At the end of the longest Oscar race in history and 14 months of turmoil for Hollywood, the Academy Awards tried to follow a different script in its 93rd year.
Producers of the show, including director Steven Soderbergh, had said they were shooting for a ceremony that looked more like a movie than a TV show. The evening kicked off in a cinematic style with a long tracking shot of Regina King striding into Union Station in Los Angeles. Credits listed the nominees and presenters who would be “starring” in the night’s show.
became only the second woman (after
) to win an Academy Award for directing. The Beijing-born Ms. Zhao is also the first Asian woman to win, for “Nomadland,” her exploration of the American West with a meditative tone and a roiling performance by best-actress nominee Frances McDormand. In Ms. Zhao’s acceptance speech she quoted a Chinese poem she learned as a child and urged people to “hold out for the goodness” in themselves and others.
After a streak of other award wins, “Judas and the Black Messiah” star Daniel Kaluuya won best supporting actor for his portrayal of slain Black Panther leader Fred Hampton. His competition included his co-star in the film, LaKeith Stanfield, who played the FBI informant who helped set Hampton up.
Earlier in the ceremony “Promising Young Woman” writer and director Emerald Fennell won for best original screenplay. Florian Zeller and Christopher Hampton for best adapted screenplay for “The Father,” and best international feature went to the Danish film “Another Round.”
After months of awards shows held via Zoom, Hollywood marked a return to in-person glitz for the Oscars. The red carpet procession and interviews (conducted at a safe distance) unfolded at a dressed up Union Station in Los Angeles, turning a working transit hub into a celebrity staging ground.
The setting was just one of many changes planned for the Oscar telecast following the industry’s tumultuous pandemic year. Nominees for best original song were presented in the pre-show instead of the main ceremony. Most of the performances—best supporting actor nominee Leslie Odom Jr. singing solo, 12-time nominee Diane Warren at a red grand piano—were pre-recorded at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, allowing the academy to show off its long-in-the-works building project.
From Iceland came a rendition of “Husavik” from “Eurovision Song Contest,” featuring singer Molly Sandén and a choir of children in Nordic sweaters, the fruits of a quirky but aggressive campaign by
to land an Oscar for the Will Ferrell comedy.
Last year the Oscars ceremony played to its smallest TV audience ever. Producers have said that boosting viewership wasn’t their priority. (Disappointing ratings seem inevitable after record lows for other televised awards shows.) Instead, their mission was to make a case for cinema itself after the big-screen experience virtually disappeared for much of last year, and new movies got joined the overflow of content to TV.
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