Although this past year has been like no other, there are still many traditions to fall back on to keep afloat amidst the insanity. This year, people counted on the Oscars to bring back that touch of familiarity and remind them that there is still a reassuring continuity in what the entertainment industry provides. The Academy Awards have a long and controversial history: last year, for the first time in 92 years, a foreign film, Parasite, won Best Picture. In 2021, the Oscars brought viewers friendship, culture, and feeling from new and refreshing perspectives. If you missed out on the most notable awards, here’s a brief recap.
In likely the most popular category of Best Picture, this year’s winner was Nomadland, a safe choice among an impressive array of nominees. Directed by Chloé Zhao, the film stars Frances McDormand as a woman in her mid-sixties, traveling around the US after having lost everything during the 2008 recession. The film is nostalgic, and a little bittersweet — it offers a tragic story, but still provides hope, for the characters and viewers alike.
In the Directing category, nominees included the renowned David Fincher for his film Mank, an uncharacteristically slow film depicting the behind-the-scenes story of the hit movie Citizen Kane, and critically-acclaimed Thomas Vinterberg, for his witty and unconventional film Another Round. But amidst these big names, Chloé Zhao once again prevailed, earning her the title of 2021’s best director for Nomadland. This award was followed by some interesting controversy: Zhao had also won the Golden Globe award for best director, making her the very first Asian woman to do so. She was titled “the pride of China,” but this nationalist mood quickly shifted when interviews were found of her critiquing the Chinese government — Nomadland hashtags were censored in China, and a rise of protests against the film were seen in the country. All in all, this award got the most eventful and controversial reception.
Some other notable wins included Sound of Metal as winner in the Sound category, a film that follows a musician as he slowly loses his hearing, but learns the beauty the rest of the world has to offer in a slightly tragic but hopeful way. Promising Young Woman, a powerful and deeply profound take on sexual assault, won Best Original Screenplay. We also saw The Father, an adaptation of a mind-twisting and ironic French play about a man with dementia, win in the category of Best Adapted Screenplay. This year’s “end of the world” action-thriller, Tenet, won best visual effects, and Pixar’s Soul won best Animated Feature.
Of course, movies couldn’t exist without their actors. This year presented four great actors in leading and supporting roles — each of whose phenomenal acting hugely contributed to the success of their movies. Yuh-Jung Youn won Best Supporting Actress for her unforgettable performance as the “foreign” grandma in Minari, and Daniel Kaluuya won Best Supporting Actor for his unprecedented emotional acting in Judas and the Black Messiah. Anthony Hopkins’ win for Best Actor in a Leading Role (for The Father) makes him now a several-time Oscar winner, similarly to Frances McDormand, who won her fourth Oscar for her subtle and insightful portrayal of Fern in Nomadland.
The powerful roles everyone plays — cast, camera crew, directors, producers — are crucial to making a great film. Although it’s difficult to show the appreciation they all deserve, the Oscars provide some semblance of recognition for the many people who work on movies and make them all that they are. This year, the Oscars saw controversy, but also solidarity. Film showed life from different perspectives: from a cross country vagabond in Nomadland to the children of the struggling immigrant family of Minari. All in all, the wide array of films gave people the opportunity to expand their interests, learn about ideas they never would have thought of, and unite people with all kinds of different backgrounds and stories through one common factor: their love for movies.