The ceremony did make history a few times, however, including “Nomadland” director Chloé Zhao becoming the first woman of color to win best director (a feat she quickly followed by winning best picture).
But what probably will be remembered most was the show’s disappointing ending, a result of the risky decision to switch up the order of categories. The ceremony was clearly gearing up to end with best actor front-runner Chadwick Boseman taking home the trophy for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” which would have allowed for a touching tribute after Boseman died last year at age 43. Instead, it ended with the late actor losing to Anthony Hopkins for his role in “The Father.” Hopkins didn’t attend the ceremony, anticlimactically leaving the show without a final speech.
With that, the Oscars were over. Here’s a rundown of what you might have missed.
1) The Chadwick Boseman-Anthony Hopkins incident was the night’s biggest upset
If ever there were proof that folks at the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers actually keep their mouths shut about the names in every envelope, this ceremony would be it. Not only did they have Boseman’s “Black Panther” on-screen mother Angela Bassett introduce the “In Memoriam” segment, but whoever is in charge of the Oscars swag bags also included a non-fungible token of digital artwork honoring the late actor (perhaps a distasteful choice, many would argue).
Hopkins winning best actor was the biggest upset of the night, given that Boseman won a good number of awards leading up to the Oscars (including the Golden Globe, the Screen Actors Guild Award and various critic honors). It should be noted, though, that Hopkins also landed the BAFTA equivalent and earned a considerable amount of critical acclaim for his portrayal of a man with dementia in “The Father.” At 83, Hopkins became the oldest person to ever win an acting Oscar (a record previously held by Christopher Plummer, who won best supporting actor at 82 for his role in the 2011 film “Beginners”).
Although Hopkins was asleep at his home in Wales when his win was announced, he posted a video on Instagram several hours later. “At 83 years of age I did not expect to get this award. I really didn’t. Very grateful to the Academy," he said, and gave Boseman a shout-out: “I want to pay tribute to Chadwick Boseman who was taken from us far too early. And again thank you all very much. I really did not expect this. So I feel very privileged and honored.”
2) Producers mixed up the ceremony, to mixed results
The decision to shoot the ceremony “like a movie,” as producer Steven Soderbergh put it, was one of many ways in which the telecast strayed from the norm. Not only did the team switch around the usual order of categories — leading to the anticlimactic best-actor reveal — but they also ditched the music that usually plays people off the stage, leading to lengthy speeches that admittedly included more off-the-cuff moments (we’re looking at you, Daniel Kaluuya).
The lack of a proper tribute to Boseman might also have stung more because of how rushed the “In Memoriam” segment felt, the song’s higher tempo matching the speed at which the montage flipped through photographs of the artists lost over the past year.
3) ‘Nomadland’ won big
Zhao was expected to win for “Nomadland,” given the overlap of Academy members eligible to vote for best director and the folks who already honored her work during the Directors Guild of America Awards earlier this season. But that makes the feat no less significant. Consider that these were the 93rd Academy Awards, and that Zhao is only the second woman to win best director (and the first woman of color to even appear in the category). The film was deemed best picture later in the night.
“Nomadland” also earned star Frances McDormand the trophy for best actress, which she won just a few years ago for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” and in 1997 for “Fargo.” While accepting the award, McDormand quoted “Macbeth” — specifically, “I have no words: My voice is in my sword” — and let out a howl in honor of Michael Wolf Snyder, the film’s production sound mixer who died this year at 35.
4) There were a handful of milestone achievements
It makes sense that there were several historic feats achieved Sunday night, given the nominations constituted a landmark year for diversity. In addition to Zhao and Hopkins’s notable wins, McDormand, also a producer on “Nomadland,” reportedly became the Oscars’ most decorated living actress with four trophies to her name. (The only other actress to earn that many Academy Awards was Katharine Hepburn.)
Earlier in the night, best supporting actress Yuh-jung Youn became the first Korean person and second-ever Asian woman to win an acting Oscar. (Japanese American actress Miyoshi Umeki won best supporting actress in 1958.) Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson became the first Black winners in the makeup and hairstyling category for their work on “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.”
5) But wait, can we see actual clips from movies?
Lead-ins to awards at the Oscars are typically pretty cut-and-dried. Announce the nominee, show a marquee clip from the film and then show the actor, actress or team behind the work in the audience looking humbled by the applause.
What viewers got instead was an odd grab bag of introductions that included love letters to the best supporting actors from Laura Dern, and high school yearbook facts about the best animated short contenders from Reese Witherspoon.
For as much as the night is supposed to celebrate the best in film, maybe the show could have used, well, a little more of the films.
6) The Oscars could have finished on time but then there was trivia … and ‘Da Butt’
It seemed like the ceremony was going swimmingly and might have even ended as scheduled around 11 p.m. Eastern. But with about 20 minutes to go until that mark, comedian Lil Rel Howery and DJ Questlove ushered in the first and only comedic bit of the night’s proceedings: music trivia. It was a fascinating enough idea to play some tunes and ask the stars whether the song in question won an Oscar, was nominated or snubbed.
Things started out a little rough when Howery asked Andra Day about Prince’s legendary title track to “Purple Rain” and censors had to bleep out her frank response about how the song wasn’t nominated. (However, the film’s score won the award.) Howery then went on to his “Get Out” and “Judas and the Black Messiah” co-star Kaluuya to ask about the Donna Summer showstopper “Last Dance.” (Kaluuya guessed it was a nominee; it won best song.)
But it was Kaluuya’s tablemate, Glenn Close, who delivered an award-worthy performance. Questlove spun some notes from “Da Butt,” a track written for Spike Lee’s “School Daze” from the iconic D.C. go-go band E.U. Howery retorted that there was no way the 74-year-old actress would know the song. That is, until one of the finest thespians of our time had one of the best line readings of her historic career.
