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Oscars 2021: no real upsets but Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland triumph is a wonderful coup | Peter Bradshaw

With best picture also in the bag, it was a great night for Zhao – but Korean veteran Youn Yuh-jung ended the night as queen of this year’s awards season

  • Oscars 2021 – as it happened
  • Historic wins for Nomadland – and surprise victory for Anthony Hopkins – at odd Oscars

So this strangest of years was matched with the strangest of Oscar ceremonies, a weirdly subdued and anticlimactic affair with an ending that had people more discombobulated than the final episode of The Sopranos. No central host, none of the usual deployment of clips, and then the evening finished with best actor instead of best picture, leading everyone to expect that it was going to go with a posthumous tribute to Chadwick Boseman for his performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Instead it went – I think justifiably – to Anthony Hopkins for his portrayal of a man with dementia in The Father. But Sir Anthony was not present. No speech. There it all ended.

But not before we’d had now heartwrenching tradition of The Pipping of Glenn Close at the Post. Up for best supporting actress, Close once again had to take it on the chin and smile with great generosity and good nature from a seated position when another nominee got the prize and thanked her from the podium. Close’s rather overripe performance as the grizzled grandma in Ron Howard’s Hillbilly Elegy was beaten out by the rival grandma played by the veteran Korean star Youn Yuh-jung in Lee Isaac Chung’s brilliant Minari, and Youn gave us a funny speech making her basically the queen of this year’s awards season.

But otherwise #Oscars2021 ran on expected lines with no real upsets to the predicted winners, though it delivered historic wins for a film-maker who is also a woman of colour – Chloé Zhao, director of Nomadland. Nomadland won best picture, best director and best actress for perennial Academy favourite Frances McDormand for her performance as Fern, the woman who in her silver years has to go on the road looking for seasonal work.

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