Oscars 2021 sees 'Nomadland' receive best picture as celebs rip Derek Chauvin, police brutality
The 93rd Academy Awards are expected to be the lowest-rated yet despite several opportunities to make history
The 2021 Oscars on Sunday saw "Nomadland" take home the top prize as best picture in an awards show that featured countless celebrities referencing Derek Chauvin's murder conviction and police brutality in the United States.
"We give this one to our wolf," Frances McDormand, one of the film's stars and producers, said before howling to the ceiling as she accepted the accolade. She also asked viewers to watch the film "on the largest screen possible" at movie theaters "very, very soon."
McDormand also took home the award for best actress for the film.
"My voice is in my sword. We know the sword is our work and I like work. Thank you for nominating me tonight and thanks for this," McDormand said to the crowd.
Another big winner was Anthony Hopkins, who took home best actor for his work in "The Father."
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The 93rd Academy Awards began on April 25 with its first presenter of the night, actress Regina King, declaring the film industry's biggest night is maintaining its producers' promise: to provide an intimate ceremony with "maskless" guests amid the coronavirus pandemic.
"Oh, live TV here we go, welcome to the 93rd Oscars. Oh, Jesus, I made it," King said.
Noting that it's "been quite a year" for presenters, nominees, performers and the rest of the world as we are "still smack dab in the middle of it," the 93rd Academy Awards is a night "to celebrate," she said.
"And yes, we're doing it maskless," King declared. "Well, think of this as a movie set, an Oscars movie with a cast of over 200 nominees. People have been vaxxed, tested, retested, social distanced and we are following all of the rigorous protocols that got us back to work safely. So, just like as a movie set masks off and when we're not rolling, masks on. Ok, that’s how we do it."
The "One Night in Miami" director added that it would have been quite a different celebratory night for her had Chauvin not been convicted in the May 2020 murder of George Floyd.
"I have to be honest if things had gone differently this week in Minneapolis, I would have traded in my heels for marching boots," she said.
Travon Free, one of the directors of "Two Distant Strangers," discussed police brutality in his acceptance speech for the film's win for best live-action short film.
"Today the police will kill three people and tomorrow the police will kill three people, and the day after that the police will kill three people because on average the police in America every day kill three people," Free said, joined by co-director Desmond Roe.
He continued: "Those people have been disproportionately Black people... I ask that you please not be indifferent. Please don't be indifferent to our pain."
Prior to the ceremony, the 36-year-old writer made headlines for his outfit: a Dolce & Gabbana suit lined with the names of those killed by police brutality in the U.S.
The first two awards of the night went to Emerald Fennell who won the award for best original screenplay for the film "Promising Young Woman," starring Carey Mulligan, and the best adapted screenplay then went to Florian Zeller and Christopher Hampton for "The Father."
In accepting his award for best director, Thomas Vinterberg, paid tribute to his daughter, Ida, who he said died in a car accident days into beginning filming for "Another Round."
"She loved this. She was supposed to be in this. You'll be able to see her clapping and cheering with us. We ended up making this movie for her, as her monument. So, Ida, this is a miracle that just happened and you're a part of this miracle. Maybe you've been pulling some strings somewhere, I don't know. But this one is for you," Vinterberg said.
Daniel Kaluuya won best supporting actor for "Judas and the Black Messiah."
"We're going up tonight. We're going to celebrate life. We're breathing, we're walking, it's incredible. Life is incredible," he said.
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This year's Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award went to the Motion Picture and Television Fund and was accepted on the fund's behalf by CEO Bob Beitcher. He noted it was the first time the award has gone to an organization, and it was due to the fund's support of providing to those in need during the pandemic.
Chloé Zhao took home the award for best director for "Nomadland," a category that had two female filmmakers nominated for the first time. Zhao is now just the second woman to win best director in the Academy's 93 years (following Kathryn Bigelow for "The Hurt Locker"), and the first woman of color.
