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Academy round-up: The 2021 Oscars was a weird one


by Lauren Heskin
26th Apr 2021

Matt Petit / A.M.P.A.S.

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Oscar® nominee Carey Mulligan arrives on the red carpet of The 93rd Oscars® at Union Station in Los Angeles, CA on Sunday, April 25, 2021.

The biggest, funniest, strangest and most unexpected moments from last night's 2021 Oscars.

We always knew it was going to be an odd one, considering most of us haven’t seen or even heard of many of the 2021 Oscar contenders, thanks to cinema shutdowns and delayed releases.

Between that, the tight restrictions and limited numbers in attendance – just presenters, nominees and a few special guests – it was not the all-out glamour parade we have grown accustomed to.

However, there were still some big wins, plot twists and oddball moments that can only come in a live telecast of Hollywood’ elite. Here’s our round-up of the best and worst of the 2021 Oscars.

It had a surprise ending

Let’s dive straight in with the biggest and most surprising win of the night – Best Actor. The award was the last of the night, replacing the customary Best Picture award, which went to Nomadland. The move was presumably made by producers in the expectation that Chadwick Boseman would posthumously win from his performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, considering his sweep of all the other major awards. The plan was to give the show an emotional sign-off and undoubtedly a magnificent speech from Chadwick’s widow, Simone Ledward Boseman.


However, with last year’s Best Oscar winner Jacquin Phoenix onstage to present, it was Anthony Hopkins who triumphed for his work in The Father, making him the oldest Best Actor winner ever. Hopkins was not in attendance on the night, and instead Phoenix quickly accepted the award on his behalf and rushed off-stage, thus giving a bizarrely curt ending.

The set change-up was interesting

Moving from the customary glamour of the Dolby Theatre to LA Union Station, the city’s main train station, seemed like a strange choice. However, the decision looks like it paid off, with stars walking an outdoor red carpet offset by the Mission Revival architecture of the building’s exterior, before entering to the large and airy ticket hall, its Art Deco ceiling recently restored ahead of the ceremony.


The tiered seating system took away the smack of enforced social distancing and made everyone seem like they were relaxing on their own balconies, a musical version of a Parisian street.

It was diverse… ish

Chloé Zhao became just the second woman and first woman of colour to win Best Director, for Nomadland, which swept the top categories, also winning Best Picture and Best Actress for lead Frances McDormand, her third Oscar.

 

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However, in a year that could have seen all the top acting award go to people of colour, the supporting acting winners were where the main diversity was found. Youn Yuh-jung won the Best Supporting Actress award for her portrayal as the grandmother in Minari and Daniel Kaluuya took home the Best Supporting Actor trophy for his work in Jesus and his Black Messiah.

Youn Yuh-jung is all of us meeting Brad Pitt

Speaking of the Best Supporting roles, they also gave two of the best speeches in a night of long-winded thank-yous – Oscars producers opted not to play off the winners this year with music. Big mistake, huge.

Youn Yuh-jung really stole everyone’s heart with her win, presented by Brad Pitt, whose production company had produced Minari but she had clearly never met. Flustered and blushing by the time she reached the podium and Pitt had moved off stage, she turned to him for her first words. “Mr. Pitt, finally…nice to meet you! Where were you while we were filming? It’s a great honour to meet you.”


However, in keeping with the grandmother role for which she won, she then moved to scold him for incorrectly saying her name, explaining that in Korea, her last name, Youn, is usually said first. But she’s unable to stay mad at him, quickly letting everyone know she’s in too good a mood – “but tonight you are all forgiven”.

Continually looking to the side where presumably “Mr Pitt” is standing throughout the rest of her speech, she also gave a lovely shout-out to Glenn Close, suggesting she had nothing more than a little bit of luck to win over the eight-time Oscar nominee Close, who has yet to win a golden statue.

Glenn Close and Daniel Kayuula’s mom brought those classic wacky moments

While Close yet again went home empty-handed in what is turning into a Di Caprio-esque streak, she did win a highlight of the night, in a segment asking nominees to guess the Oscar-nominated songs. Close immediately recognised DJ Questlove’s song ”Da Butt” from Spike Lee’s 1988 film School Daze, quickly jumping up to shake her own in recognition.


It’s not clear if the bit was a planned one, but even if it was, Close’s immaculate acting skills pulled it off with charm. How has she not won an Oscar yet?

And speaking of charm, Daniel Kayuula’s speech was one of equal parts joy and pain, touching on the Black Lives Matter movement and the learnings he took from playing Fred Hampton, a member of the Black Panthers. However, eager not to dwell on the suffering, he wanted to celebrate life.

 

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“Let’s celebrate life, man. We’re breathing. We’re walking. It’s incredible. Life’s incredible! My mom met my dad. They had sex. It’s amazing!”. The feed then cut to Kayuula’s mom and sister watching in London and based on their reaction I’d expect Kayuula got a good tongue-lashing before a word of congratulations.

You can catch the full show tonight on RTÉ Two from 9.35pm.