Writer’s Note: I wrote this recap in real-time as the Oscars telecast aired on Sunday night. Therefore, this started out one way and ended up in a completely different direction. What is that feeling America constantly gives Black folks? It’s a combination of “not surprised, but still disgusted?” Yeah... that’s what happened on Sunday night.
The time has come—and what a different time it is! By this time in a pre-pandemic era, I would’ve actually been in New York City gallivanting from theater to theater for Tribeca Film Festival and the Academy Awards would’ve been months prior in a distant memory. But in 2021, the official end of film awards season is in the spring!
That’s right, the 93rd Academy Awards happened Sunday, April 25. Not only was the timing different but the location, as well! Everyone isn’t gathered around Hollywood Blvd. in front of the Dolby Theatre this year, but further south at Los Angeles’ Union Station.
There was no dedicated host on Sunday night, but Oscar-winning actress Regina King strutted onto the stage to start the night.
“If things would’ve went differently in Minneapolis, I would’ve traded in these heels for marching boots,” King said kicking off the night with what needed to be said, referencing the Derek Chauvin verdict.
We already gave you the scoop on the Black-ass nominees—now it’s time to celebrate the Black-ass winners and new owners of the highly coveted golden statuettes!
Daniel Kaluuya won the Oscar for Actor in a Supporting Role, thanks to his stirring performance as Black Panther Party Chairman Fred Hampton in Judas and the Black Messiah. It’s the 32-year-old actor’s first Oscar and given the breadth of his work so far—it was only a matter of time. Also, shout-out to Mama Kaluuya.
Hairstylists Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson as well as makeup artist Sergio Lopez-Rivera won in the Best Makeup and Hairstyling category for their work in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Neal and Wilson made history by being the first Black women to be nominated in the category and by winning, have also made history as the first Black women to win this category’s award.
A highlight of Neal’s speech was that she looks forward to a Hollywood where Black women winning an award of that elite status “won’t be unusual or groundbreaking, it’ll just be normal.” When speaking further on the future of Hollywood in representing true diversity, Neal told The Root backstage, “I think that everybody benefits from diversity. Everyone does. Yes. I think everybody wants it, to be honest.”
Travon Free and Martin Desmond Roe won the Live Action Short Oscar in the Live-Action Short Film category for Two Distant Strangers.
Pixar’s Soul, the studio’s first feature film with a Black lead, won Best Animated Feature Film. As a reminder from our nomination coverage, unfortunately, you didn’t see Kemp Powers on that stage (who was in the audience also representing One Night in Miami, as he was nominated for Adapted Screenplay) because Academy rules do not allow co-directors to win the award in this category—the award goes to the lead director and producer only.
Tyler Perry accepted the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian award with a speech themed on “refusing hate.”
Jon Batiste (along with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross) scored (heh) the Best Original Score Oscar for Soul. H.E.R., Dernst Emile II (also known as D’Mile) and Tiara Thomas won Best Original Song for “Fight For You” (Judas and the Black Messiah).
Shout-out to Questlove for his music direction at this year’s ceremony. The difference was palpable...and Black AF.
Also, Lil Rel hosting a little trivia night was a welcomed break in the typical monotony and stiffness of an Oscars ceremony. Highlights: Andra Day rightfully noted that “Purple Rain” not being nominated for an Oscar was “some bullshit”...the score won in 1985, but the song was not nominated.
Plus, Glenn Close not only being a walking encyclopedia of Experience Unlimited’s “Da Butt,” but actually doing... Da Butt (yes, the dance!) at the ceremony.
Rel summed it up with a grin: “This the Blackest Oscars of all time!” Heh...about that...
Shortly after that bit of Black joy... some bullshit happened. The Academy decided to swerve off of the traditional lane and name Best Picture before Best Actress and Best Actor. Of course, most of us thought this meant they were saving the most monumental moment for last—awarding the late Chadwick Boseman the Best Actor Academy Award for his work in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.
Instead, Best Actress and Best Actor went to Frances McDormand and Anthony Hopkins (the latter of whom paid tribute to the late Boseman in his acceptance speech), respectively—also known as regularly scheduled Oscars programming. The choices were predictable in their typical Academy whiteness, yet the display was alarming in its audacity of blatant disrespect. Was that drama necessary?!
Though it would’ve been the cherry on top of a shade pie if Day had won Best Actress right after reading the Academy for what it is, her words are even more relevant poignant after those shenanigans. Academy? That was some bullshit.
Additionally, there is something to be said about the commodification of Boseman’s image to honor him (via a tribute NFT—or non-fungible token), only to then take advantage of the collective grief of his fans watching the telecast. Half of the proceeds will be donated to The Colon Cancer Foundation, with the goal to “donate 10,000 colorectal exams to underserved communities.”
Lastly, there’s the general critique of what it costs for one day of glitz and glam. As reported by Fox 11 Los Angeles, the move to Union Station meant forcing houseless people from the area for the sake of a fancier image. Unfortunately, this isn’t Union Station-specific, as parts of Hollywood Blvd. are routinely blocked off when the Oscars are held at the Dolby Theatre and the image audiences see in the telecast isn’t as pristine as it appears.
This happens the same day a film about houseless people (Nomadland) is awarded best picture and the day a Humanitarian Award recipient (Perry) speaks about his personal experience overcoming homelessness. As we’ve all participated in this glitz and glam—whether it’s talent, production, viewers, or press...ignoring any of it would be...as Andra Day aptly noted...“some bullshit.”
The Root has reached out to The Academy for comment on the reactions to the late Chadwick Boseman not winning Best Actor as well as the atypical formatting of the show, the NFTs and forcing out of houseless people surrounding Union Station. For the complete list of winners at the 93rd Academy Awards, please head to oscars.org.
Update: 4/29/2021, 1:04 p.m. ET: While the Academy has issued no formal comment/statement on either issue, sources close to the matter have provided additional information to The Root in connection to reports of the unhoused community around Union Station being forced out of their spaces for the purposes of Oscars production.
Sources report that the Academy has been collaborating with local organizations such as LAHSA, PATH, the County and the City of Los Angeles to ensure that disruption to the houseless community was minimized. The sources also state that the Academy offered optional services to the unhoused community such as temporary relocation to local shelters, meals and COVID-19 vaccinations.
Additionally, the NFT referenced above has not been confirmed as officially associated with the Academy nor representatives of Chadwick Boseman.