Movies

Oscars 2021: Winners & Highlights


Hollywood’s biggest night has concluded. The much delayed 93rd Academy Awards were finally held across two venues, The Dolby Theatre and Los Angeles’ Union Station.

The year marked a landmark move by the Academy, which decided to make films automatically eligible for consideration even if they first premiered on a digital platform. This decision came in the wake up of the global pandemic as theatres shut down their doors indefinitely.

Here’s a look at all the winners at the ceremony, which was marked by some surprises and major disappointments:

 

Best Original Screenplay

Emerald Fennell took home the first Oscar of the night for writing Promising Young Woman. Fennell had earlier bagged home the BAFTA, Critic’s Choice and the Writer’s Guild Awards. She beat Aaron Sorkin who’s been nominated four times for his screenplays and won once, for The Social Network.

The British writer, director and actor confessed that she didn’t write a speech because she never thought she’d win. “Steven Soderbergh’s gonna be cross with me,” she remarked.

 

Best Adapted Screenplay 

Florian Zeller’s adaptation of his own play The Father along with popular screenwriter Christopher Hampton took home the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. This went against the general tradition of the Best Picture winner receiving a screenplay award.

 

Best Makeup and Hair-styling 

Sergio Lopez-Rivera, Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson were handed the Oscar for their work in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.  With that win, Mia and Jamika became the first Black women to win in this category. “I also stand here, as Jamika and I break the glass ceilings, with so much excitement for the future,” said Mia while accepting the award. I can only hope that this gets the ball rolling on making Hollywood a more inclusive place.

 

Best Costume Design 

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom took home their second Oscar of the day as designer Ann Roth received the Oscar for Best Costume Design. With his win, the 89-year old made history as the oldest woman to ever win an Oscar.

 

Best Supporting Actor

Daniel Kaluuya walks away with the Oscar for his captivating portrayal of Black Panther activist, Fred Hampton. Having won both the SAG and the BAFTA, Daniel adds yet another prestigious feather in his cap.

He made a proper tribute to his Mum and later went on to embarrass her by saying how it’s incredible because “my mum, my dad. They had sex, I’m here!” Cut to his mother who went from being proud to horribly mortified.

 

Best International Feature

Thomas Vinterberg’s Danish film Another Round won the Oscar in the best International feature category. Starring Mads Mikkelsen in the lead, this film follows four high school teachers who consume alcohol on a daily basis to see how it affects their social and professional lives.

Notably, Vinterberg was also nominated for Best Director. He broke down, visibly recounting the horrific tale of losing his daughter to an accident, just four days into shooting the film. Reminds me of yet another director with a unique vision who had to let go of his dear project after losing his daughter, Autumn.

 

Sound 

Sound of Metal won its first Oscar of the night as Jaime Baksht, Nicolas Becker, Michelle Couttolenc, Carlos Cortes and Phillip Bladh were awarded for their excellent sound design. Starring Riz Ahmed in the lead, Sound of Metal follows the story a heavy metal musician who loses his hearing.

 

Best Director

Chloé Zhao just became the fist woman of color to win Best Director in Oscar history. She’s only the second woman after Kathryn Bigelow to ever win the coveted trophy. Chloé also has a giant Marvel movie, Eternals coming out in a couple of months. It’s this meteoric rise to a bonafide A-list director that Oscar voters might have sympathized with.

In what can only be describes as a ground-breaking moment in the history of the Oscars, here’s what Chloé had to say. “This is for everyone who has the faith and the courage to hold on to the goodness in themselves, and to hold on the goodness in each other.”

 

Live Action Short Film 

Writer Travon Free and co-director Martin Desmond Roe won the Oscar for Two Distant Strangers. This hard-hitting film is about a Black man trapped in a Groundhog Day like scenario where he is killed over and over by a white cop. The short film feels timely and relevant given the happenings around the George Floyd trial.

Travon said, “On an average in America, the police will kill three people a day, which amounts to 1,000 people a year. Those people disproportionately happen to be Black people”. He futher added “James Baldwin once said ‘the most despicable thing a people can be is indifferent to other people’s pain’. I ask you not to be indifferent. Please, don’t be indifferent to our pain.”

 

Best Documentary – Short Subject 

Anthony Giacchino and Alice Boyard were awarded the Oscar for Colette, a heart-breaking story of an elderly woman visiting the World War II concentration camp where her brother died.

I was rooting for Ben Proudfoot and Kris Bowers’ A Concerto Is a Conversation, but they narrowly missed out. This short film explores the lives of composer Kris Bowers tracking his family’s lineage through his 91 year-old grandfather.

 

Best Animated Short Film 

If Anything Happens I Love You took home the Oscars in this category. It’s a short film about two parents grieving their daughter’s loss, who’s killed in a school shooting. Shot in a reverse chronological order, the film highlights the alarming issue of gun violence in America.

