By Dan Skip Allen
This year's Academy Awards were the most drawn out of any year in recent memory. After all the COVID-19 precautions, the Academy pushed back the availability window to the last day in February. As a result, the voting window was also pushed back which pushed the ceremony back to April 25th. Even though the show was filled with unexpected moments, the fact that Nomadland won was not. It represented the country and what it was going through in this difficult time. Fern represented the average everyday American and their struggle throughout the country. It had the right message.
That being said, a handful of films won two awards on the night. That was the big news of the night. Let's start with Florian Zeller and Christopher Hampton who won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Father, based on Zeller's play. That was the first surprise of the night. Later on, the bigger surprise was Sir Anthony Hopkins winning Best Actor, his second Oscar in his career. Everybody thought that Chadwick Boseman would win because he had won all the precursor awards leading up to the Academy Awards, except for the Indie Spirit Award, which Riz Ahmed won.
Soul won for both Animated Feature with Pete Doctor and Dana Murray accepting the award and Original Score for Atticus Ross, Trent Reznor, and Jon Batiste. Soul was the projected winner of these awards, having won them both at previous award shows in recent months.
Sound of Metal won the Best Sound and Editing Categories. The sound was a forgone conclusion because it had won everywhere it was nominated for this award. Sound is synonymous with this film. The editing category was a bit more contentious because all the best picture nominees were in that category. It could have gone to any of the five films. They all had great editing in them. Especially The Trial of the Chicago 7, The Father, and Promising Young Woman.
Judas and the Black Messiah also took home two gold trophies on the night. One of them is Best Supporting Actor for Daniel Kaluuya for playing Fred Hampton, The leader of the Black Panther Party in the 1960s and '70s. Kaluuya has swept this similar award at all the previous awards shows. The other award it won on the night was Best Song, "Fight For You" by H.E.R, D'Mile, and Tiara Thomas. This was a difficult award to predict because different songs had won similar awards at previous awards shows. The favorite going in was "Speak Now" from One Night in Miami by Leslie Odom Jr.
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom took home two awards on the night as well. With it winning for both Make-Up & Hairstyling and Costumes. This film was a period piece so the clothes and hair and make-up were a big part of bringing the viewer into the world of these 1920s musicians, based on the August Wilson play.
Mank took home two trophies for below-the-line categories. It won Best Cinematography, which it also won at the cinematographer's awards previously. This one is considered a small upset since most pundits still thought Nomadland would take home this award at the Oscars. The other gold trophy Mank took home was for Production Design. David Fincher and crew had to make this film and its locations look like old Hollywood sets and places. This was an easy win for Mank. It had previously swept similar awards leading up to the Academy Awards.
For some of the other awards, the winners were Another Round directed by Thomas Vinterberg for International Feature. This film has cleaned up at previous awards shows for the same category. My Octopus Teacher had started moving to the front of the line in the Best Documentary Feature category in recent weeks. It had won the BAFTA leading up to last night's ceremony and was the favorite to win on the night.
Youn Yuh-Yung won the lone award on the night for Minari for Best Supporting Actress. Youn also gave a funny and heartfelt speech while accepting her award. Tenet won Best Visual effects for the Christopher Nolan-directed film. Emerald Fennell won the lone trophy for Original Screenplay for her directorial debut Promising Young Woman. This was previously thought to take home more trophies than this on the night. The prognosticators were wrong on this point.
The shorts, not usually easy to predict, were relatively ho-hum categories on the night with Two Distant Strangers winning for Best Live Action Short, If Anything Happens I Love You, from Netflix, winning Animated Short, and the surprise, Colette, winning Documentary Short Film.
The big winner on the night was Nomadland taking home three Academy Awards. Along with its win for Best Picture, it won for Best Director for Chloe Zhao, making her the first woman of color to take home this award, and Best Actress for Frances McDormand, making this the third Best Actress trophy she's taken home in her long and storied career. Her performance as Fern was a little more reserved than her other two performances, but she won again nonetheless, bringing her one away from Kathryn Hepburn's record of four wins. Nomadland was also the fifth winner for Searchlight for Best Picture in the last thirteen years.
The ceremony as a whole was a pretty good one. It had some funny moments, one being Lil Rel Howery playing music trivia with some of the nominees. Glenn Close was pretty knowledgeable and funny on her account of one song played by Questlove. The speeches were allowed to go on without the annoyance of the house orchestra playing them off. This led to more genuine moments from the winners including Tyler Perry accepting the Irving G. Thalberg Award for Humanitarian efforts.
Everybody will be talking about how the show ended, though, so this needs to be addressed. Steven Soderbergh was the producer of the ceremony on the night and did an admirable job in that regard, but he decided to change the order of what awards were given out, gambling that the actor awards would bring more drama at the end of the night instead of Best Picture, Nomadland having been considered a forgone conclusion. This backfired as McDormand had already given a heartwarming funny speech involving a howl at the podium during the Best Picture win acceptance. And Anthony Hopkins is not available to accept his award. Joaquin Phoenix just had to end the show on that note. People thought Boseman would win and his widow would make a very emotional speech and everyone would go home happy. That didn't happen and people went home in shock and awe. On the whole, it was a good show and a good night.
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