Awards season came to a close Sunday, April 25 with the Oscars 2021. And it’s been an interesting season, to say the least. Some award shows have been completely virtual; others were in-person but COVID-19-modified. The 2021 Academy Awards ceremony took the latter approach, offering small, real-life gatherings across locations in Los Angeles and around the world. The nominees and presenters looked gorgeous, naturally, and some amazing movies got the praise they deserve.
So what were the highlights from the Oscars 2021? Take a look at our favorite moments, below.
Regina King’s Introduction
Looking absolutely stunning in Louis Vuitton, Regina King—who frankly should have gotten an Oscar nomination for directing *One Night in Miami—*kicked off the 93rd Academy Awards. She opened up the ceremony by saying that if things had gone differently in Minneapolis last week and Derek Chauvin wasn’t convicted in the death of George Floyd, “I would have traded my heels for marching boots.” She followed that with a heartfelt acknowledgement: “I know a lot of you people at home want to reach for your remote when you feel like Hollywood is preaching to you—but as a mother of a Black son, I know the fear that so many live with, and no amount of fame or fortune changes that.”
She then went on to to explain how the evening’s events were going to unfold, how the Oscars were able to safely happen in person—among a mask-less audience—and then introduced the evening’s first category. Someone make this woman an offer to host next year. Or star as the lead in the next Ocean’s film.
Emerald Fennell’s Oscar-Winning Speech for Best Original Screenplay
Raise of hands if you thought Saved by the Bell‘s Zack Morris would make his way into an Oscar speech? Well, leave it to Promising Young Woman director and writer, Emerald Fennell, who admitted to writing a pretend Oscars speech when she was 10 years old, where the ‘90s teen idol was her imaginary “supportive husband.” Fast-forward 25 years: While Zack Morris may not be Fennell’s husband, she has something even better—an actual Oscar. “Oh my God, he’s so heavy and so cold!” she gasped in delight. She went on to thank her real-life husband, Chris Vernon, and her son, who “thankfully didn’t arrive” until Promising Young Woman‘s 23-day shoot was complete. Fun fact: Fennell’s win for best original screenplay is the first time a woman has won the category in 13 years.
Chloé Zhao Becomes the Second Woman Ever to Win Best Director
Chloé Zhao, director of the critically acclaimed drama Nomadland, not only became the second woman in the Oscar’s 93-year history to win best director, but the first woman of color. In her speech, she spoke about powering through life’s hardships, saying, “I have always found goodness in the people I met everywhere in the world. So this is for anyone who has the faith and the courage to hold on to the goodness in themselves, and to hold on to the goodness in each other, no matter how difficult it is for you to do that.”
Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson Are the First Black Women to Win the Hair and Makeup Oscar
Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson made history as the first Black women to win best hair and makeup at the Oscars. The two won for their work in Netflix‘s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom; Mia Neal was the hair department head on the film, and Jamika Wilson is star Viola Davis’s personal hairstylist. (Davis plays the titular character in the movie and earned a best actress Oscar nomination.)
Minari‘s Yuh-Jung Youn Being All of Us When Brad Pitt Presented Her Oscar
Brad and Jen were so 2020. This year belongs to Brad and Minari actress, Youn Yuh-jung, who became the first Korean actress to win an Oscar for her role as Soonja in the heartfelt film. After Pitt—sporting a chic ponytail—presented Youn with her award, she quipped, “Nice to meet you. Where were you when we were filming?!”
After her speech (with other quotable lines, like, “This is the result, because Mommy worked so hard!”) Pitt was waiting in the wings to escort her backstage and give us more to gush about. And by the way, in case you were wondering why Youn wanted to know where Pitt was while filming, it’s because his Plan B production company produced Minari.
Backstage, Youn said she “doesn’t dream the impossible dream” when asked what movie she’d want to star in with Pitt. (OK, but seriously, someone make it happen!) She also applauded Pitt for practicing her name to pronounce it correctly, but when a reporter asked what he smelled like, Youn quipped: “I did not smell him. He’s not a dog!”
Tyler Perry’s speech about standing up to hate
During his acceptance speech for his Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, Perry asked viewers to refuse hate in every way, shape, or form and said he was sharing his award with everyone who does just that. Backstage, he added that, “Nobody wants to come to the middle to have a conversation, but it’s in the middle where things change. It’s being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and have empathy.”
Glenn Close dancing. That’s all.
The Oscar nominee danced to “Da Butt” and Twitter lost its mind.
And for what it’s worth, the single, “Da Butt,” was released in 1988 on the School Daze soundtrack. The song was written by Marcus Miller and performed by the D.C.-based go-go band, E.U. (Experience Unlimited).
Nomadland wins Best Picture
Never mind the fact that most of Twitter was confused when best picture was announced before best actor and actress, but what matters is that Chloé Zhao got to go up on stage again, along with eventual best actress winner Frances McDormand (who technically won two Oscars tonight since she’s also a producer on the film), and we got a wolf howl. Now that’s a good night.
The intimate setting
From the Grammys to the Oscars, Hollywood got the last two award shows of the 2020-21 season right, creating intimate, COVID-safe settings that felt more about celebrating the craft and less about gimmicks and filler. Next year’s award shows will most likely be a return to “normal,” but I, for one, hope their respective producers don’t totally give up on the elements that worked. I mean, do we really need to be packed in like sardines? I think not.
For the full list of winners at this year’s Oscars, click here.