The 93rd annual Academy Awards ceremony began and ended on a couple of strange notes, for very different reasons. In the opening sequence, kickoff presenter and One Night In Miami director Regina King strode through Los Angeles’ Union Station as a series of stylish, movie-style opening credits passed by, as a way of pretending the entire Oscars ceremony was one big film with a thoroughly amazing cast. For just a moment, the ceremony felt bold and showy, like the kind of ambitious, heads-high project we haven’t seen much of in a year of Zoom-based awards ceremonies and postponed or cancelled events.
And then King walked onto the Oscar awards set, with its small stage and sparsely populated room, its socially distanced audience tables and bare-minimum human presence, and the bubble popped. Suddenly, we were right back to the same kind of nervous, let’s-put-a-brave-face-on-this smile that’s dominated live public events for the past year.
Like every commercial gathering during COVID-19, the 2021 Oscars ceremony faced a significant challenge. It’s coming after a year of pandemic where large assemblies were frequently banned or given significant negative press. Other awards ceremonies found various solutions that never had the glamour or intimacy the Oscars aspire to — for instance, the Golden Globes ceremony put the hosts on opposite coasts and made a joke out of their social distance and the small audience they played to.
Academy Awards producers Jesse Collins, Stacey Sher, and Steven Soderbergh tried to go in a different direction with the “This is all a star-studded film” motif, which King carried out by declaring that the evening would be “an Oscars movie with a cast of over 200 nominees.” But she also reassured the audience that while presenters and recipients were maskless, they were “following all of the rigorous protocols that got us back to work,” with masks replaced behind the scenes, and social distancing respected. With many of the recipients giving their speeches from remote locations, and the audience split between Union Station and a sparsely populated Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, the ceremony felt small — exactly the opposite of what the Academy normally wants.
There were a handful of highlights, including Daniel Kaluuya, in his acceptance speech for the Best Supporting Actor award, proudly explaining how he came to be on that stage: “My mom met my dad, they had sex, I’m here. It’s amazing. I’m so happy to be alive,” he exulted. It was one of the biggest laughs of the night — not just for the comment itself, but for the footage of his mother and sister’s live incredulity.
Another minor highlight: Harrison Ford, presenting the award for Best Film Editing, dryly reading a handful of studio editing notes from his 1982 film Blade Runner, including “Why do we need the third cut to the eggs?” and “Up to Zora’s death, the movie is deadly dull. This movie gets worse every screening.”
But for the most part, the 93rd Academy Awards were low-key, with relatively few speeches veering into political territory or producing memorable moments. Social-media reactions seemed more muted than usual during the ceremony, apart from a wave of disbelief during the traditional “In Memorium” segment, which sped through its list of the year’s departed Hollywood elite with a briskness that felt downright disrespectful.
But two moments particularly stand out from the evening, for completely opposite reasons. Glenn Close stole the show during the ceremony’s one unquestionable bit of padding, an Oscars-music trivia game that saw Questlove, as DJ, playing clips of songs, while pre-show host Lil Rel Howery confronted audience members, asking if those songs were nominees, winners, or neither. Asked about Experience Unlimited’s song “Da Butt,” Close not only said she knew the song, she got up and did the dance.
And then there was the ceremony’s strange final moment. Contrary to tradition, the producers scheduled the Best Picture award — which as expected, went to Nomadland — ahead of the Best Actress and Best Actor categories, almost certainly assuming the late Chadwick Boseman would win Best Actor posthumously, and the ceremony could go out on an emotional note. Instead, the trophy went to Anthony Hopkins for The Father — and Hopkins wasn’t available for a speech, so presenter Joaquin Phoenix just said the Academy would accept it on his behalf, and the night thudded to a flat, unsatisfying end. It’s been a strange year for movies, without theatrical blockbusters and with only muted hype for most of the films that debuted on streaming services instead. But this felt like the most 2021 ending possible: a clear setup, an odd whiff, and a sense of a diminished, subdued crowd rapidly deserting their near-empty viewing venues.
