Chloé Zhao makes history as first Asian woman to win Best Director, while Frances McDormand claims her third Oscar for Best Actress
And that's that. Two months later than usual, the 93rd Academy Awards, the most stripped down (and least watched) variation of the Oscars in memory, is over and done with, having offered up the usual amount of deserved wins and irksome snubs, not to mention a few big surprises. But perhaps more than anything there was a lingering sense of strangeness, of something not been quite right about the whole affair in spite of the worthy wins.
It was a feeling of offness that only seemed to increase as the minimalist ceremony went on, before culminating on a truly bizarre note. Failing to consider that Ma Rainey's Black Bottom star Chadwick Boseman might not actually claim the Oscar for Best Actor, the organisers decided to present the category last – presumably hoping to end with a poignant bang.
But to the shock of the majority it was actually Anthony Hopkins who ended up winning for his turn in dementia drama The Father, and so – with Hopkins tucked up in bed on the other side of the globe – the event came to an abrupt end without an acceptance speech of any kind. Boseman, who died last year, seemed like a shoo-in for the award, but felt oddly underserved by the misguided order of proceedings. Hopkins, 83, now has the distinction of being the oldest person to win Best Actor.
More expectedly, it was Nomadland which bagged the most Oscars this year – Best Picture, Best Director for Chloé Zhao and Best Actress for Frances McDormand, who now holds the honour of having won three times (previously for Fargo and Three Billboards), a remarkable feat however you look at it, and one that puts her on equal footing with three-time Best Actor winner Daniel Day-Lewis. McDormand took to the stage twice, encouraging people to go back into movie theatres as soon as possible, and also to let out a mighty, wolf-like howl in true Nomadland fashion.
Mank, nominated for the most awards at this year's ceremony with ten, took home just two statuettes – for Production Design and Best Cinematography. Despite its status as the biggest contender, David Fincher’s reframing of the origins of Citizen Kane has mostly failed to follow through this awards season. That said, Mank now has more Oscars than Citizen Kane – a dizzyingly strange notion, consider the legacy and influence of Orson Welles' classic.
But arguably the biggest highlights of the ceremony came in the form of two irreverent and memorable speeches from the Best Supporting Actor winners. Daniel Kaluuya, winning for Judas and the Black Messiah, thanked his mum and dad for having sex and bringing him into the world (“It’s brilliant!”). Meanwhile, the veteran Korean actress Youn Yuh-jung, who deservedly won for her turn as a grouchy grandmother in Lee Issac Chung's Minari, flirted with Brad Pitt as he presented her with the award, and playfully berated everyone in the room for failing to say her name right.
Thomas Vinterberg took Best International Feature for his boozy, life-affirming drama Another Round, which felt destined to win the statuette on the basis of its electrifying final scene alone. Vinterberg’s speech culminated with a heartfelt tribute to his daughter, who was killed in a car accident four days into the filming of Another Round, and cited the experience of making it as a cathartic expression of his grief.
Elsewhere, the Academy made its usual slew of predictable but not entirely interesting choices. Soul took home the Best Animated Feature statue, though I'd easily argue both Wolfwalkers and Onwards (Pixar’s other effort this year) were the superior animations. And it seems kind of crazy that the somewhat questionable My Octopus Teacher could triumph over a timely, important and remarkable documentary like Collective, or the deeply affecting meditation that is Time.
The ceremony was directed by Steven Soderbergh, whose freewheeling and stylish stamp was made visible throughout – especially in a jazzy opening long take that followed Regina King through the venue and to the stage. But there were perhaps just too many odd choices that ultimately left a sour taste, not merely in the Academy's misguided attempt to predict Boseman’s win, but in a strangely rushed “In Memoriam” section, a bafflingly long “trivia” segment, and the decision to barely show any clips of the films themselves. At least, as with last year’s ceremony, there was a solid sense that the right film took home the award for Best Picture. Congrats, Nomadland!
You can read all of the results for the 93rd Academy Awards at our dedicated page.