And just like that, the Oscars are over for another year. The annual award show, which was carried out as a COVID-safe event in Los Angeles, took place on April 25 in the US and was broadcast over the Seven Network in Australia.
The selection of 2021 Academy Award nominees was more diverse than ever before — a far cry from the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag that plagued the 2015 ceremony.
For starters, a history-making two women were nominated in the Best Director category, Chloé Zhao for Nomadland and Emerald Fennell for Promising Young Woman. Zhao and Fennell were only the sixth and seventh women to ever be nominated in the category.
In the Best Actor category, Minari‘s Steven Yeun became the first-ever Asian-American actor to be nominated for the nod, while Riz Ahmed from Sound of Metal was the first-ever Muslim actor to be recognised. The category also included the late Chadwick Boseman for his final role in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and previous Best Actor Nominees Gary Oldman and Sir Anthony Hopkins.
Youn Yuh-jung also represented a first at the Academy Awards — becoming the first-ever South Korean thespian to be nominated for Best Supporting Actress, for her role as Soon-ja in Minari.
In terms of the films, up for the night’s top award — Best Picture — The Father, Judas and the Black Messiah, Mank, Minari, Nomadland, Promising Young Woman, Sound of Metal, and The Trial of the Chicago 7 all received recognition, showcasing a diverse range of voices and the stories they have to tell.
While the award show was a decidedly more subdued affair than in previous years, there were still plenty of standout moments that had us all talking.
Here are our top four favourites.
Chloé Zhao Makes Oscars History
As previously mentioned, Zhao’s nomination was already significant as she was one of only a handful of women to be nominated in the Best Director category. Her win was truly historic as she joins only Kathryn Bigelow — who won for 2009’s The Hurt Locker — in the winner’s circle.
Zhao’s victory felt particularly poignant in a year that has seen a horrific rise in hate crimes against Asian-Americans, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In her acceptance speech, the filmmaker told the audience, “When I was growing up in China, my dad and I would play this game. We would memorize classic poems and text and try to finish each other’s sentences.”
The director then recited one of her favourites which translates into: “People at birth are inherently good.”
“I have always found goodness in the people I met,” she said. “This is for anyone who has the faith and courage to hold onto the goodness in themselves.”
Youn Yuh-jung Makes History and Flirts With Brad Pitt
Minari actress Youn Yuh-jung didn’t just win the award for Best Supporting Actress, she may have won the award for most hilarious acceptance speech too.
Taking to the stage to collect her trophy from none other than Brad Pitt, Youn decided to share a moment with the actor, joking, “Mr Pitt, finally, nice to meet you. Where were you while we were filming in Tulsa?”
The actress then took the opportunity to let Pitt know that he hadn’t exactly nailed the pronunciation of her name when announcing her victory.
“As you know, I’m from Korea, and actually my name is Youn Yuh-jung and in most of Europe, people call me ‘Yoh Yun’ and some of them call me ‘Yuh Yun’ but tonight you are all forgiven,” she quipped.
Aside from capturing our hearts with her wit and tenacity, Youn also became the first South Korean woman to win the Best Supporting Actress award, and at the age of 73, no less!
Demonstrating remarkable humility for someone who just made history, Youn expressed disbelief at her win saying, “See, I don’t believe in competition. How can I win over Glenn Close? I’ve been watching her so many performances. All the nominees — five nominees —we are the winners for different movies; we play a different role. So we cannot compete with each other.”
Daniel Kaluuya Puts His Parents on Blast, and Makes Us Blush
Judas and the Black Messiah’s Daniel Kaluuya took home the Best Supporting Actor nod for his portrayal of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton who was murdered by the FBI at the age of just 21.
When accepting the award, Kaluuya praised his co-star and fellow nominee LaKeith Stanfield, with whom he said he shared the prize and honoured Hampton saying, “What a man. What a man. How blessed we are we lived in a lifetime where he existed.”
The actor then took his speech in a strange and awkward direction, referencing how he came to be at the annual awards event.
“My mum, my dad — they had sex. It’s amazing I’m here,” Kaluuya said for reasons known only to him. The camera then quickly cut to Kaluuya’s sister, who had her head in her hands, and his mother, Damalie Namusoke, who appeared to mouth, “What is he on about?”
Backstage, Kaluuya told the waiting press, “I haven’t talked to my mum yet. I’m gonna avoid my phone for a bit. But she’ll be cool. She has a sense of humour.”
Tyler Perry’s Message to Refuse Hate
Actor, producer, filmmaker, and activist Tyler Perry was awarded the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for “his generosity toward those often overlooked and his steadfast commitment to social justice.”
Perry accepted the award from Atlanta and took the opportunity to share an anecdote about giving shoes to a homeless woman outside of a building he was using for production.
The entertainer, who has himself experienced housing insecurity, also shared the lesson his mother — who grew up in the Jim Crow-era South — taught him.
“She taught me to refuse hate and blanket judgment,” Perry said.
“I refuse to hate someone because they’re Mexican or because they are Black or white,” he continued. “Or LGBTQ. I refuse to hate someone because they’re a police officer or because they’re Asian. I would hope we would refuse hate. And I want to take this humanitarian award and dedicate it to anyone who wants to stand in the middle.
“Because that’s where healing, where conversation, where change happens. It happens in the middle. Anyone who wants to meet me in the middle to refuse hate and blanket judgment, this one is for you, too.”