2021 Oscars: Biggest Snubs and Surprises

Chadwick Boseman and Viola Davis were some of the most anticipated winners of the year but were shunned by the Academy.

After an abnormal year for the film industry, the 93rd Academy Awards finally took place on Sunday, swapping the Dolby Theatre for the Union Station in downtown Los Angeles and with a significantly smaller audience of coronavirus-tested guests. But one thing remained the same: as usual, some of the winners left viewers shocked – and probably ruined many sweepstakes across the globe. Take a look at some of this year’s biggest snubs and surprises below:

SURPRISE: The Father – Best Adapted Screenplay

To be fair, this category was a hard one to predict: The Father had previously won the BAFTA, while The Trial of the Chicago 7 took home the Golden Globe, Nomadland won the Critics’ Choice, and Borat Subsequent Moviefilm was awarded by the Writers Guild of America – for which neither Nomadland nor The Father had been eligible. But Florian Zeller’s adaptation of his play about a man struggling with symptoms of dementia, made in collaboration with Christopher Hampton, was a deserving win. 

SNUB: The Trial of the Chicago 7

Streaming platforms have been gaining more and more space at the Oscars every year and they specially came with full force in 2021, with the exceptional change in rules for eligibility due to coronavirus movie theater shutdowns. Netflix capped off the ceremony as the studio with the most nominations (36) and most wins, with a total of seven prizes. But while its top runners Mank and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom managed to win two trophies each, Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7 was completely shut out. While it was unlikely that the film would take home most of its six nominations, it had a good chance in the Original Screenplay category – which ultimately went (deservingly) to Emerald Fennell for Promising Young Woman

SURPRISE: My Octopus Teacher – Best Documentary Feature

Pippa Ehrlich, James Reed, and Craig Foster’s feel-good documentary about the unlikely friendship between a filmmaker and an octopus at the coast of South Africa had collected its share of awards, including a BAFTA, making it a safe bet to win this category. However, other contenders seemed like stronger picks – such as TimeCollective, or The Mole Agent. Another win for Netflix. 

SNUB: One Night in Miami

While Regina King’s directorial debut One Night in Miami had already been snubbed from the Best Director category, it received nods for Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actor, and Original Song – the latter two giving Leslie Odom Jr. a chance of getting closer to the much-coveted EGOT status. Many viewers had high hopes for the track “Speak Now,” written by Odom and Sam Ashworth, but the award went to “Fight for You,” written by H.E.R., Tiara Thomas, and D’Mile for Judas and the Black Messiah

SURPRISE: Frances McDormand – Best Actress

Frances McDormand was a strong contender for this category, especially after winning the BAFTA for her moving performance as Fern in Nomadland, which she also produced. But it wasn’t a given: many had betted on Viola Davis, who won an SAG for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, but Andra Day had also won a Golden Globe for her turn in The United States vs. Billie Holiday, while Carey Mulligan was honored at both the Critics’ Choice and the Spirit Awards for Promising Young Woman

SNUB: Chadwick Boseman / SURPRISE: Anthony Hopkins – Best Actor

It all started with the rushed “In Memoriam” segment, which despite closing with a photo of Chadwick Boseman, did not leave room for any special clips honoring major names who have passed away in the past year (not even for legendary actor Sean Connery). Then, towards the end of the ceremony, a twist: instead of closing off with the Best Picture award, as usual, showrunners left Best Actor for last – leading to speculation by some viewers that this was an intentional way of honoring Boseman’s legacy. He was the favorite for his turn in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, for which he had already won the Golden Globe and the SAG Award. However, the prize ultimately went to Anthony Hopkins for his stunning performance in The Father – the actor was not in attendance but thanked the Academy with a video from the Welsh countryside posted on his personal Instagram on Monday, where he also paid tribute to Boseman: “[He] was taken from us far too early.”

Click here to view the full list of winners at the 2021 Oscars.

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