Oscars 2021: 7 memorable moments you might have missed
Regina King, Daniel Kaluuya talked about the struggles of African Americans and despite a historic number of Black nominees, they were shut out in top categories
Though the 2021 Oscars started out with a historic number of Black nominees at 27, by the end of the night, the “blackest Oscars ever,” as named by Lil Rel Howery, disappointed in its actual awards handed to Black recipients.
The night’s biggest award winners turned out to be familiar white names and not the lauded performances that were expected to make for historic wins. Nevertheless, there were several memorable moments that stood out to celebrities and fans alike. Keep reading to see theGrio‘s take on the most unforgettable 2021 Oscars moments.
- Chadwick Boseman is snubbed
Most notably, the late Chadwick Boseman’s final performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom did not win, something that perplexed most observers, who had counted him in as he picked up multiple awards in the run-up to the Oscars, including a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild award. Boseman was considered a frontrunner, but Anthony Hopkins won instead for the role as a man battling dementia in The Father.
Viola Davis, who would have become only the second Black woman to ever win the Best Actress Oscar after Halle Berry’s 2002 win for Monster’s Ball, was also snubbed in favor of Frances McDormand in Nomadland, the eventual Best Picture. Chloé Zhao, who is Chinse became the first woman of color to win Best Director and only the second female winner ever.
2. Regina King’s welcome speech
Politics ruled the evening as both presenters and winners referenced recent news events and the COViD-19 pandemic that moved the show from its usual venue the Dolby Theater to Los Angeles’ historic Union Station. Regina King, the night’s first presenter, kicked off the show talking about the difference in the Oscar presentation in a post-COVID world, but also in a post-Derek Chauvin verdict world.
“I have to be honest, if things had gone differently this past week in Minneapolis, I might have traded my heels for marching boots,” she said to appreciative agreement from the audience.
The mother of a grown son, King, 50, also said that his welfare in a world that views Black men as a threat is constantly on her mind.
“I know that a lot of you 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 said.
3. Daniel Kaluuya’s acceptance speech
Best Supporting Actor winner Daniel Kaluuya paid tribute to Illinois Black Panther Party Chairman Fred Hampton, who he played in Judas and the Black Messiah. He thanked Hampton’s family – Fred Hampton, Jr. and his mother, Akua Njeri, the former Deborah Johnson, who was pregnant with her son when Hampton was assassinated in his bed by Chicago police in 1969. Kaluuya had the most praise for Hampton and his work with the Black Panther Party, which he said helped him better appreciate his own self-worth.
“Man. What a man. How blessed we are that we lived in a lifetime where he existed. Thank you for your light. He was on this Earth for 21 years,” Kaluuya said of Hampton, “and he found a way to feed kids breakfast, educate kids, give free medical care against all the odds. He taught me, him, Huey P. Newton, Bobby Seale, the Black Panther Party, they showed me how to love myself.”
Kaluuya also praised his mother and father for having sex so that he could be there, which left his mother, on a delay in London to express some obvious confusion while his sister, there with her, just put her face in her hands.
Kaluuya told the press later that while he expected to see a few stern texts and was therefore avoiding his phone, that his mother, fortunately for him, does have a sense of humor.
4. Travon Free and Martin Desmond Roe grab a win
Co-directors Travon Free and Martin Desmond Roe won for the controversial Netflix short film Two Distant Strangers about a man stuck in a Groundhog Day time warp, where an encounter with a police officer turns deadly every time. Unsurprisingly given the subject matter, the duo talked about the impact of police brutality in their acceptance speech.
“Today, the police will kill three people, and tomorrow, the police will kill three people, and they say after that, the police will kill three people,” Free said. “Because on average, the police in America kill three people, which amounts to about 1,000 people a year. Those people happen to disproportionately be Black people.”
Free then quoted James Baldwin, saying, “The most despicable thing a person can be is indifferent to other people’s pain. I just ask that you … please, don’t be indifferent to our pain.”
Desmond Roe and Free also made political statements with their Oscar night clothing – by wearing suit jackets lined with the names of individuals killed by police. They both also wore lapel pins paying tribute to Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, according to the New York Times.
5. Tyler Perry’s speech
Film mogul Tyler Perry accepted the Hersholt Humanitarian Award for his numerous works of charity, including the Perry Foundation, which has helped those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. In his acceptance speech, he said he owed his generosity to his mother, who despite having little, gave to whomever she could help.
“The Perry Foundation has been about transferring tragedy into triumph. I don’t want to have a foundation that is targeted in one specific thing because the need is so great all over many things…whatever we can do, wherever we can show up for help,” he said in segment that played before his speech.
The filmmaker used his time to speak to “meeting in the middle” and urged listeners to refuse hate.
Perry explained, “When I set out to help someone it is my intention to do just that, I’m not trying to do anything other than meet someone at their humanity.” He continued, once again referencing his mother, saying, “My mother taught me to refuse hate. She taught me to refuse blanket judgement. And in this time with all of the internet, and social media…it is my hope that all of us will teach our kids to refuse hate. Don’t hate anybody.”
6. H.E.R. wins big
Singer/songwriter/instrumentalist H.E.R. was a surprise winner for her song “Fight for You,” from Judas and the Black Messiah. In her speech, she noted that music has the power to heal.
“Musicians, filmmakers, I think we have a responsibility to tell the truth, to write history the way it was,” H.E.R., born Gabriella Wilson, said in the speech. “Knowledge is power. Music is power and as long as I’m standing I’m always gonna fight for us.”
H.E.R.’s purple cape did seem to potentially be channeling Prince, who won an Oscar for the music in the movie Purple Rain in 1985 also wearing a purple sparkly cape outfit.
7. Glenn Close and Andra Day’s ‘song game’ snafus
But despite the disappointment of an Oscars that seemed full of promise but ended with a thud as Best Actor, there was a moment of levity made for Black Twitter.
As the song performances were held in the pre-show, music director Questlove, along with Howery, decided to combine for the ‘song game,’ which asked nominees to decide whether certain famous songs had ever been nominated or won an Oscar in the Best Song category.
When Best Actress nominee Andra Day was asked whether Prince’s “Purple Rain” had been nominated for an Oscar, she said she thought it hadn’t been and probably because the Oscars were on some ‘b—s–” back then.
Her statement was silenced for US audiences but apparently went live in the U.K. (Prince did not win for the song “Purple Rain” but for Best Original Song Score, a category that no longer exists.)
Glenn Close, also a Best Actress nominee this year, surprised Howery with her knowledge of musical Oscar lore, by correctly identifying that the E.U. song “Da Butt” from Spike Lee‘s School Daze, despite its popularity, was not nominated. And not only did she shout out D.C. go-go legend Sugar Bear, who founded E.U., she actually did the dance.
We have the feeling she was prepped for the moment, but in an Oscars that seemed mostly devoid of the glamour and fun we watch it for, it became the night’s most meme-worthy moment. Check it out below:
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