Lights! Camera! Mute button! 2021 awards show drinking game

The thrill of an awards ceremony usually comes from seeing so much talent clustered in such a small space. Star after star, packed in tightly together, wearing their best clothes, all vying to give the wittiest, most memorable speech in the fanciest outfit. The actual awards are an afterthought. Or at least they were, because now Covid is a thing and awards ceremonies have had to adapt accordingly.

If you saw this year’s Golden Globes – and pretty much nobody did – you will have seen what a sterile, remote oddity it was, plagued with glitches and awkwardness. The pandemic has completely changed the face of the awards ceremony as we know it. With this year’s excuse for an awards season about to hit full tilt, here’s a Covid Awards drinking game (soft drinks are available). Perfect to play as you judge the living rooms of A-list actors from your own, objectively worse, homes.

Although the Oscars has promised no Zoom calls this year, it will just take one small surge in cases to ruin that plan. On the plus side, a video-conference Oscars would allow the nominees to augment their dresses with the best accessory of all: their Zoom background. Nothing gives more away about a person than the room they sit in as they accept an award. Is it grand and out of touch? Is it so self-consciously small that it comes off as falsely modest? Are the bookshelves full of important works, or pictures of their family, or other awards they have won? Are they just sitting in a blank white void, because their publicist told them not to give anything away about themselves? Drink if you spot a book you’ve read. Drink even more if you hated it, because that makes you better than them.

Otherwise known as Daniel Kaluuya Syndrome. If you saw the Golden Globes, you will have seen the mortifying moment where Daniel Kaluuya began his acceptance speech over Zoom, only to reveal that he’d accidentally put himself on mute. Will these issues be fixed in time for the rest of awards season, or will Brad Pitt’s “Unstable Connection” notification start blinking mid-joke? Will Aaron Sorkin vanish 40 minutes into the ceremony because he’s too cheap to upgrade to a pro account? Will Joaquin Phoenix appear onscreen as a giant oblivious cat, like that Texas lawyer did the other month? Drink whenever a presenter has to cover up for a technical hitch, or whenever you can hear a producer panicking, or when a comedian pretends to be on mute as a funny “joke”.

Here’s a lesson we all learned during the Golden Globes. When a monologue mocks films in front of the people who made them, it comes off as good-natured joshing. But when the stars aren’t there, the same jokes can seem breathtakingly mean. With no audience to bounce off, and a tundra of scattered chuckles as a best possible response, joke-telling – as Tina Fey and Amy Poehler found – is riskier than ever this year. Maybe the best thing to do would be to just not tell any. Anyway, score a point whenever someone tells a joke to openly hostile silence.

However they are held, either remotely or in reduced physical numbers, the full-bore razzmatazz of awards ceremonies this year will be heavily diluted, and this might trick people into letting their guard down slightly more than usual. For instance, Al Pacino definitely fell asleep during the Golden Globes. He definitely did. The cameras cut to him, and his eyes were closed and he looked very peaceful. He must have been asleep. Expect much more of this for the rest of the season. Maybe Anthony Hopkins will wander off for a sandwich, or Glenn Close will start picking her nose. Maybe Frances McDormand will start answering emails during her acceptance speech. Mainly, though, drink if anyone else falls asleep. Call it a sympathy drink.

As someone who has worked in newsrooms during awards ceremonies, I can tell you that the fastest way to make headlines is to use your acceptance speech to push a cause, be it wage equality like Patricia Arquette, climate change like Leonardo DiCaprio or just a nebulous grab-bag of vaguely bad things like Joaquin Phoenix. But will this happen this year? What issues can the winners draw our attention to? The pandemic? Unlikely, because we’re all really aware of the pandemic, thank you. Anything that isn’t the pandemic? Pipe down, idiot, there’s a pandemic on. I would suggest drinking whenever anyone uses the phrase “unprecedented times” – but I don’t want to be responsible for you having your stomach pumped.

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