Youn Yuh-jung for Best Supporting Actress. 
  • Travon Free and Martin Desmond Roe for Best Live Action Short.  

Let’s hope in the next few years the Academy will have more Latinx, Native American & Pacific Islander representation, too.  

Have a good week!

Black Public Media is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, with further funding from the MacArthur Foundation and the New York State Council on the Arts. Support for Afropop: the Ultimate Cultural Exchange and the 360 Incubator+ Fund comes from the National Endowment for the Arts. BPM is the only nonprofit that offers training, funding and distribution for projects solely about the Black experience. We are seeking foundations, corporations and individuals to help our work. For more information about underwriting and contributions, please contact Alisa Norris (Alisa@ blackpublicmedia.org). To donate, click here! In addition, you can donate to BPM through your Amazon purchases by going to smile.amazon.com/ch/31- 1335950.

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