The 2021 Oscars won’t go down in history as one of the best award ceremonies in the show’s long run, nor the most watched with a reported 58% drop in viewership, but it still made history in many ways providing a diverse set of winners including several history-making honors passed out over the course of the night. Prior to the ceremony I posted my picks and predictions for who those winners would be and, as usual, I’m here the day after to break down the victors and the major headlines of the evening. I’ll be taking a closer look at the predictable, the surprises and the controversies of Hollywood’s biggest night in 2021 although I won’t be rating the show itself…but I will be talking about that big surprise twist at show’s end that had everyone talking. Let me know your thoughts of the show, the winners and the losers in the comments.
As expected, “Nomadland” was the biggest winner of the night taking home three of the evening’s most prestigious awards. Its most notable accomplishment is earning Best Director for Chloé Zhao who becomes the first Asian woman and the second woman ever to win the honor. The film also took the night’s biggest award, Best Picture, making Zhao the second woman to direct a Best Picture winner after her fellow Best Director honoree Kathryn Bigelow also won Best Picture in 2010 for “The Hurt Locker”. Both of these wins I personally predicted but I honestly did not see the movie’s third win of the night coming for Best Actress. I thought for sure that the battle would be between the Golden Globe winner Andra Day and the odds-on favorite Carey Mulligan but I totally overlooked Frances McDormand who won her third Best Actress Award and second since 2018 making her perfect in all three nominations in the category. Ironically, she has yet to win Best Supporting Actress after three nominations. McDormand now sits one win behind Katharine Hepburn for most wins in the Best Actress category and is alone in second place with her third win breaking a tie she had with 13 other actresses including the likes of Jane Fonda, Meryl Streep and Elizabeth Taylor to name a few. To say the least, McDormand has solidified herself in cinema royalty.
Probably the biggest surprise of the night was the Best Actor category and I’ll take this time right now to address the controversial elephant in the room. The 2021 ceremony was the first to be produced by Steven Soderbergh and featured some questionable creative choices, although I’ll admit the shorter run time was a welcome gift. One unfortunate decision that blew up in the face of the Academy was deciding to award the Best Picture winner, usually the final honor of the night, before the Best Actor and Actress categories. They even made Best Actor the final award which led many to believe, as was expected, that the late Chadwick Boseman was going to win. Instead, Anthony Hopkins was awarded the trophy in what many consider a massive upset. Personally, I’m not disappointed with the result…I’m disappointed that the Oscar’s built it up the way they did even though they surely knew the winner beforehand. Boseman was awarded the Golden Globe, and many believed and hoped that he would win the Oscar for his final performance prior to his death in 2020. On the other hand, Hopkins turned in what many, including myself, consider the best performance in a career defined by excellence making them both the easy front runners. Hopkins deserved to win, as would have Boseman if he was awarded, and I’m glad at least one of them took the honor. I don’t think the Academy got anything wrong except hyping the award up to be this potential grand farewell to a spectacular actor gone too soon and instead awarding it to the perceived underdog shattering the hopes of countless viewers who took to social media to air their grievances, some appropriately and others in ways they should probably regret. Anyways, Hopkins’ honor was well earned, if unexpected, and so was “The Father’s” other win of the night for Best Adapted Screenplay. A un fact there, it’s only the third time since 1989 that an adaptation of a stage play has won the Adapted Screenplay award.
Looking at the other two acting categories things went pretty much as expected. Daniel Kaluuya earned the Best Supporting Actor trophy for his performance in “Judas and the Black Messiah” which also went on to take a win for Best Original Song for “Fight for You”. Kaluuya’s win is his first and he’s only the third black man in the last two decades to win the award with Morgan Freeman honored in 2004 and Mahershala Ali winning in 2016 and 2018. One of the most notable history-making wins of the evening was for Best Supporting Actress where Korea’s Youn Yuh-jung brought home the only trophy for “Minari” on the night. Youn Yuh-jung is only the second Asian woman in history, and the first since the late-50s, and the first Korean actress to ever win an acting Oscar. Both were the heavily favored winners going in to the night and the Academy didn’t disappoint.
The night’s most nominated film, “Mank”, took home only two honors. Those were for Cinematography and Production Design. “Another Round”, whose director Thomas Vinterberg was nominated for Best Director, took home the Best International Feature Film honor while Pixar’s “Soul” had a big night as expected earning the Best Animated Feature Film award and Best Score honor. “Tenet” gave Christopher Nolan and crew another Visual Effects Oscar to their credit and “Sound of Metal” and “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” rounded out the technical awards with two wins each. “Sound of Metal” earned honors for Best Sound and Film Editing while “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” snagged wins for Hair & Makeup as well as Costume Design. Of the seven films nominated for Best Picture the only one that walked away with no wins was “The Trial of the Chicago 7” which was a Dark Horse pick for the Best Picture at one point. Despite winning Best Screenplay at the Globes, “Chicago 7” couldn’t muster up enough support to shine at Hollywood’s biggest night. Despite this, the movie’s distributer Netflix had a huge evening taking home the most awards of any studio with 7 wins overall in a night dominated by mostly streaming releases. Hulu however was also a big winner as they helped distribute “Nomadland”.
At the end of the day my predictions and personal picks resulted in mixed results. In an awards season where I felt many of my picks would also match the expected victors, I was spot on for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Animated Feature Film, Best Production Design, Best Sound, Best Visual Effects, Makeup & Hairstyling, Original Score, and International Feature where I sided with the experts and picked the eventual honorees as both my personal choices and the most likely honorees. I predicted the winners for Best Supporting Actress, Best Costume Design, and Best Original Screenplay even if my personal choices didn’t win. My personal picks for Best Cinematography and Best Adapted Screenplay won even if my predictions for the actual winners were wrong. Finally, none of my predictions and wants for Best Actress, Best Film Editing or Best Original Song walked away as winners and I failed to pick the winner for Best Actor which we already established many also had wrong. You can take a look back at my 2021 Oscar predictions by clicking here.