Says Karger, “If there are some people decrying the fact that no blockbusters were nominated at the Oscars this year, I would just say, well, there weren’t that many to choose from. There wasn’t a Black Panther or a Once Upon a Time in Hollywood or Lord of the Rings or an Avatar to anoint.” Not that he necessarily minds. As he’s quick to also say, “I don’t think you can look at a single Best Picture nominee this year and say that it doesn’t deserve to be there.”
Oscars, and the type of movies nominated for them, are things Karger has long been passionate about. A self-described lifelong “Oscar nerd,” Karger was studying the intricacies of the races and changing Academy dynamics well before becoming the Academy’s official red carpet greeter in 2012 and 2013, where he acted as the red carpet’s first welcoming voice (with a microphone) to nominees and presenters. Since then he’s become a Turner Classic Movies host, appearing on the cable network as presenter and historian to recount Hollywood days gone by, including during the network’s annual 31 Days of Oscar.
Perhaps unsurprisingly then, 31 Days of Oscar is Karger’s favorite recurring series on TCM, and one that’s allowed him to appreciate parallels between the Oscars during COVID and previous ceremonies held in times of crisis.
“I do think there are some parallels [with the World War II years],” Karger says, “where there were similar discussions had. ‘Should there be a ceremony? And if we have one, what should be different about it? What are the optics of having an Oscar ceremony at all in a time of crisis?’ Of course the difference is that in 1942, the question was more what does it look like and what does it feel like for us to be having this celebratory event? Whereas in 2021, the question is, is it physically safe to have this event?”
Still, the solutions remain strikingly familiar. As Karger adds, “I think the fact that you’re seeing the ceremony be completely reinvented and rethought definitely reminds me of what did happen in 1942 where the Oscar ceremony was scaled down and formal dress was discouraged, and it wasn’t the show it normally was. It was a quieter affair.”
As for the actual awards themselves, Karger is thrilled two of his favorite movies of the year, Sound of Metal and The Father, were able to be the “surprise” nominees for Best Picture. Although, much like everyone else, he thinks it’s improbable anything stops Nomadland from winning Best Picture.