The 2021 Oscars opened with so much promise. The Crown star Emerald Fennell won Best Original Screenplay right off the bat for penning Promising Young Woman. Judas and the Black Messiah’s Daniel Kaluuya took home the Best Supporting Actor trophy for his turn as Black Panther Party chairman Fred Hampton. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom hair and makeup artists Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson even made history.
As the Oscars zoomed towards their final big awards, viewers waited with bated breath for what would be the most emotional moment of the night: Chadwick Boseman’s heavily predicted posthumous win for Best Actor for his own work on Ma Rainey. Boseman died of colon cancer in August 2020 at the age of 43, putting even greater import on his performance as Ma Rainey's Levee. Then… Anthony Hopkins won the Best Actor award to abruptly end the evening. The unexpected twist was shocking on multiple levels.
At a foundational level, the timing of Hopkins’ win — and Boseman’s surprise loss — was unprecedented. Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Picture are traditionally the final three awards of an Academy Awards ceremony; Best Picture, the most anticipated award of the night, is presented last out of respect as the most prestigious award of the bunch. Bucking tradition, Oscars producers changed the order, and presented Best Picture before the final awards of the show, Best Actress and then Best Actor.
It is assumed the usual order was changed to allow Boseman’s prospective, sure-to-be poignant win to close out the show. As Oscar-winning experimental director Steven Soderbergh, the show’s new curveball producer, repeatedly said, the 2021 Oscars were meant to feel “like a movie” about movies. Nothing would be more cinematic, if painfully tragic, than Boseman’s widow Taylor Simone Ledward Boseman giving her final touching acceptance speech on her late husband’s behalf to wrap up the 2021 awards season. The Oscars had already capitalized on Boseman's image with a gift bag NFT in his image, the absolute least Boseman deserved was to be recognized for his craft, talent, and passion as an actor.
But then Anthony Hopkins won Best Actor for The Father, a movie far less publicized than Ma Rainey. And Hopkins wasn’t even at the show.
It's like the Oscars knew how weird it was to give it to Hopkins and tried to get away as fast as possible because it was embarrassed. "And Best Actor goes to...Anthony Hopkins, WE OUT!" *curtains close, lights shut off*— Alisha Grauso (@AlishaGrauso) April 26, 2021
Ringer producer Isaac K. Lee compared the 2021 oscars to the infamous meme of a poorly drawn horse. “Oscar producers moving the categories around to end on that heartwarming moment,” Buzzfeed director David Mack tweeted, with a picture of clown makeup. “For those keeping score, people aren’t mad that Chadwick lost. It’s the way it played out. The build up… the let down. Chaos achievement: unlocked.” Walking Dead writer LaToya Morgan pointed out. “Mare of Easttown solve the mystery of that Best Actor result!,” joked comedian Guy Branum.
Now that is a true crime show we would watch.