What started out as a promising night turned into what can only be called a disaster of epic proportions — and #OscarsSoWhite wasn’t even trending.
The 93rd Academy Awards aired over two months later than usual due to complications caused by the pandemic, resulting in the three-hour-long show falling on the evening of April 25. However, the logistical changes weren’t what made the evening an infamous affair.
The most egregious oversight was certainly the handling of the nomination of late actor Chadwick Boseman, who passed away in August 2020 after battling colon cancer for the previous four years.
For starters, attendees of the ceremony got gift bags that included a 3-D NFT (non-fungible token) of the late actor’s bust by artist Andre Oshea. Ultimately, this decision lacked awareness and was a trivial way to commemorate the actor’s life.
The Academy even broke tradition by having the Best Actor category last, in an obvious attempt to have the evening end on an emotional climax if Boseman won — which the audience was expecting. They weren’t expecting Anthony Hopkins, who wasn’t even in attendance, to win.
After the announcement, they couldn’t cut to the credits fast enough.
Since then Hopkins has responded saying he didn’t expect to win the award at 83 years old and is honored to be the oldest winner yet, before giving tribute to Boseman.
Another example of the weirdness that permeated the night was the speeches given by directors Travon Free and Martin Desmond Roe for their short film “Two Distant Strangers.” Free spoke passionately about the problem of police violence against Black Americans (the subject of their film) and used the words of James Baldwin to plead with the audience to not feign indifference.
After a pregnant pause Roe began his speech with the phrase “I’d like to thank Netflix” and continued to give the usual obligatory thanks without acknowledging anything his fellow director had just said.
This is certainly representative of the Academy as a whole, which thinks that just nominating “diverse” films absolves them of having to do any real social justice work or continue to work towards finding equitable solutions.
Another great example of this was how the Academy addressed disabilities. Two films that centered around accurate portrayals of disabilities were nominated, the documentary “Crip Camp” and the film “Sound of Metal.”
But the Academy failed again to enact meaningful change when given the opportunity. It wasn’t until after the ceremony ended that I was made aware that the woman who had been presenting some of the awards in American Sign Language (ASL) was Marlee Matlin, the only deaf actor to ever win an Academy Award. Not only was her award not acknowledged, but she was on screen for a very minor portion of the night. This also begs the question: Why don’t the Oscars have an ASL interpreter for the whole ceremony?
Luckily there were some genuine highlights to the night, the most prominent being revered Korean actress Youn Yuh-Jung winning best supporting actress for her role as the grandma in Lee Isaac Chung’s “Minari.” Youn became the second Asian actress to ever win an Oscar, the first being Miyoshi Umeki for her role in “Sayonara” in 1957.
In arguably the best speech of the night, Youn began by joking about finally meeting Brad Pitt, who presented her with the award and whose production company, Plan B Entertainment, produced “Minari.” In a tender moment, Youn also talked about how the cast became a real “family” to her, and how thankful she was to her own two sons.
Another highlight was watching Bong Joon-ho — the director of last year’s best picture winner “Parasite,” which has developed a bit of a cult following stateside — present the award for best director to Chloé Zhao. Zhao became the second woman to ever receive the award in 93 years, and the first Asian woman to be nominated for and win the award.
Zhao’s night became even more memorable after her film “Nomadland” also picked up the coveted Best Picture Award. As one of the film’s producers, she got to go on stage and give another speech about how much the film meant to her. Then, in one of the more memorable acts of the night, Frances McDormand, a fellow producer and the film’s lead actress, howled into the microphone in honor of the late sound mixer Michael Wolf Snyder.
In yet another upset, McDormand would go on to win the Oscar for Best Actress, beating out favorites Viola Davis for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” and Carey Mulligan for “Promising Young Woman.” McDormand then gave one of the shortest speeches of the night, having said everything she wanted to say in her previous speech.
From Glenn Close dancing and singing to E.U.’s “Da Butt,” to the utter lack of clips from films, to the “In Memoriam” segment playing at double speed, this year’s Oscars were one for the books. And I mean that in the worst way possible.
Shelby Kleinhans is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BirdsNotReal99