The Oscars’ first-ever preshow ceremony was brisk, banterless

You may have heard: Not all of the Oscar winners accepted their awards on live TV this year.

In a dramatic break from decades of Oscar tradition, eight awards were presented in the hour before the telecast begins at 5 pm on ABC. These awards — in the craft categories of film editing, makeup and hairstyling, production design, original score, and sound, as well as the three short-film categories — were honored exclusively inside the Dolby Theater in Hollywood.

“Dune” co-stars Josh Brolin and Jason Momoa emceed the hour and handling the presentations. The winners were announced on social media — albeit with a delay — as they were revealed in the theater, and then clips of acceptance speeches will be edited into the official Oscar broadcast.

The decision caused significant controversy in the movie business. Prominent nominees including Steven Spielberg, Jane Campion, Denis Villeneuve and Guillermo del Toro denounced the plan, and many believe the decision makes the affected categories look like second (or third? fourth?) tier races.

Ahead of the ceremony, Oscars telecast producer Will Packer promised, “I want these [nominees] to be able to give their speeches and have their moment on that stage in front of their peers … in terms of the actual show, and treating those categories with the respect and putting them in the right position, all that’s going to happen. ”

Ahead of the preshow, stars arrived on the carpet, including directors Jane Campion, Stephen Spielberg and Paul Thomas Anderson (of “Licorice Pizza”); Zendaya, of “Dune”; Kodi Smit-McPhee, nominated for a supporting actor for his role in “Power of the Dog”; Ariana DeBose, up for the supporting actress honor for her turn in “West Side Story”; Bradley Cooper, who had roles in the Oscar-nominated films “Nightmare Alley” and “Licorice Pizza”; Rami Malek, of the latest “James Bond” installation “No Time to Die”; Andrew Garfield, a best actor nominee for his role in “Tick, Tick … BOOM!”; Nicole Kidman, a best actress hopeful for her role as Lucille Ball in “Being the Ricardos”; and Jessica Chastain, also nominated for best actress for her role in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye.” Earlier this month, Chastain said in an interview that she would “absolutely be present when the makeup category is being called, and if that means I’m not doing press on the red carpet or ABC or whatever it is, then so be it. ”

Around 3:40 pm, the red carpet frenzy slowed down. Nominees and guests stopped near the top of the stairs leading into the Dolby Theater for a break before going inside. While the venue was decked out with ample hand sanitizer stations reading “be kind, stay safe,” hardly anyone inside was wearing a mask. With guests standing close to one another and servers darting back and forth, empty wine glasses in tow, the mood felt almost pre-pandemic. Anthony Hopkins, Ashton Kutcher, Ava DuVernay, Billie Eilish, Javier Bardem, Mila Kunis, Penélope Cruz and Queen Latifah were among the stars spotted arriving on the red carpet after the preshow began.

Minutes before the preshow, the bar temporarily closed and guests began rushing to their seats. Right at 4 pm, the Dolby went quiet as the lights dimmed. After a 30-second countdown, the preshow ceremony kicked off. Hosts Brolin and Momoa took the stage. Momoa said he’d be “addressing the elephant in the room” given the unusual year, then went on to crack wise about how the Academy didn’t ask Billy Crystal to host but rather Aquaman.

The first award was given to “Dune,” which won the Oscar for achievement in sound and elicited big cheers from the crowd.

The ceremony briskly moved on to the short documentary category, a prize taken home by “The Queen of Basketball.”

Next up, the award for animated short film went to Alberto Mielgo and Leo Sanchez, for their film “The Windshield Wiper.”

Riz Ahmed and Aneil Karia’s “The Long Goodbye” then won the Academy Award for live action short film.

Fifth up was Hans Zimmer, who won for best original score for “Dune.” Zimmer wasn’t present to accept the award, so Momoa accepted the award on his behalf and moved on to the film editing honor. It went to Joe Walker, for his work on “Dune.” “The words ‘Oscar-nominated’ can be used in the hands of a skilled 17-year-old, as an insult,” said Walker, who in his acceptance speech referenced his kids and scored the first real laugh of the night.

After that, “Dune” won once again, for production design.

“The Eyes of Tammy Faye” clinched the Academy Award for makeup and hairstyling.

After the final Oscar was awarded, Brolin addressed the crowd: “There is a reason they picked us. Now you can spend the rest of the 94th Oscars trying to figure that out.”

In their speeches, no one directly referenced the fact that these awards were untelevised. Neither the hosts nor the honorees partook in jokes or witty banter; the preshow ceremony moved along at a staggering clip, and took all of 30 minutes to complete. Then, that was it. The crowd immediately rose to its feet and guests all but ran to the doors.

We’ll be offering insider insights and observations throughout the night from Times reporters inside the show and in the Oscars press room. Keep checking back as we update this story.

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