Union Station Los Angeles might have been the stop for Hollywood’s best and talented entertainers, but the events of the night proved to be a plot twist for the books. The glitz and glamour did not disappoint as both actors and actresses showed down on the Tapis rouge which extended to living rooms across the globe. From chopard jewels, Armani suits to Alexander McQueen gowns, the designers did not hold back.
After the paparazzi had their fill of cover shots on the sparse carpet, the attendees settled in. The 1930s jazz club ambience and paintings of the nominees livened up the venue. The event was maskless but social distance was maintained as these are strange COVID-19 times. Opening the event without a host for the third year in a row, award winning actress Regina King set the ceremony running with a tone that lit the mood for the rest of the evening. Referring to the conviction of former police officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd, she said: “If things had gone any different in Minneapolis I might have traded in my heels for marching boots.”
Bringing glory to the East African region again was Ugandan-born British actor Daniel Kaluuya who bagged the Best Supporting Actor award. His exemplary performance as Fred Hampton, the chairman of the revolutionary Black Panthers Party earned him the prize. Kenya’s very own Lupita Nyong’o won the same trophy in 2014 for her role as Patsey in 12 Years a Slave.
In his acceptance speech Kaluuya said, “To chairman Fred Hampton, what a man. How blessed we are that we lived in a lifetime where he existed.”
When the first award for Best Director was handed out, shock and pandemonium gripped both the crowd and audiences at home. History was made as Chloé Zhao took home the award, she became the first woman of colour and second woman winning the best director nod. Order was also disrupted as the director’s category has traditionally been the climax of the awards. This was thanks to Director Steven who had thought hard about how to keep up the pace and wasn’t afraid to make some major changes to the usual format. Having been among one of three producers credited with organising the show, it was a Soderbergh affair. Adding his iconic signature imprints of jumbled chronology, familiar faces, unexpected elisions – a summary of what the Oscars were about.
The Best Actor award was handed out last. Sir Anthony Hopkins took home his second Academy Award at 83 years old. Making him the oldest winner to receive the much-coveted golden statue. Sir Anthony was neither in LA nor at the British Film Institute in London, the ceremony’s UK venue, so instead he posted a message on Instagram on Monday morning. He paid tribute to Chadwick Boseman saying, he had been “taken from us far too early”, adding that he felt “very privileged and honored” to win.
This was one of the biggest surprises of the night. Many anticipated Chadwick, who died in August last year at 43, would receive the award for his role in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. The social media streets were livid. The Oscars once again were facing backlash from the masses. Despite their commendable efforts at diversity and representation in this year’s awards, fans of Chadwick felt shortchanged.
Chadwick had received posthumous awards from the Golden Globes and NAACP Image Awards which his widow received on his behalf. An academy award would have made him the third actor in history to win posthumously. The first ever posthumous award went to Peter Finch in 1977 and the second went out to Heath Ledger who was the youngest to receive the award in this category in 2008.
Chadwick’s work on the silver screen has never fallen short of greatness. His portrayal of black historical icons always brought out an impressive performance after the next. Chadwick’s portrayal as King T’Challa, aka Black Panther, broke the mold for Black actors in Hollywood, proving that they have as much talent, profile, and bankability as white actors.
The South Carolina native showed the world that Black actors no longer have to subject themselves to roles that fit into racist stereotypes. Chadwick was a regal and talented actor who found success going against the grain in Hollywood. Setting the bar high and leaving a mark for people of colour are some of the things that he will be remembered for. An Oscar or not, Chadwick will still be one of the most inspiring actors in the industry.
The anti-climatic event may have been a disappointment and a success for the winners, but the Academy Awards shock ripple will fade and we can go back at it again next year.
Here is a list of other winners of the night