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How to watch the 2021 Oscars, and other Oscars questions answered

Your guide to what might be the weirdest Oscars yet

a close-up of a giant Oscar statue with an Oscars sign behind it Photo: Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images
Ana Diaz (she/her) is a culture writer at Polygon, covering internet culture, fandom, and video games. Her work has previously appeared at NPR, Wired, and The Verge.

The 93rd Academy Awards are almost here. And this year might be the celebration’s strangest year yet.

This, of course, is because of the coronavirus pandemic. Throughout last year, movie theaters closed, the production timelines on many movies shifted, and numerous studios opted to push back their 2020 films into 2021 (and beyond). Because of the delays, the Academy chose to move back the entire award show by a few months to give more movies a chance to premiere. The organization didn’t release its full list of nominees until 13 months after last year’s ceremony.

This — and other logistical nightmares that come with planning an event of this scale during a global pandemic — have left many wondering what the award ceremony will look like this year. On Sunday, viewers will finally get to see how the socially distanced ceremony will play out.

What time are the Oscars?

The 2021 Oscars will air live on Sunday, April 25, from Union Station Los Angeles and the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, as well as international locations, at 8 p.m. EDT/5 p.m. PDT.

The pre-show, Oscars: Into the Spotlight, will air live at 6:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. PT. And a post-show, Oscars: After Dark, will immediately follow the Oscars telecast.

What’s different about the Oscars this year?

Somewhat surprisingly — given that the pandemic is still very much a thing in Los Angeles County — the Oscars will remain an in-person event, with no participation via Zoom allowed. Still, the producers say they are taking precautions to keep everyone safe. The award show will broadcast from two locations, the Dolby Theater and Union Station, to keep attendees spread out.

This year’s show will likely be a whole lot weirder than typical ones, too. The producers — Jesse Collins, Stacey Sher, and Steven Soderbergh — have repeatedly said that they are approaching the ceremony as if it were a movie. What that means precisely remains to be seen.

One major change we do know about is that the musical performances for Best Original Song will take place before the actual award ceremony. If you want to catch the performances live, make sure you tune in for the pre-show, Oscars: Into the Spotlight.

How can I stream the Oscars?

As in previous years, you can watch the Oscars live on ABC. There are a few ways you can do this. Aside from tuning your TV to ABC, anyone with an eligible pay-TV package can stream the show via the ABC app or the ABC website. Both require that you log in with a valid cable or satellite TV subscription.

Subscribers of AT&T TV, FuboTV, Hulu + Live TV, and YouTube TV can also stream the Oscars live. People who subscribe to the standard tiers of Hulu will be able to watch the show on demand on the following day, Monday, April 26.

There’s always the option to pick up an over-the-air TV antenna, too. It’ll give you access to whatever local broadcast stations are within range of you — which usually includes the big four networks (ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC) — for $20-30.

Who are the 2021 Oscar nominees?

Due to the pandemic, nominees from streaming platforms dominated the categories. Among the selections, Nomadland is favored to win some of the most prestigious awards of the night, including Best Picture and Best Director. The team behind Minari picked up an impressive six nominations, including ones for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay. And the late Chadwick Boseman is currently the favorite for Best Actor for his role in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.

Who is hosting the Oscars?

The Oscars haven’t had a host since 2018. This year will continue that new practice — the academy has enlisted a number of Hollywood stars to present awards and other segments during the show: Angela Bassett, Halle Berry, Bong Joon Ho, Don Cheadle, Bryan Cranston, Laura Dern, Harrison Ford, Regina King, Marlee Matlin, Rita Moreno, Joaquin Phoenix, Brad Pitt, Reese Witherspoon, Renée Zellweger and Zendaya.

While these are the celebrities slated to appear, we still don't really know what the producers mean by “cast.” It seems like Soderbergh might have something else up his sleeve.

Whether it feels like a smooth ceremony remains to be seen. So if you’re interested checking out how everything pans out, you can watch it this Sunday.

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