“Wait a second,” Close said. “That’s ‘Da Butt.’ It was a classic song by the great Washington, D.C., go-go band E.U. Shout-outs to Sugar Bear, the Backyard Band and the whole DMV.” And then, well, Glenn Close did “Da Butt.”
7) Yuh-jung Youn had the best speech of the night
The 73-year-old South Korean actress had little to prove after a prolific career acting in her native country. But Youn’s standout role in “Minari,” as the rascally grandma of the Yi family, propelled her to the attention of American film audiences.
It was her spirit in accepting the award — and playful ribbing of “Minari” producer Brad Pitt, who presented it to her — that won the night.
“Mr. Brad Pitt, finally, nice to meet you,” Youn began. “Where were you while we were filming in Tulsa? Very honored to meet you.”
She self-deprecatingly marveled that she beat out Close, and lovingly needled her two sons “who made me go out and work.” But her best zinger of the night may have been her teasing of the many people throughout awards season who mispronounced her name by putting emphasis on the wrong syllables (remember: sounds like “uh” and hard “J”).
“But tonight,” Youn said, “you are all forgiven.”
8) Daniel Kaluuya explained the birds and the bees
Kaluuya took home best supporting actor for his captivating portrayal of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton in “Judas and the Black Messiah.” The 32-year-old Brit has already established a memorable career of dramatic and thrilling roles in his relatively short time on the big screen, but it was his playful flourishes that charmed viewers — and embarrassed his mom and sister from across the pond.
His thank-yous seemed fairly normal at first. “I share this honor with the gift that is LaKeith Stanfield,” Kaluuya said, giving props to his co-stars. “The light that is Dominique Fishback.”
And Kaluuya dedicated much of his speech to the revolutionary work of Hampton in providing free health services, as well as feeding and teaching children. But then he gave viewers a look ahead to the after-party as well as his musings on existence.
“I’m going to get back to work — Tuesday morning. Because tonight, I’m going up!” Kaluuya said. “We got to celebrate life, man. We’re breathing, we’re walking, it’s incredible. … My mom met my dad, they had sex! It’s amazing! Do you know what I’m saying? I’m here!”
9) Tyler Perry sparked criticism with a line in his humanitarian award speech
Tyler Perry won the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award and took the stage after a rousing introduction from actress Viola Davis, who praised his years of charity and humanitarian work: “When he buys groceries for a thousand of his neighbors, supports a women’s shelter, or quietly pays tuition for a hard-working student, Tyler is coming from a place of shared experience,” she said. During an emotional speech, Perry spoke about his mother growing up in rural Louisiana in the Jim Crow South who grieved the death of Emmett Till when she was a young girl. The main lesson his mother taught him, he said, was to refuse “hate” and “blanket judgment.”
“With all of the Internet and social media and algorithms that want us to think a certain way, the 24-hour news cycle, it’s my hope that all of us would teach our kids … just to refuse hate,” he said. “I refuse to hate someone because they’re Mexican or because they are Black or White or LBGTQ, I refuse to hate someone because they’re a police officer, I refuse to hate someone because they’re Asian.”
While there was huge applause in the room, there was lots of criticism on social media for Perry squeezing “police officers” between marginalized groups.
10) Presenters and winners spoke out about equality and against police brutality
One of the most common complaints about award shows is: “I don’t want rich out-of-touch celebrities to lecture me!” Actress Regina King, who opened the show with a brief monologue, acknowledged this when she said that if the verdict in the Derek Chauvin case had gone differently in Minneapolis, and he had not been convicted of the murder of George Floyd, she would have traded in her heels for marching boots to join in protest.
“I know that a lot of you people at home want to reach for the remote when you feel like Hollywood is preaching to you,” she said. “But as a mother of a Black son, I know the fear that so many live with. And no amount of fame or fortune changes that.”
When Kaluuya accepted his best supporting actor trophy, he urged “unite and ascend” over “divide and conquer,” and he reminded everyone else in the room that there’s still a lot of work to do. Later, Travon Free and Martin Desmond Roe won the best live-action short for their film “Two Distant Strangers,” and wore custom Dolce & Gabbana tuxedos that listed the names of people killed by police in the jacket linings.
“Today, the police will kill three people. And tomorrow, the police will kill three people. And the day after that, the police will kill three people. Because on average, the police in America every day kill three people. Which amounts to about 1,000 people a year. And those people happen to disproportionately be Black people,” Free said. “James Baldwin once said, ‘The most despicable thing that anyone can be is indifferent to other people’s pain.’ And so I just ask that you please not be indifferent. Please don’t be indifferent to our pain.”
11) The best original song performances were relegated to the pre-show
For a show that was largely a giant snoozefest, you would think live performances of the five best original song nominees could have livened things up a bit. You would be mistaken! They were part of the pre-show on ABC, which was unfortunate, because even though they were prerecorded and filmed remotely, they were pretty great.
One highlight included the stunning scenery of Husavik, Iceland, as Swedish singer Molly Sandén impressed with “Husavik (My Hometown)” from Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams’s comedy “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga.” (She was also accompanied by a choir of adorable children wearing cozy sweaters.) And H.E.R. would have brought down the house with an energetic rendition of “Fight for You” from “Judas and the Black Messiah,” which ended up winning the category.
12) Fashion moments included LaKeith Stanfield looking dapper and lots of gold
The Oscars had a very scaled-down red carpet, but quite a few ensembles still made an impact — Stanfield and Zendaya, especially.
Gold also seemed to be a running theme of the night: