2021 Oscars in Review

Sophia Mirabal

The 93rd Academy Awards were held Sunday, the 25th, after a two-month delay in proceeding. The hostless, in-person event occurred between Union Station in downtown LA and the Hollywood Dolby Theatre. Though unusual circumstances this past year made for adjustments, the award show carried on, presenting a series of high, lows, and history made. 

Here are the winners and nominees for the “Big Five” categories. 

Best Picture:

Winner: Nomadland – Frances McDormand, Peter Spears, Mollye Asher, Dan Janvey, & Chloé Zhao (Producers)

Nominees: The Father – David Parfitt, Jean-Louis Livi, & Philippe Carcassonne (Producers), Judas & the Black Messiah – Shaka King, Charles D. King, & Ryan Coogler (Producers), Mank – Ceán Chaffin, Eric Roth, & Douglas Urbanski (Producers), Minari – Christina Oh (Producer), Promising Young Woman – Ben Browning, Ashley Fox, Emerald Fennell, & Josey McNamara (Producers), Sound of Metal – Bert Hamelinck & Sacha Ben Harroche (Producers), The Trial of the Chicago 7 – Marc Platt & Stuart Besser (Producers)


Winner: Nomadland – Chloé Zhao

Nominees: Another Round – Thomas Vinterberg, Mank – David Fincher, Minari – Lee Issac Chung, Promising Young Woman – Emerald Fennell

Actor in a Leading Role: 

Winner: Anthony Hopkins – The Father

Nominees: Riz Ahmed – Sound of Metal, Chadwick Boseman – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Gary Oldman – Mank, Steven Yeun – Minari

Actress in a Leading Role:

Winner: Frances McDormand – Nomadland

Nominees: Viola Davis – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Andra Day – The United States vs. Billie Holiday, Vanessa Kirby – Pieces of a Woman, Carey Mulligan – Promising Young Woman

Writing (Adapted Screenplay):

Winner: The Father – Screenplay by Christopher Hampton & Florian Zeller

Nominees: Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan – Screenplay by Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Dan Swimer, Peter Baynham, Erica Rivinoja, Dan Mazer, Jena Friedman & Lee Kern; Story by Sacha Baron Cohen & Anthony Hines & Dan Swimer & Nina Pedrad, Nomadland – Written for the Screen by Chloé Zhao, One Night in Miami – Screenplay by Kempy Powers, The White Tiger – Written for the screen by Ramin Bahrani

Writing (Original Screenplay):

Winner: Promising young Woman – Written by Emerald Fennell

Nominees: Judas and the Black Messiah – Screenplay by Will Berson & Shaka King; Story by Will Berson, Shaka King, Kenny Lucas, & Keith Lucas, Minari – Written By Lee Issac Chung, Sound of Metal – Screenplay by Darius Marder & Abraham Marder; Story by Darius Marder & Derek Cianfrance, The Trial of the Chicago 7 – Written by Aaron Sorkin

Despite disruptions in the traditional flow of the ceremony, what the Academy could not meet in terms of custom, made up for in growth. Notably in its categories. Though the field of nominees evolves every year, it made history several times in 2021. 

Chloé Zhao became the second woman and the first woman of color to win Best Director. Zhao won the Oscar for Nomadland, a film adaptation of Jessica Bruner’s book of the same title. The picture observes the phenomenon of older Americans, specifically a woman in her sixties, who, following the 2007-2009 Recession, adopted a transient lifestyle searching for employment. Hence the name, ‘Nomad’land. 

In addition, Zhao became the third Asian person to win in the category, following Ang Lee for Brokeback Mountain (2006) and Life of Pi (2013), and Bong Joon-ho for Parasite just last year. 

The results of the Directing category this year were monumental even before the results were announced. Nominated alongside Zhao was Emerald Fennel for her comedy thriller Promising Young Woman, making 2021 the first year with two female nominees for Best Director. 

The Oscar for Best Makeup and Hairstyling went to Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson, the first black-led team to win in the category. The pair were honored for their work in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, which centered around the trailblazing blues singer Ma Rainey in 1920s Chicago. The two nodded to the influence of their victory in their acceptance speech, “As we break this glass ceiling, I can picture Black trans women standing up here, Asian and Latina sisters, and Indigenous women. And it won’t be unusual or groundbreaking one day. It will just be normal.”

Writer-director Emerald Fennel became the first woman in 13 years to win Best Original Screenplay for her film Promising Young Woman, featuring a darkly satirical lead who seeks revenge for her friend’s rape and murder. Diablo Cody’s 2008 cult hit Juno was last to win.

Best Supporting Actress went to Youn Yuh-jung, the first Korean person to win in an acting category. Her performance was featured in Minari, in which the American immigrant experience and the resilience of family are reflected through a Korean family’s move to Arkansas. She described the influence of her nomination to be “stressful” since she felt as though she was “competing for her country.” In her endearing speech, she thanked her children. “I’d like to thank my two boys, who made me go out and work,” she said. “This is the result, because mommy worked so hard.”