As far as climaxes go, it was definitely in the anti category. The Academy Awards did not end with the traditional best picture prize, with producers choosing to make lead actress and actor the final awards of the night.
That led to confusion and consternation on social media as viewers puzzled over Nomadland’s (expected) win of the top award. Then Frances McDormand collected her third best actress Oscar for her work in the movie, and last year’s best actor winner Joaquin Phoenix presented the final category of the night: best actor.
It was a calculated risk by producers Steven Soderbergh, Stacey Sher, and Jesse Collins that undeniably didn’t pay off.
The final award could well have gone to the late Chadwick Boseman for his devastating performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and the moment could have become a stirring tribute to an actor whose life was cut grievously short by cancer at the age of only 43. But voters instead chose Anthony Hopkins for his work as a man suffering from dementia in The Father—and Hopkins did not even attend the ceremony.
That led Phoenix to a hasty denouement: “The Academy congratulates Anthony Hopkins and accepts the Oscar on his behalf, thank you.”
Questlove did his best to summon some good cheer as he congratulated all the nominees and played the audience into the credits. Online, it was pandemonium.
Even our greatest legal minds were flummoxed.
Pop culture scholars noted the perils of playing with a tried and true formula.
The photo of supporting actor winner Daniel Kaluuya’s mother reacting with shock and bafflement to his speech about her and his father having sex even made a reappearance.
The outpouring of complaints was endless, but this Twitter user noted that McDormand’s speech during Nomadland’s best picture award would have made a much better conclusion.
Congratulations, Twitter, next year you’re producing the Oscars.
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— Getting Oscar-Ready With Maria Bakalova
— Your Guide to Each Best-Picture Nominee’s Stars and Scandals
— Carey Mulligan’s Greatest Roles, From Doctor Who to Promising Young Woman
— Nomadland Is Stirring Up Controversy. Does the Academy Care?
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