Chloé Zhao Makes History at the Oscars

Director Chloé Zhao made history at the 93rd Annual Academy Awards, becoming only the second woman to ever win Best Director for Nomadland (after Kathryn Bigelow won in 2010 for The Hurt Locker) and becoming the first woman of color to win the award. Zhao, raised in China, also became the second Asian to win best director in a row, following Bong Joon Ho’s win last year for Parasite. It wouldn’t be the only way Zhao followed Ho’s big Oscars night, either. Like Parasite had, Nomadland also took home the Best Picture award, giving Zhao another Oscar and cementing her historic night.

Zhao’s acceptance speech for her Best Director win was a touching tribute to the inherent goodness in people, a belief evident in the lush, lyrical, and warmhearted film she won for. “People at birth are inherently good,” Zhao said, quoting from a classic Chinese poem she and her father would memorize when she was a child. “I have always found goodness in the people I met. This is for anyone who has the faith and courage to hold on to the goodness in themselves.”

Speaking of Nomadland, the film’s star, Frances McDormand, won Best Actress and urged everyone to see Nomadland “on the largest screen as possible.” McDormand, envisioning a post-pandemic future where movie theaters are once again places of comfort and community, added, “And one day, very, very soon, take everyone you know into a theater, shoulder-to-shoulder in that dark space, and watch every film that’s represented here tonight.”

Another of the night’s big winners, Judas and the Black Messiah star Daniel Kaluuya, took home the Best Supporting Actor award. Kaluuya’s rousing acceptance speech, at turns impassioned and hilarious, included the night’s funniest and most surprising moment when he marveled at the wonder of even being alive in the first place, had it not been for his parents, ah, desire for one another. The best part? His mom was there, able to respond to the remark in real-time.

Another winning moment was Minari actress Yuh-Jung Youn’s win for Best Supporting Actress. Youn was the scene-stealing grandma in Lee Isaac Chung’s beautiful film, and last night, she played a similar role, riffing during her acceptance speech about the wonder of receiving the award from Brad Pitt, and the joy the win would bring her two sons who, according to her, are the reason she has to work in the first place.

The ceremony was the capstone to a surreal awards season where the usual modes of mythmaking and award-giving were upended due to the pandemic and roiled by nationwide protests for racial equality. The telecast was produced by Jesse Collins, Stacey Sher, and Steven Soderbergh, and was held (mostly) from downtown Los Angeles’ Union Station. While the night was fairly breezy and often funny, Regina King set the tone as the first presenter by saying, “If things had come out differently this past week in Minneapolis, I may have traded in my heels for marching boots,” referencing the trial of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who was found guilty on all three counts in the death of George Floyd. King then pivoted to the night ahead, and the awards to bestow, but the reality of all that has happened outside of the ceremony lingered.  It’s not for nothing that the most diverse Oscars in history were what followed.

Here’s the full list of Oscar winners:

Best Picture

The Father
Judas and the Black Messiah
WINNER – Nomadland
Promising Young Woman
Sound of Metal
The Trial of the Chicago 7

Best Director

Thomas Vinterberg, Another Round
David Fincher, Mank
Lee Isaac Chung, Minari
WINNER – Chloe Zhao, Nomadland
Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman

Best Actor

Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal
Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
WINNER – Anthony Hopkins, The Father
Gary Oldman, Mank
Steven Yeun, Minari

Best Actress

Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Andra Day, The United States vs. Billie Holiday
Vanessa Kirby, Pieces of a Woman
WINNER – Frances McDormand, Nomadland
Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman

Best Supporting Actor

Sacha Baron Cohen, The Trial of the Chicago 7
WINNER – Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah
Leslie Odom, Jr., One Night in Miami
Paul Raci, Sound of Metal
LaKeith Stanfield, Judas and the Black Messiah

Read our interview with Daniel Kaluuya here.

Best Supporting Actress

Maria Bakalova, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Glenn Close, Hillbilly Elegy
Olivia Colman The Father
Amanda Seyfried, Mank
WINNER – Yuh-Jung Youn, Minari

Read our interview with Yuh-Jung Youn here.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
WINNER – The Father
One Night in Miami
The White Tiger

Best Original Screenplay

Judas and the Black Messiah
WINNER – Promising Young Woman
Sound of Metal
The Trial of the Chicago 7

Best Animated Film

Over the Moon
A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon

Read our interview with Soul’s Art Director here.

Best Documentary

Crip Camp
The Mole Agent
WINNER – My Octopus Teacher 

Best International Feature Film

WINNER – Another Round
Better Days
The Man Who Sold His Skin
Quo Vadis Aida?

Best Editing

The Father
Promising Young Woman
Sound of Metal
The Trial of the Chicago 7

Read our interview with Sound of Metal’s editor Mikkel E.G. Nielsen here.

Best Cinematography

Judas and the Black Messiah
News of the World
The Trial of the Chicago 7

Read our interview with Mank’s cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt here.

Best Visual Effects

Love and Monsters
The Midnight Sky
The One and Only Ivan
WINNER – Tenet

Best Costume Design

WINNER – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Best Production Design

The Father
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
News of the World

Best Score

Da 5 Bloods
News of the World

Best Original Song

WINNER – “Fight for You,” Judas and the Black Messiah
“Hear My Voice,” The Trial of the Chicago 7
“Husavik,” Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
“Io Si (Seen),” The Life Ahead
“Speak Now,” One Night in Miami…

Best Make-Up and Hairstyling

Hillbilly Elegy
WINNER – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Read our interview with Ma Rainey’s hair and makeup team here.

Best Sound

News of the World
WINNER – Sound of Metal

Best Animated Short

Genius Loci
WINNER – If Anything Happens I Love You

Best Documentary Short Subject

WINNER – Colette
A Concerto is a Conversation
Do Not Split
Hunger Ward
A Love Song for Latasha

Best Live-Action Short Film

Feeling Through
The Letter Room
The Present
WINNER – Two Distant Strangers
White Eye

Featured image: Chloé Zhao poses backstage with the Oscars® for Directing and Best Picture the during the live ABC Telecast of The 93rd Oscars® at Union Station in Los Angeles, CA on Sunday, April 25, 2021.


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The Credits is an online magazine that tells the story behind the story to celebrate our large and diverse creative community. Focusing on profiles of below-the-line filmmakers, The Credits celebrates the often uncelebrated individuals who are indispensable to the films and TV shows we love.