It was a night of big wins for meditative road drama Nomadland which got the Oscar for best picture as well as best director for Chloe Zhao, the first woman of colour to get the coveted trophy, at the 93rd Academy Awards, a socially distanced event held in the shadow of the Covid pandemic.
The film, about grief and finding connections outside the traditional structure of a family, also won Frances McDormand her third best actress Oscar after “Fargo” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” as well as a gong for producing it.
The usual glitter that accompanies Hollywood’s most starry night had dimmed but with women and people of colour creating history as the first-time winners, there was plenty to celebrate this year.
Veteran actor Anthony Hopkins, who did not attend the ceremony, won best actor Oscar for his performance as a man suffering from dementia in the relationship drama “The Father”. The actor stars opposite Olivia Colman in the movie.
It was a surprise win for the actor as many expected the trophy to go to Chadwick Boseman for his turn in “May Rainey’s Black Bottom”.
The India connection came through with the Academy honouring actor Irrfan Khan and costume designer Bhanu Athaiya in its ‘In Memoriam’ segment.
The night clearly belonged to Zhao and “Nomadland”, a front-runner for the awards from the beginning.
Zhao, who moved to the US from China as a teenager, is the first woman of colour and the only second woman after Kathryn Bigelow’s 2010 win for “The Hurt Locker” to win the best director trophy.
This is for anyone who has the faith and the courage to hold on to the goodness in themselves and to hold on the goodness in other no matter how difficult it is to do that, the 39-year-old director said in her acceptance speech.
“I have always found goodness in the people I’ve met everywhere I went in the world, she added.
The film’s star and producer McDormand struck a chord with her speech in a year that has seen theatres remain shut as people across the globe struggled with the coronavirus pandemic.
“One day very, very soon, take everyone you know into a theatre, shoulder to shoulder, in that dark space, and watch every film that’s represented here tonight,” McDormand said in her speech.
Based on Jessica Bruder’s book of the same name, “Nomadland” stars McDormand as Fern, a woman who, after the economic collapse of her company town in rural Nevada, packs her van and sets off on the road to explore a life outside of conventional society as a modern-day nomad.
The pandemic forced the Academy to delay its date and shift the ceremony to April even as the entertainment industry the world over grappled with shutdowns of theatres and productions.
In a break from tradition, the ceremony announced the best picture winner ahead of the best actress and actor winners.
Daniel Kaluuya won best supporting actor for “Judas and the Black Messiah”. The “Get Out” star was widely expected to walk away with the trophy for his impressive performance as the Black Panther leader Fred Hampton.
“You’ve got to celebrate life, man. We’re breathing. We’re walking. It’s incredible,” he said in his speech where he also thanked Hampton and his mother.
South Korea continued its glory run at the Oscars a year after “Parasite” with veteran star Yuh-Jung Youn winning best-supporting actress trophy for her role as a feisty grandmother in Lee Isaac Chung’s film “Minari”.
The 73-year-old Youn, one of the most loved and respected stars in South Korea, became the first Asian actress to win an Oscar after Miyoshi Umeki’s win for “Sayonara” in 1957.
In a charming speech, Youn forgave the American people for mangling her name and honoured her fellow nominees.
“I don’t believe in competition. How can I win over Glenn Close? I’ve been watching so many of her performances. I have a little bit of luck, I think. I’m luckier than you. Or maybe it’s the American hospitality for the Korean actor, I’m not sure,” she said.
Brad Pitt, last year’s best supporting actor winner who also served as an executive producer on “Minari” presented Youn with her Oscar.
She teased the actor for not visiting the set while the movie was being shot, saying “Mr Brad Pitt, finally nice to meet you.”
Hairstylists Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson became the first Black women to win in makeup and hairstyling for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom . Ann Roth, 89, became one of the oldest Oscar winners ever, to win costume design Oscar for the film.
Emerald Fennell, the writer-director of #MeToo drama “Promising Young Woman” and known to “The Crown” fans for her role as Camilla Parker Bowles, was the first winner of the night.
Fennell won best screenplay Oscar for her feature debut.
“Another Round”, from Denmark, was named the best international feature film. Directed by Thomas Vinterberg, the film features Mads Mikkelsen and is a co-production between Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden.
Vinterberg dedicated the award to his daughter Ida, who died in a car crash in 2019. The film was based on her idea.
Pixar registered its 11th animated Oscar for “Soul”. The film also won best score. It is the first time that the studio’s film features a black protagonist, voiced by Jamie Foxx.
“Tenet” won best visual effects, while David Fincher’s “Mank”, about 1940s Hollywood and the making of “Citizen Kane”, entered the race with maximum of 10 nominations but managed awards only for cinematography and for production design.
“Two Perfect Strangers”, which revolves around police brutality against Black Americans, won best live-action short while “My Octopus Teacher , about a diver’s unique bond with an octopus, won best documentary.
Craig Foster, who appears as himself in the movie, was also a producer via his involvement with the Sea Change Project. His wife, Indian environmental journalist Swati Thiyagarajan, was a production manager for the film.
The Oscars telecast, directed by Glenn Weiss, was produced by filmmaker Steven Soderbergh, Jesse Collins and Stacy Sher. Instead of its usual home, the Dolby Theatre, the ceremony was held at Union Station.