LOS ANGELES — A surreal 93rd Academy Awards, a stage show broadcast on television about films mostly distributed on the internet, got underway on Sunday with Regina King, a former Oscar winner and the director of “One Night in Miami,” strutting into a supper-club set.
“It has been quite a year, and we are still smack dab in the middle of it,” she said, referencing the pandemic and the guilty verdict in the George Floyd murder trial. “Our love of movies helped to get us through.”
With little more preamble, Oscar statuettes were handed out, with Emerald Fennell, a first-time nominee, winning best original screenplay for “Promising Young Woman,” a startling revenge drama. The last woman to win solo in the category had been Diablo Cody (“Juno”) in 2007.
“He’s so heavy and so cold,” Fennell said about the gold-plated Oscar statuette in an impromptu speech that revisited one she wrote when she was 10 and loved Zack Morris in the television series “Saved By the Bell.” “They said write a speech. I’m going to be in trouble with Steven Soderbergh,” she said.
overwhelmingly white and male, but the organization has invited more women and people of color into its ranks following the intense #OscarsSoWhite outcries in 2015 and 2016, when the acting nominees were all white. This year, nine of the 20 acting nominations went to people of color.
As expected, Daniel Kaluuya was named supporting actor for playing the Black Panther leader Fred Hampton in “Judas and the Black Messiah.”
“Bro, we out here!” Kaluuya shouted in celebration before growing serious and crediting Hampton (“what a man, what a man”) and ending with the cri de coeur, “When they played divide and conquer, we say unite and ascend.”
Hollywood wanted the producers of the telecast to pull off an almost-impossible hat trick. First and foremost, they were asked to design a show that prevented the TV ratings from plunging to an alarming low — while celebrating movies that, for the most part, have not connected widely with audiences. The producing team, which included the Oscar-winning filmmaker Steven Soderbergh (“Traffic”), also hope to use the telecast to jump-start theatergoing, no small task when most of the world has been out of the box office habit for more than a year. Lastly, the producers needed to integrate live camera feeds from more than 20 locations to comply with coronavirus safety restrictions.
red carpet had to be radically downsized and the extravagant parties canceled.
For the first time, the academy nominated two women for best director, recognizing Chloé Zhao for “Nomadland,” a bittersweet meditation on grief and the American dream, and Fennell for “Promising Young Woman,” about the aftermath of a sexual assault. The other nominated directors were David Fincher for “Mank,” a black-and-white love letter to Old Hollywood; Lee Isaac Chung for “Minari,” a semi-autobiographical tale about a Korean-American family; and, in a surprise, Vinterberg for “Another Round.”
Zhao had already been feted for her “Nomadland” direction by nearly 60 other organizations, including the Directors Guild of America and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. In 93 years of the Academy Awards, only one woman, Kathryn Bigelow, has ever won. (Bigelow was celebrated in 2010 for directing “The Hurt Locker.”) The directing category has also been dominated over the decades by white men, giving the nomination of Zhao, who is Chinese, even greater meaning.