 

Best Documentary feature 

Pippa Ehrlich, James Reed and Craig Foster won an Oscar for My Octopus Teacher. This nature documentary that won both the BAFTA’s and the PGA follows filmmaker Craig Foster in his journey to document the life of a common octopus in a South African kelp forest.

Other prominent nominees in this category included Collective, an investigative look into Romania’s faltering healthcare system and Crip Camp that was personally backed my former US president Barack Obama.

My one grouse regarding the nominations would be the omission of several high-profile documentaries like Stacey Abrams’ All in and Kirsten Johnson’s Dick Johnson is Dead among others.

 

Best Animated Feature Film 

Pixar continued its dominant run at the Oscars with yet another Animated Feature win. Soul, that featured various Black artists in the lead was said to be a celebration of all things jazz. Pete Docter who has racked up a total of 8 nominations and 2 previous wins added one more to his tally. He added, “This film started as a love letter to jazz. But, we had no idea how much jazz would teach us in life,” in his acceptance speech.

Soul, to me was the perfect antidote to the hellish nightmares that the pandemic had to offer. I was turned to this gem of a film whenever I craved instant comfort. This movie made me appreciate the finer things that life had to offer and instilled much needed hope.

 

Best Visual Effects

Andrew Jackson, David Lee, Andrew Lockley and Scott Fisher took home the Oscar for visual effects for their excellent work in Christopher Nolan’s Tenet.

This may not be the celebrated director’s best work, but there’s no denying that the elaborate set pieces involving bullets with inverted entropy and temporal pincer movements were a spectacle to behold on the big screen.

 

Best Supporting Actress

Yuh-Jung Youn won the trophy for her arresting performance as a feisty grandma in Minari. She is only the second Asian woman to win an acting prize.

“I’ve had a long career built step by step. Nothing happened bam, like this, and this award is so very happy to get. In our field we’re comparing different movies so I’m just lucky tonight. And maybe some American hospitality,” said Yuh-Jung Youn in her acceptance speech. Who better than the eternally charming Brad Pitt to give her the award?

Other contenders included Glenn Close for Hillbilly Elegy in what was her 8th nomination, Maria Bakalova who was excellent as Tutar in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, Olivia Colman for The Father and Amanda Seyfried for Mank. It certainly could have been anyone’s day.

 

Cinematography

Erik Messerschmidt won for his showy black-and-white visuals in Mank. Interestingly, only two black and white films have scored victories in the last five decades, Schindler’s List that won Best Picture and Roma. I was hoping that Joshua Richards would win for his rich visuals of the American West in Nomadland. But, the reworking of old-time Hollywood might have won voters’ hearts.

Erik in his acceptance speech brought back memories of cult classic Mean Girls, saying, “I wish I could cut this into five pieces, so all my fellow nominees could take a piece home.”

 

Best Picture

Nomadland won the biggie adding to the impressive awards season the Chloé Zhao directorial has had. Starring Frances McDormand in the lead, this movie delves into the life of an old woman who embarks on a journey through the American West, living as a van-dwelling modern-day nomad after losing everything she held dear in the Great Recession.

This moving portrait of self-discovery was up against some stiff competition from David Fincher’s Mank, Emerald Ferrell’s polarizing Promising Young Woman and the Anthony Hopkins starrer The Father which seemed to be getting quite a bit of momentum late into the awards season.

Nomadland star Frances McDormand also took to the stage, offering a plea to viewers. “Please watch our movie on the largest screen possible and one day very soon take everyone you know into a theatre shoulder to shoulder in that dark space and watch every film that’s represented here tonight.”

 

Best Actor

Anthony Hopkins won his second Oscar for his empathetic portrayal of a man grappling with dementia and refuses all assistance from his daughters. He’d first won an Academy Award in 1991 for the Silence of the Lambs as the cannibalistic serial killer Hannibal Lecter. Sadly, Hopkins couldn’t be there for the ceremony and Joaquin Phoenix accepted the award on his behalf.

It was largely prophesied that Chadwick Boseman might be conferred with a posthumous award for his inspired performance as a musician. He might have joined the leagues of Peter Finch and Heath Ledger if that had happened. Sadly, that wasn’t meant to be.

 

Best Actress

In what was touted to be the closest race, Frances McDormand edged ahead and registered her third Best Actress win after Fargo in 1997 and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri in 2018. Academy voters generally do not like to hand out winners to previous recipients, but her performance as a real-life nomad must have struck a chord with the panel.

Also delivering in strong performances were Viola Davis in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Vanessa Kirby in Pieces of a Woman and Carey Mulligan in what was the category’ most talked about entry for Promising Young Woman.





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