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Oscars 2021: A Night of Glamour, Stars and Inclusivity

In a traumatic year for movies, there were triumphs on Hollywood's top awards show

spinner image Laura Dern, Regina King and Tyler Perry at the Oscars
(Left to right) Laura Dern, Regina King and Tyler Perry at the 93rd Annual Academy Awards.
Todd Wawrychuk/A.M.P.A.S. via Getty Images; Chris Pizzello-Pool/Getty Images; A.M.P.A.S. via Getty Images

The 93rd Academy Awards Sunday capped a groundbreaking year for people of color and women, with gratifying wins for older actors and lots of uplifting messages. Nine of 20 acting nominees were nonwhite (versus zero in 2015 and 2016), and filmmaker Tyler Perry, 51, gave a rousing speech urging the world to “refuse hate,” dedicating his Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award to “anyone who wants to stand in the middle, because that's where healing happens.”

Even though the pandemic shutdown of movie theaters meant that the nominees for best picture earned one-44th as much as last year's nominees, there were plenty of upbeat moments. Minari's Yuh-jung Youn, 73, Korea's first-ever best supporting actress winner, charmed the crowd, asking, “How can I win over Glenn Close?” Close, 74, took her eighth Oscar nomination without a win in good spirits, and busted a dance move to the tune “Da Butt."

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Though the Oscars had no host, skyrocketing actress and One Night in Miami director Regina King, 50, kicked it off in style with her opening monologue, and presenter Laura Dern, 54, rocked an Oscar de la Renta dress resembling a white feather duster, only glamorous — though of course some sniffed that it reminded them of Bjork's infamous Oscar night swan dress.

Anthony Hopkins became the oldest acting Oscar winner in history, taking best actor for the Alzheimer's drama The Father. “At 83 years of age I did not expect to get this award, I really didn't,” said Hopkins, “and I want to pay tribute to Chadwick Boseman, who was taken from us far too early.” Boseman, the late star of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, had been widely expected to win. That film's costume-design winner Ann Roth, 89, tied James Ivory's record as the oldest winner of a competitive Oscar. Frances McDormand, 63, surprised no one by winning her third best actress Oscar for Nomadland, whose director Chloé Zhao became the first woman of color (and second woman ever) to win best director.

The Oscar telecast also featured some up-and-coming talents we'll be seeing much more of: Judas and the Black Messiah's Daniel Kaluuya, 32, One Night in Miami's Leslie Odom Jr., 39, Sound of Metal's Riz Ahmed, 38, the spectacularly clad, gold Vera Wang gown-wearing The United States vs. Billie Holiday star Andra Day, 36, and Carey Mulligan, 35, star of the commercial hit Promising Young Woman, whose promising young writer Emerald Fennell, 35, won best original screenplay.

Here are top award winners and nominees in a year Hollywood is relieved to have survived:

Best Picture

  • The Father
  • Judas and the Black Messiah
  • Mank
  • Minari
  • *Nomadland
  • Promising Young Woman
  • Sound of Metal
  • The Trial of the Chicago 7

Best Actor

  • Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal
  • Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
  • *Anthony Hopkins, The Father
  • Gary Oldman, Mank
  • Steven Yeun, Minari

Best Actress

  • Viola Davis, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
  • Andra Day, The United States vs. Billie Holiday
  • Vanessa Kirby, Pieces of a Woman
  • *Frances McDormand, Nomadland
  • Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman
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Best Director

  • Lee Isaac Chung, Minari
  • Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman
  • David Fincher, Mank
  • Thomas Vinterberg, Another Round
  • *Chloé Zhao, Nomadland

Best Supporting Actress

  • Maria Bakalova, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
  • Glenn Close, Hillbilly Elegy
  • Olivia Colman, The Father
  • Amanda Seyfried, Mank
  • *Yuh-Jung Youn, Minari

Best Supporting Actor

  • Sacha Baron Cohen, The Trial of the Chicago 7
  • *Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah
  • Leslie Odom Jr., One Night in Miami
  • Paul Raci, Sound of Metal
  • Lakeith Stanfield, Judas and the Black Messiah

Best International Feature

  • *Another Round
  • Better Days
  • Collective
  • The Man Who Sold His Skin
  • Quo Vadis, Aida?

Best Animated Feature

  • Onward
  • Over the Moon
  • Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon
  • *Soul
  • Wolfwalkers

Best Documentary Feature

  • Collective
  • Crip Camp
  • The Mole Agent
  • *My Octopus Teacher
  • Time

Best Original Score

  • Da 5 Bloods
  • Mank
  • Minari
  • News of the World
  • *Soul

Best Original Song

  • *"Fight for You,” Judas and the Black Messiah
  • "Hear My Voice,” The Trial of the Chicago 7
  • "Husavik,” Eurovision Song Contest
  • "Io Si (Seen),” The Life Ahead
  • "Speak Now,” One Night in Miami

Tim Appelo is AARP’s film and TV critic. Previously, he was Amazon’s entertainment editor, Entertainment Weekly’s video critic, and a writer for The Hollywood Reporter, People, MTV, LA Weekly and The Village Voice.

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