Here are all of the winners from the 93rd annual Academy Awards:
Best Original Screenplay
Winner: Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman
Other nominees: Judas and the Black Messiah, Minari, Sound of Metal, The Trial of the Chicago 7
Best Adapted Screenplay
Winner: Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller, The Father
Other nominees: Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, Nomadland, One Night in Miami, The White Tiger
Best International Feature
Winner: Another Round
Other nominees: Better Days; Collective; The Man Who Sold His Skin; Quo Vadis, Aidia?
Best Supporting Actor
Winner: Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah
Other nominees: Sacha Baron Cohen, The Trial of the Chicago 7; Leslie Odom, Jr., One Night in Miami; Paul Raci, Sound of Metal; Lakeith Stanfield, Judas and the Black Messiah
Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Winner: Jamika Wilson, Mia Neal, Sergio Lopez-Rivera, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Other nominees: Emma., Hillbilly Elegy, Mank, Pinocchio
Best Costume Design
Winner: Anne Roth, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Other nominees: Emma., Mank, Mulan, Pinocchio
Winner: Chloé Zhao, Nomadland
Other nominees: Thomas Vinterberg, Another Round, David Fincher, Mank, Lee Isaac Chung, Minari, Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman
Winner: Jaime Baksht, Nicolas Becker, Philip Bladh, Carlos Cortés and Michelle Couttolenc, Sound of Metal
Other nominees: Greyhound, Mank, News of the World, Soul
Best Live Action Short Film
Winner: Travon Free and Martin Desmond Roe, Two Distant Strangers
Other nominees: The Letter Room, The Present, Feeling Through, White Eye
Best Animated Short Film
Winner: Michael Govier and Will McCormack, If Anything Happens I Love You
Other nominees: Genius Loci, Opera, Yes - People
Best Animated Feature Film
Other nominees: Onward, Over the Moon, A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon, Wolfwalkers
Best Documentary Short Subject
Other nominees: A Concerto Is a Conversation, Do Not Split, Hunger Ward, A Love Song for Latasha
Best Documentary Feature
Winner: My Octopus Teacher
Other nominees: Collective, Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution, The Mole Agent, Time
Best Visual Effects
Other nominees: Love and Monsters, The Midnight Sky, Mulan, The One and Only Ivan
Best Supporting Actress
Winner: Youn Yuh-jung, Minari
Other nominees: Maria Bakalova, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm; Glenn Close, Hillbilly Elegy; Olivia Colman, The Father; Amanda Seyfried, Mank
Best Production Design
Winner: Donald Graham Burt, Jan Pascale, Mank
Other nominees: The Father, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, News of the World, Tenet
Winner: Erik Messerschmidt, Mank
Other nominees: Judas and the Black Messiah, News of the World, Nomadland, The Trial of the Chicago 7
Best Film Editing
Winner: Mikkel E.G. Nielsen, Sound of Metal
Other nominees: The Father, Nomadland, Promising Young Woman, The Trial of the Chicago 7
Best Original Score
Winner: Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross and Jon Batiste, Soul
Other nominees: Da 5 Bloods, Mank, Minari, News of the World
Best Original Song
Winner: “Fight for You” from Judas and the Black Messiah
Other nominees: “Hear My Voice” from The Trial of the Chicago 7, “Husavik” from Eurovision Song Contest, “Io Si (Seen)” from The Life Ahead, “Speak Now” from One Night in Miami
Other nominees: The Father, Judas and the Black Messiah, Mank, Minari, Promising Young Woman, Sound of Metal, The Trial of the Chicago 7
Winner: Frances McDormand, Nomadland
Other nominees: Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom; Andra Day, The United States vs. Billie Holiday; Vanessa Kirby, Pieces of a Woman; Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman
Winner: Anthony Hopkins, The Father
Other nominees: Riz Ahmed, The Sound of Metal; Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom; Gary Oldman, Mank; Steven Yeun, Minari
Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award
Winner: Tyler Perry, for philanthropic work and addressing economic insecurity and homelessness
Winner: The Motion Picture & Television Fund, for providing support services to film-industry employees during the COVID-19 pandemic