It should have been a climactic Oscar bow for “Nomadland,” which won Best Picture, Best Actress for Frances McDormand (her third, just one shy of the record) and Best Director for Chloe Zhao (the first woman of color and the second woman ever to win the prize).
Instead, the Academy changed the order of awards to save Best Actor for last, likely a choice by producer Steven Soderbergh (“Ocean’s 11″) with fingers crossed that the late great Chadwick Boseman would win for a posthumous sendoff and a feel-good finish.
The entire thing backfired when the final award went to Anthony Hopkins (“The Father”), who became the oldest acting winner ever at age 83 — but wasn’t even there to accept it.
It was an awkward way to close out the 93rd annual Academy Awards, which weathered the pandemic by handing out awards at both Union Station in Los Angeles and a second location in London, as well as filming live segments at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood.
The rest of the telecast fell flat, feeling like a casual event akin to the Golden Globes rather than a prestigious culmination with all the glitz and glamor of the annual Oscar stage.
However, several of the acceptance speeches were highly entertaining.
Upon winning Best Supporting Actor for “Judas and the Black Messiah,” Daniel Kaluuya thanked slain Illinois Black Panther Party Chairman Fred Hampton by saying, “What a man.” He then thanked his parents for having sex, his mom looking mortified. Kaluuya’s win caps a stellar run of “Get Out,” “Widows,” “Black Panther” and “Queen & Slim.”
Best Supporting Actress went to Yuh-jung Youn for combining wisecracking humor and touching lullabies as the grandma in “Minari,” a poetic portrait of the American Dream. Her speech boasted zingers, saying, “I forgive you all” for mispronouncing her Korean name.
Emerald Fennell won Best Original Screenplay for her page-turning script for “Promising Young Woman,” the first woman to win in 13 years since Diablo Cody’s “Juno” (2007).
Best Adapted Screenplay went to Florian Zeller and Christopher Hampton for “The Father,” adapting Zeller’s own inventive stage play about an aging British man battling dementia.
Best Animated Feature went to “Soul,” upping Pixar’s total to 11 wins in the category. The film also won Best Original Score for Jon Batiste, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.
Best Original Song went to H.E.R.’s “Fight for You” from “Judas and the Black Messiah,” upsetting Leslie Odom Jr.’s “Speak Now” from Regina King’s “One Night in Miami.”
“Sound of Metal” won Best Film Editing and Best Sound by showing a heavy-metal drummer losing his hearing and entering the deaf community to learn sign language.
“Mank” won Best Cinematography and Best Production Design for its black-and-white recreation of the 1940s Hollywood studio system during the writing of “Citizen Kane.”
“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” won for Best Costume Design and Best Makeup & Hairstyling, the latter cementing Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson as the first Black women to win.
“Tenet” won Best Visual Effects for bringing Christopher Nolan’s palindrome vision to life.
Netflix’s “My Octopus Teacher” won Best Documentary Feature, inspiring a bizarre line: “If a man can forge a friendship with an octopus, it makes you wonder what else is possible.”
“Another Round” won Best International Feature for Danish filmmaker Thomas Vintenberg, who delivered a heartbreaking moment by revealing that his daughter was recently killed in a texting-while-driving accident. It was very fitting for the film’s live-life-to-the-fullest theme.
The most unifying speech came from Tyler Perry, who received an honorary Oscar for philanthropy by feeding folks during the pandemic: “I refuse to hate anyone because they’re Black, LGBT, a police officer or Asian. Anyone who wants to refuse hate and blanket judgements, meet me in the middle. The middle is where change happens.”
In the end, it was an anticlimactic finish to a bizarre Oscars amid a unique pandemic.
“Please watch our movie on the largest screen possible,” McDormand said. “Then one day very, very soon, take everyone you know into a theater, shoulder to shoulder in that dark space, and watch every film that’s represented here tonight.”