The 93rd Annual Academy Awards may have started like Ocean's Eleven... but they sure ended like Gigli. In a bizarre move, the telecast's producers — Steven Soderbergh, Stacey Sher and Jesse Collins — decided to switch up the order of the final three awards, putting Best Picture first, followed by Best Actress and Best Actor. That seemed to suggest that the ceremony would end with a heartfelt tribute to Chadwick Boseman, who was favored to win for his posthumous performance in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom.
Instead, the final award of the night went to a nominee who wasn't even in the room to accept it. In a stunning last-minute twist, Anthony Hopkins won his second Oscar for The Father, but the veteran British actor didn't attend the ceremony in Los Angeles or at a satellite location in the United Kingdom. So with no one to hand the statue to, presenter Joaquin Phoenix signed off and the closing credits rolled. It was an epic face-plant of a finale that somehow managed to be worse than the La La Land/Moonlight mix-up that happened a mere four years ago.
Social media didn't hold back in its disappointment and anger about how things played out, with many noting how, in one of Oscar's most diverse years, the final two awards of the night went to white performers — Nomadland's Frances McDormand and Hopkins.
Unfortunately, that downer of an ending was only too appropriate for a ceremony that got off to a strong start and then very quickly lost steam. Although there were more than a few highlights over the course of the three-hour telecast — including historic wins, emotional acceptance speeches and Glenn Close getting funky — the 2021 Oscars will probably be remembered as one big head-scratcher. Here's our recap of the strangest night in Oscar history.
LOW: Chadwick Boseman loses Best Actor in the worst Oscars ending of all time
Wait a second, so just to be clear — the producers thought it would be a good idea to move the Best Actor category to the last slot of the night rather than the usual (and commonsense) Best Picture and then watched the would-be sentimental ending flop with the award not going to the late (and highly favorited) Chadwick Boseman. Instead, the statuette went to… Anthony Hopkins? Anthony Hopkins, who wasn’t even in attendance, nor even available by satellite. WTF? It was the most awful, enraging, anticlimactic end to an Academy Awards telecast we’ve ever seen — and the telecast was already pretty wretched to begin with. Hopkins was indeed excellent in The Father, but the failure to honor Boseman for a career-best performance was yet another bad look for the Oscars. Or as Los Angeles Times editor Matt Brennan put it on Twitter, “That's the worst TV ending since Game of Thrones."
HIGH: Chloé Zhao becomes the first woman of color to win Best Director
We did not get the historic repeat of the SAG Awards where four actors of color swept for the first time ever. Not even close, with McDormand edging out Viola Davis in Best Actress and Hopkins beating the late Boseman in Best Actor. But there was some nice history made in Best Director, where Nomadland director Chloé Zhao became the first woman of color — and only second woman ever, after The Hurt Locker filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow 11 years ago — to win Best Director. Here’s to many more.
HIGH: Get Regina King her own Ocean’s movie
So Regina King is starring in Ocean’s Nine, right? The Oscar winner’s power walk at the top of the Oscar ceremony was fit for a leading role in Steven Soderbergh’s heist movie franchise. And King followed that up with a terrific introduction to the evening’s pandemic-era festivities, explaining to the viewers at home why no one in Los Angeles' Union Station audience was masked. She also took a moment to reference the recent verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial, bringing a beautifully personal touch to her political commentary. "I know many of you want to reach for your remote when you feel Hollywood is preaching to you," she said. “But as the mother of a Black son who fears for his safety, no fame or fortune changes that." As a wise man once said, hail to the King, baby.
LOW: Pick up the pace, folks
King’s jazzy opening seemed to promise a lively night to come. But the telecast proceeded to run headlong into the weeds with the first award — Best Original Screenplay — and never recovered. While there were many emotional acceptance speeches, the preamble to each category felt slow and slack due to the overlong introductions that frequently replaced clips from the nominated films. Speaking of which...
HEAD-SCRATCHER: What happened to the clips?
What if you threw a star-studded celebration of the movies... and then didn't actually show any of the movies? Twitter noted the lack of clips from many of the nominated films, which was a particularly odd choice in a year where viewers at home likely hadn't seen one (or more) of the movies in contention. If you want audiences to seek out Nomadland or Sound of Metal, it helps to give them a small taste of what's in store.
HIGH: Daniel Kaluuya totally embarrasses his mom
Looks like Daniel Kaluuya might be getting his mouth washed out with soap when he gets home from the Oscars. Just as he wrapped up his moving Best Supporting Actor acceptance speech, he went off-script with an ill-advised ad lib. “It’s incredible,” he said, while his mom looked on front the audience beaming with pride… for a moment anyway. “My mom met my dad, they had sex. It’s amazing.” At that point, his mother’s big smile turned into a look of total confusion, launching a viral meme. And Kaluuya recognized his error immediately. “I wish I hadn’t said that,” he remarked backstage.
HIGH: Another Round filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg pays touching tribute to late daughter
Some viewers complained about the long acceptance speeches — producer Steven Soderbergh promised that winners would not be played off this year — but the new format allowed for some particularly poignant moments that would’ve felt rushed otherwise. One came when Best International Film winner and Another Round writer-director Thomas Vinterberg delivered a touching eulogy to his late child in the final minutes of his speech. Vinterberg’s daughter Ida, who had encouraged him to make the film and was going to co-star, was killed in a car crash by a distracted driver four days after they began shooting. “We ended up making this movie for her, as her monument,” Vinterberg said. As the filmmaker previously told Yahoo Entertainment, “This film probably kept me from insanity.”
HEAD-SCRATCHER: Where's the music, man?
From Robin Williams blaming Canada to Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga's not-at-all shallow duet, the musical performances of the Best Original Song nominees have reliably broken up the typical Oscar night monotony. But this year, the producers made the odd decision to exile all of the singing to the pre-show festivities, which slowed the tempo of the show considerably.
HIGH AND LOW: Glenn Close saved Questlove's game
Glenn Close didn't win an Oscar, but she did single-handedly save Questlove and Lil Rey Howery's impromptu mid-show game when she showed off her impressive music knowledge by correctly identifying the classic funk track "Da Butt." And then she went and topped herself by shaking her butt for the camera. It was the perfect... uh, end to a stunt that otherwise seemed like a guaranteed show-stopper. And not in a good way.
LOW: The "In Memoriam" reel went by too fast
Even without a pandemic, 2020 was a painful year for the extended Hollywood community, with several notable creators passing away. But the Oscar producers seemed a little too eager to get the annual "In Memoriam" reel over with. The video seemed sped up, moving too quickly from one dearly departed soul to another. And even as it zoomed by, viewers still noted some key players who were omitted, including Naya Rivera, Jessica Walter, Adam Schlesinger and Adolfo “Shabba-Doo” Quiñones.
HIGH: The trailers made us excited... for next year's Oscars
In an alternate timeline, movies like Steven Spielberg's West Side Story and Jon M. Chu's In the Heights, would almost certainly have been up for a couple of statues at this year's Oscars. Instead, they'll be in the running for the 2022 awards, and the teasing glimpses we were shown have us excited for the New York City dance battle that will be next year's ceremony. That is... if there even is a ceremony next year.
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