Historic merits and missteps

Highlights from the 2021 Oscars

Annie Symons, Staff Reporter

Illustration by Micky Flores-Nieves

Who’s going to have the best speech? Will someone trip on the stairs? What if she doesn’t win?

On Sunday evening, a group of Hollywood’s most elite gathered to celebrate the best films of 2020 at the 93rd Academy Awards. Several films such as “Mank”, “Promising Young Woman”, “The Trial of the Chicago 7” and “Sound of Metal” earned nominations, but only a few graced the stage to accept an award for their work.

Daniel Kaluuya won the Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his portrayal of Chairman Fred Hampton in the film “Judas and the Black Messiah”. Among his fellow nominees were LaKeith Stanfield and Leslie Odom Jr., marking the first time in Oscars history that three Black men were nominated in this category.

His acceptance speech praised and expressed gratitude for Hampton’s work within the Black Panther Party during his 21 years of life.

“To Chairman Fred Hampton … what a man,” Kaluuya said. “How blessed we are that we lived in a lifetime where he existed.”

Kaluuya also spoke about how Chairman Fred Hampton and other leaders of the Black Panther Party inspired him as a young man. They embodied a message of community, even when outside forces threatened to disrupt their revolution.

“When they play divide and conquer, we say unite and ascend,” Kaluuya said.

Also taking home an Oscar for a supporting role was Yuh-Jung Youn of “Minari”. She is only the second Asian actress to win an Academy Award for playing a supportive character, and the first since 1957. She thanked her cast members from the film during her speech, but she reserved much of her gratitude for one individual in particular.

“Above all, Lee Isaac Chung, without him I couldn’t be here tonight,” Youn said. “He was our captain and my director, so thanks to you. Tremendous thanks to you.”

Youn’s co-star Steven Yeun made history as well, becoming the first Asian American actor to receive a Best Actor nomination. The Academy honored British Pakistani actor Riz Ahmed of “Sound of Metal” with a nomination in the same category, making the 2021 Oscars the first in which two men of Asian descent were recognized for their lead acting performances.

Although a number of nominees and winners contributed to a night of historical significance, Chloé Zhao of “Nomadland” won two Oscars, one of which for Best Director. Zhao is the first woman of color—and only the second woman in the ceremony’s history—to win for her achievements in directing.

Zhao reflected on her childhood in China during her speech and reminded everyone to embrace the positivity in the world even when hardships arise.

“This is for anyone who has the faith and the courage to hold on to the goodness in themselves and to hold onto the goodness in each other, no matter how difficult it is to do that,” Zhao said. “This is for you. You inspire me to keep going.”

Many moments from the 93rd Academy Awards made history and honored worthy filmmakers, but the final award of the night marked one of the most unexpected snubs in recent years.

A majority of critics and cinephiles expected the late Chadwick Boseman, nominated for his leading performance in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”, to posthumously win in the Best Actor category. By saving the Best Actor announcement for last, it even seemed as if the show’s organizers expected his emotional win.

In a sweeping moment of injustice, Anthony Hopkins won the award for his performance in “The Father.” He did not attend the ceremony in person or even remotely, which caused the Oscars to wrap up hastily and leave millions of watchers who expected to hear Boseman’s name in a state of complete shock.

The Academy Awards never perfectly comply with anyone’s expectations, but aside from the Best Actor winner, this year’s ceremony came remarkably close. Deserved racial representation and a record number of women nominees contributed to an elegant evening of hope and history.

For a complete list of winners and nominees from the 2021 Oscars, visit https://www.oscars.org/oscars/ceremonies/2021