‘Nomadland’ wins best picture, five other Oscars

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Peter Spears, Frances McDormand, Chloé Zhao, Mollye Asher, and Dan Janvey pose backstage with the Oscar® for Best Picture during the live ABC Telecast of The 93rd Oscars® at Union Station in Los Angeles, CA on Sunday, April 25, 2021.

Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — “Nomadland,” the gritty yet life-affirming tale of wandering van-dwellers, scored a triple crown at the 93rd Oscars, winning for best picture while Chloe Zhao became the first woman of color to win best director and Frances McDormand took home her third career best-actress prize.

Anthony Hopkins, meanwhile, scored an upset win in the best-actor category for his work as a man struggling to maintain his independence while his memory fades in “The Father.” Many pundits had anticipated a posthumous win for sentimental favorite Chadwick Boseman in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.”

Daniel Kaluuya won best supporting actor for “Judas and the Black Messiah,” while celebrated Korean actress Yuh-Jung Youn was named best supporting actress for “Minari.”

But “Nomadland” was the big winner of the 2021 Oscars, winning six awards overall. Zhao, accepting the best-picture award, gave thanks to the “nomadic community” and “all the people we met on the road.”

Thank you for teaching us the power of resilience and hope and for reminding us what true kindness looks like,” she said.

Earlier in the evening, Zhao reflected on her upbringing when she accepted her historic Oscar for best director.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I keep going when things get hard,” Zhao told the sparse crowd at downtown’s Union Station, where the ceremony was moved in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. “And I think it goes back to something I learned when I was a kid. … My dad and I used to play this game. We would memorize classic Chinese poems and texts and we would recite it together and try to finish each other’s sentences. And there is one I remember so dearly, it’s called the Three Character Classics. And the first phrase goes … ‘people at birth are inherently good.’

And those six [words] had such a great impact on me when I was a kid, and I still truly believe that today, even though sometimes it might seem like the opposite is true,” she said. “I have always found goodness in the people I’ve met everywhere I went in the world. This is for anyone who had the faith and the courage to hold onto the goodness in themselves and to hold onto the goodness in each other, no matter how difficult it is to do that. This is for you. You inspired me to keep going.”

McDormand, who took on the role of a woman recovering from loss as she travels in her van from place to place in search of work, offered a short speech while collecting her best actress prize, saying, “I have no words. My voice is in my sword. We know the sword is our work. And I like work. Thank you for knowing that. And thanks for this.”

The win was the third of her career in the best-actress category. She previously won for “Fargo” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”

As part of the “Nomadland” producing team, she urged film lovers to see the picture — and all other Oscar nominees — in a theater.

Please watch our movie on the largest screen possible,” she said. “And one day very, very soon take everyone you know into a theater, shoulder-to-shoulder in that dark space and watch every film that’s represented here tonight.”

McDormand also let out a primal wolf howl on stage, which was a tribute to the film’s sound mixer, Michael Wolf Snyder, who died by suicide in March.

Hopkins was not present to accept the best-actor award, the second of his career, following “Silence of the Lambs.” At age 83, he is the oldest person to ever win a performance Oscar. Hopkins posted a video online overnight from his home in Wales thanking the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, but also recognizing Boseman, who many felt was a lock to win the best-actor prize.

At 83 years of age, I did not expect to get this award, I really didn’t,” Hopkins said. “I’m very grateful to the Academy, and thank you. And 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.”

The win for Yuh-Jung Youn, 73, made her the first Korean actress to win a performing Oscar. She won for her portrayal of the feisty, outspoken family matriarch in “Minari.”

She joked about the frequent mispronunciation of her name in Hollywood, saying, “Tonight, you are all forgiven.”

She hailed her cast mates, saying “We became a family, and most of all, above all (writer-director) Lee Isaac Chung. Without him I couldn’t be here tonight. He was our captain and my director. So thanks to you. Tremendous thanks to you.”

She also hailed her fellow nominees, saying she didn’t like to think that they were competing against each other, but on this night, “I have just a little luck. I’m luckier than you.”

Kaluuya earned his first Oscar for his supporting role in “Judas and the Black Messiah,” portraying Chicago Black Panther leader Fred Hampton. He thanked Warner Bros. for making the film, noting, “It’s so hard to make a film, and make film about a man like this, and they made it happen.”

He also dedicated the award to Hampton himself.

To Chairman Fred Hampton, bro. Man. Man. What a man. What a man,” he said. “How blessed we are to have lived in a lifetime where he existed. Thank you for your light. He was on this Earth for 21 years, 21 years and he found a way to feed kids breakfast, educate kids, give free medical care.

There’s so much work to do guys, and that’s on everyone in this room,” he said. “It’s no single-man job. I look to every single one of you.”

Emerald Fennell took the prize for best original screenplay for the revenge drama “Promising Young Woman.”

This film was made by the most incredible people in the world who made it in 23 days and brought that genius and love and humor to it,” Fennell said.

Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller won for best adapted screenplay for “The Father.” Zeller praised his collaborator on the film, and said he wrote the script specifically with Hopkins in mind, saying, “To me, he’s the greatest living actor.”

He thanked Hopkins for bringing “your energy, your grace and your talent” to the film.

Sharing that journey with you was the most amazing experience of my life,” he said.

Asked backstage whether the moment felt surreal, Hampton said, “Yes, particularly in these circumstances, since we’re in different countries … with masks on. It’s unlike any other kind of Oscars ceremony I would imagine there’s ever been. It is strange, but great.”

“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” picked up a pair of technical awards — makeup and hairstyling for Sergio Lopez-Rivera, Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson; and costume design for Ann Roth. The black-and-white film “Mank” went into the Oscars as the top nominee, with 10, but it left with only two — cinematography for Erik Messerschmidt and production design for production designer Donald Graham Burt and set decorator Jan Pascale.

The Pixar film “Soul” was named best animated feature film and also won best original score for Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross and Jon Batiste.

The award for best original song went to “Fight for You” from “Judas and the Black Messiah,” with music by H.E.R. and Dernst Emile II and lyrics by H.E.R. and Tiara Thomas.

During the ceremony, producer/actor/writer Tyler Perry and the Motion Picture Television Fund were both presented with Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Awards.

Because of COVID-19, the ceremony had a decidedly different look. Gone was the star-studded audience at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. The ceremony instead originated largely from Union Station, with nominees sitting at individual tables in front of a circular stage.

There was no host, with show producers saying they wanted the ceremony to be an homage to movies and movie-making. Instead of “presenters,” the Academy announced what it called “an ensemble cast” starring in the show.

Viewership for the telecast plummeted to 9.85 million viewers, according to preliminary figures released April 26 by Nielsen, continuing the trend of record-low viewership for awards shows since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Viewership dropped 58% from the 23.569-million average for the 2020 ceremony, which had been a record low.