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.
“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.
Youn Yuh-Jung, a 73-year-old star from South Korea introduced to U.S. audiences in “Minari,” won best supporting actress. She played a mercurial grandma in the film portrait of a Korean-American family whose bonds are tested as they start a new life in 1980s Arkansas.
Ms. Youn’s win handed a notable loss to “Hillbilly Elegy” star Glenn Close. It was the eighth time she had been nominated and left empty handed, a record among living actors.
“How can I win over Glenn Close?” Ms. Youn joked. “I have a just a little bit of luck maybe. I’m luckier than you.”
Meanwhile, “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.”
Best international feature went to the Danish film “Another Round,” starring Mads Mikkelsen. Director Thomas Vinterberg choked up as he recalled how his daughter died in a car accident just as production had begun, which shaped his film about a group of men finding new meaning in mid-life.
Pixar’s “Soul” won the Oscar for best animated feature. The
hit “My Octopus Teacher” won for best documentary.
The audience seen on screen was mostly mask-less, having gone through a regimen of vaccinations and testing used on Hollywood sets. “We are following all the rigorous protocols that got us back to work safely,” Ms. King said.
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 Netflix 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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Appeared in the April 26, 2021, print edition as ‘At Oscars, Hollywood’s Glitzy Return.’