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Prior to the telecast's start at 8 p.m., the red carpet made its return – one of the most notable changes from other pandemic-era award shows. In the weeks leading up to Hollywood's most glamorous night, it was announced that casual wear is a no-no.
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The show was shot in 24 frames-per-second (as opposed to 30), meaning it'll appear more widescreen. Presenters, including Brad Pitt, Halle Berry, Reese Witherspoon, Harrison Ford, Rita Moreno and Zendaya – are considered "cast members."
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Pixar's upcoming animated movie "Soul" took home the award for best animated feature, starring Jamie Foxx and Tina Fey.
Pitt took the stage in a black suit and bowtie to present the award for best supporting actress, which went to Yuh-Jung Youn for her role in "Minari." Youn's acceptance speech won over the crowd as her gratefulness for the award did not go unnoticed. She also praised fellow nominee Glenn Close of "Hillbilly Elegy."
"Me, being here by myself, this, I cannot believe I'm here. Ok, let me pull myself together," she said with a laugh. "Thanks to the academy members who voted for me. Thank you for the wonderful united family. Most of all, Glenn Close...I've been watching her so many performances. All of the five nominees, we are the winners tonight for different movies. Tonight I just have a little bit of luck. I'm luckier than you. Also, maybe, [this] is American hospitality for the Korean actor, I'm not sure."
She also mentioned her two sons. "This is the result because Mommy works so hard," she quipped before adding, "I'd like to dedicate this award to my first director, who was a very genius director. I think he would be very happy if he's still alive."
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Ford provided laughter for those in the audience during his presenting speech for best editing, which went to "Sound of Metal." He recalled how grueling the editing process is for movie editors by pulling out a note from his pocket that he described as "editorial suggestions" he once received for "Bladerunner."
"Why is this voiceover track so terrible? It sounds drugged. Were they all on drugs?... The flashback dialogue is confusing, is he listening to a tape? Why do we need the third cut to the eggs? The synagogue music is awful on the street," Ford read aloud to the crowd.
He then recalled just how significant an editor is in the making of a film. "These notes can help us understand why the editing process can often get a little complicated. The possibilities may seem endless but the editor will work tirelessly often in isolation to make thousands of choices placing the right length in order to arrive at the best version of what the movie wants to be."
Tyler Perry then accepted the second Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award given during the ceremony. The actor, who runs a massive television and movie studio in Atlanta, provided a significant memory from 17 years ago when he helped a homeless woman who approached him asking for shoes.
"I recall her saying to me, 'I thought you would hate me for asking.' I said, 'How could I hate you when I used to be you?'" Perry recalled.
He then discussed the importance of not being quick to judge another person, and called for everyone watching to refuse hate – something he learned from his mother.
"My mother taught me to refuse hate, she taught me to refuse blanket judgment. With all of these internet and social internet algorithms, it is my hope that all of us would teach our kids to just refuse hate. Don't hate anybody. I refuse to hate someone because they are Mexican, or because they are Black or White or LGBTQ. I refuse to hate someone because they are a police officer. I refuse to hate someone because they are Asian. I want to take this Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award and dedicate it to whoever wants to stand in the middle. That's where conversation happens, that's where change happens."
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H.E.R. took home the award for best song for "Fight for You" from "Judas and the Black Messiah."
"Musicians, filmmakers, I believe we have an opportunity and responsibility to tell the truth and write history the way that it was and how it connects us to today and what we see going on in the world today," the 23-year-old artist shared with stars in the room. "I have no words. I’m just so happy and grateful. Knowledge is power, music is power, and as long I’m standing, I’m always going to fight for us... I’m always going to fight for my people."
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Sunday's pandemic-delayed Oscars bring to a close the longest awards season ever – one that turned the season's industrial complex of cocktail parties and screenings virtual. Eligibility was extended into February of this year, and for the first time, a theatrical run wasn't a requirement of nominees.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.