After an awards season mostly spent watching famous people on Zoom, the Oscars reminded us what glitzy ceremonies used to be like (albeit very scaled back). The 2021 show was a mixed bag, starting off strong but soon subsiding into chaos, major snubs and one very anti-climactic end. Here are the biggest talking points from the Oscars 2021.
The pandemic madness set in fast
— philip lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) April 26, 2021
It was all going so well. With Steven Soderberg producing, it seemed like the Oscars 2021 would be a slick and classy affair – as suggested by the opening scene of Regina King walking through Union Station like she was in a movie. But that atmosphere wasn’t to last. Little did anyone know when they tuned in at the start of the ceremony, the next few hours would see Daniel Kaluuya accept an award while talking about his parents’ sex life, Glenn Close twerking to Experience Unlimited’s 1988 track ‘Da Butt’ and an In Memoriam segment that seemed a little too jolly, given its purpose (more on that below).
Life has been strange over the last year and a bit, and all that isolation was bound to cause some interesting reactions when we began to return to society. No one could have predicted this mind-boggling example of that though. While it was an odd Oscars, there were parts of it that were enjoyable – it felt far less stuffy and back-slappy for one, and the disorder added an unpredictable feel to the whole event.
There were some powerful moments among the chaos
Tyler Perry accepts Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award "I refuse to hate someone because they are Mexican or because they are Black or white or LBGTQ. I refuse to hate someone because they are a police officer. I refuse to hate someone because they are Asian." pic.twitter.com/FjpTaYhKUu
— ABC News (@ABC) April 26, 2021
Yes, the ceremony might have slid into chaos but amongst all that there were some moving moments. Regina King kicked things off with a poignant speech that referenced George Floyd’s death and living with police brutality. Before he moved onto topics that would embarrass his mum, Daniel Kaluuya reminded the room that they still need to step up and help push things forward to achieve racial equality and justice. Tyler Perry, meanwhile, collected the Humanitarian Award and gave a rousing speech imploring people to not just reject hate, but refuse it.
Yuh-jung Youn continues to steal hearts
Fresh from being a savage towards the Brits at the BAFTAs, Minari’s Yuh-jung Youn continued on her path to becoming everyone’s favourite star of this awards season. When she went up to collect her award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, she started by either getting starstruck over or playfully teasing presenter Brad Pitt. “Where were you when we were filming in Tulsa?” she asked him, possibly – given her cheeky nature – a reference to the fact that his production company produced Minari.
From there, she graciously forgave the world for mispronouncing her name and paid tribute to fellow nominee Glenn Close. “How can I win over Glenn Close?” she asked, before telling the other women in her category: “We cannot compete with each other… I’m luckier than you.” She completed her speech by giving some sass to her sons “who make me go out and work”. “So, beloved sons, this is the result because Mummy worked hard,” she said, lifting up her shiny new trophy. The Oscars crowd roared with laughter and, if she hadn’t already won them over, would have then.
The ending was a little anti-climactic…
Traditionally, the Oscars always end with the Best Picture award being handed out, immediately preceded by Best Actor and Best Actress. This year, the Academy went rogue and flipped the order so Best Picture preceded Best Actress, with the night ending on Best Actor.
That would all be fine if not for a couple of reasons. First, many assumed that the change was to give the late Chadwick Boseman, who was a favourite in the Best Actor category, his moment. However, the Black Panther star wasn’t crowned the winner as many had expected, the statue going to Anthony Hopkins for The Father instead. That’s when the running order choice became even stranger – Hopkins wasn’t present, in LA or at any of the hubs. So instead of ending on a big speech from a cinema legend, the ceremony dipped out with a press shot and Joaquin Phoenix collecting the award on Hopkins’ behalf. Talk about going out with a whimper.
And the In Memoriam segment was way too fast
In Memoriam segments are usually the sections of any awards show that are guaranteed to be poised and elegant. Not so at this year’s Oscars, where someone somewhere had the infinite wisdom to zip through the tribute to all those from the movie world who had died in the last year as if they were urgently running out of time. Not only that but, instead of the usual string-laden, sombre soundtrack, the producers chose to set said speedy tribute to Stevie Wonder’s ‘As’. A beautiful song with a beautiful sentiment, but it came off sounding far too jaunty to be honouring the dead with.
Chloé Zhao and Yuh-jung Youn made history
As has been the case for most of this awards season, two women made history tonight. Nomadland director Chloé Zhao became the first woman of colour – and only second woman ever – to win the award for Best Director, while Yuh-jung Youn became the first Korean actor to win an Oscar. The fact that it’s taken this long for either feat to be achieved says a lot about the state of the ceremony in years past, but hopefully, this is a sign of continued change within the Academy. Congrats to the two legends!