While several of the biggest prizes at the Oscars 2021 went as expected, the Academy still found room for chaos, snub, and shocks. The 2021 Oscars was certainly the first of its kind, considering 2020 was a strange year in Hollywood history, with the coronavirus pandemic having shut down multiple productions and caused widespread delays and uncertainty across the industry. Surely, there had to be some changes this year as reflected in the date, April 25, 2021, but as they say, “better late than never.”
Heading into the award, David Fincher’s Mank led the way in terms of nominations with 10 nods including for Leading Actor and Best Cinematography. Behind it were several movies with six nominations, including Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland. That film had led the race since it debuted at Venice Film Festival in September 2020, and it held strong until the end, claiming Best Picture, Best Actress for Frances McDormand, and a record making Best Director win for Zhao, who became the first woman of colour and the first Chinese woman to win the award.
However, though some things went as we expected, there were still a few snubs and surprises that were unbelievable.
Surprise/Snub: Anthony Hopkins Wins Best Actor Over Chadwick Boseman
Surprisingly, the Best Actor award was the last to be announced, something that had never happened before. It led so many people to believe that Chadwick was going to win the award posthumously and close the ceremony. Honestly, it felt like a great occasion to honour Chadwick, not just because of the sad way he departed, but also because of his many works including his scintillating performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. But the award unbelievably went to Sir Anthony Hopkins who wasn’t even present at the occasion. The move rumbled stomachs, and was met with chaos and backlash from industry personalities who labelled the climax of the ceremony chaotic.
Snub: The Trial Of The Chicago 7 Was Totally Shut Out
If there was ever a movie from Netflix that was a strong favourite to perform well at the Oscars, it was this one. Not even Mank. Although Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and Mank, did win two prizes each (Best Makeup & Hairstyling and Best Costume Design for the former, Best Cinematography and Best Production Design for the latter), it’s other major awards-targeted film was shut out completely.The Trial of the Chicago 7, written and directed by Aaron Sorkin, came into the Oscars 2021 with a joint-second six nominations, including for Best Picture, but went home empty-handed. To say this was shocking, would be a massive under-expression.
Surprise: Mank Wins Best Cinematography
Coming into the night as most nominated film, Mank wasn’t exactly an underdog, but it also wasn’t the heavy favourite to take home Best Cinematography. While its meticulous recreation of Hollywood during the Golden Age and links to Citizen Kane were always likely to win it Best Production Design, it remained to be seen if voters would also go for Erik Messerschmidt’s black-and-white photography. Of course, Hollywood loves movies and stories about itself, and the lavish detail in Mank – right down to the cigarette burns – got it the somewhat surprising win
Snub: Leslie Odom Jr. Doesn’t Win Best Original Song
Even before the ceremony, it hadn’t been a great Academy Awards for One Night in Miami. While the movie got three nods, it could also count itself unlucky (or slighted) in not having greater buzz or even more potential accolades. Best Original Song instead went to H.E.R., D’Mile, and Tiara Thomas for “Fight For You.” Perhaps “Fight For You” was part of a film the Academy voters clearly liked more.
Surprise/Snub: The Father Wins Best Adapted Screenplay, Beats Nomadland And Borat 2
The Father had its way with shocking us at the Oscars this year. It picked up another surprise win for Best Adapted Screenplay. Although this was a tightly contested race, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm looked a more traditional winner following the Academy’s history.