As much as had to be tweaked to pull off the 93rd Oscars on Sunday, from taking over downtown Los Angeles’ Union Station to rethinking the entire format, it was almost business as usual for predictable winners. That is, until the final 15 minutes.
For the first time in memory, Oscar producers switched up the final three categories, announcing Best Picture third from the end and reserving the final two spots for Best Actress and Best Actor, respectively.
After Nomadland completed its long journey from Venice Film Festival winner to Oscar Best Picture winner, its star Frances McDormand was named Best Actress, this after the momentum during the long movie-awards season seemed to have shifted to Promising Young Woman‘s Carey Mulligan, The United States vs Billie Holiday‘s Andra Day and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’s Viola Davis.
Then came Best Actor, with presenter Joaquin Phoenix calling out probably the night’s biggest surprise: Anthony Hopkins for Sony Pictures Classics’ The Father. He was not in attendance.
Neither Hopkins nor McDormand had won at any of the televised U.S. awards shows, with the Lead Actor in a Motion Picture category completely dominated by Chadwick Boseman throughout awards season. In fact, that might have been the impetus behind the category change, which was kept quiet inside Oscar circles — a posthumous Boseman win to cap the night would have been fitting after his death in August from cancer at just 43.
Instead, after McDormand offered the night’s shortest acceptance speech for her third Best Actress Oscar (she won a fourth tonight as a Nomadland producer), Phoenix was left holding the night’s final trophy with Hopkins somewhere in Wales, where he reportedly is on vacation. (In 2012, Hopkins declined to attend for his Hitchcock nomination, calling the awards season “nauseating.”)
Tonight’s wins for Hopkins and McDormand matched the BAFTAs, the only major Oscar precursor with that combo as lead actor winners.
Other surprises tonight:
After taking home Song of the Year for “I Can’t Breathe” at the Grammy Awards, the fast-rising music star H.E.R. pulled off another major win over serious competition. Most pundits had Leslie Odom Jr.’s “Speak Now” from One Night in Miami, with some forecasting an end of Diane Warren’s 0-for-12 streak with “Io Sì (Seen)” or an upset win for “Húsavík” from Eurovision Song Contest.
Instead, it was H.E.R.’s powerful “Fight for You” from Judas and the Black Messiah that triumphed tonight, putting the singer-songwriter halfway to an EGOT.
Mank, The Trial Of Chicago 7
Netflix’s Mank, which came in with a leading 10 nominations, converted just two — for Production Design and Cinematography, and the latter was considered a mild surprise, with Nomadland a strong contender in the category (though Mank took home the ASC Award). The Trial of Chicago 7 went 0-6. Still, Netflix finished with a studio-leading seven wins, the most ever for a streamer.