Oscars 2021: The Biggest Snubs and Surprises, From Chadwick Boseman to Frances McDormand

After all the talk about the unexpected and unpredictable, the 93rd Academy Awards delivered with surprise wins in the lead actor categories for Anthony Hopkins and Frances McDormand. Another shocker was that best picture was not announced last — they saved the lead acting categories for that.

Also surprising was how smoothly the ceremony went with some big changes. There was a new location (Union Station) and a revolving audience. Many presenters spoke from the audience. And it actually worked.

As expected, history was made when Chloé Zhao won best director for her work on “Nomadland,” which also won best picture. Both supporting actor categories corresponded with the SAG Award winners, with Yuh-jung Youn of “Minari” and Daniel Kaluuya of “Judas and the Black Messiah” taking home trophies.

Here are some of the surprises and snubs throughout the night:

SNUB: “The Trial of the Chicago 7” 
Aaron Sorkin’s acclaimed film, which won the SAG ensemble award, went into the evening with six nominations — and was the only best picture nominee that went home empty-handed. It was a surprise, considering that it was considered a strong contender for a best picture upset, but don’t be surprised if Sorkin is back soon. He’s currently shooting “Being the Ricardos” with Oscar winners Nicole Kidman, Javier Bardem and J.K. Simmons.

SURPRISE: Frances McDormand, Best Actress, “Nomadland”
Considering she starred in (and produced!) the best picture winner and won the BAFTA for her stunning turn as Fern in “Nomadland,” it’s not such a shocker McDormand walked away with her third best actress trophy. But the category has been up in the air all season, with Andra Day winning Globes, Viola Davis winning SAG and Carey Mulligan taking home the Critics’ Choice and Spirit awards. 

SNUB: Chadwick Boseman, “Ma Rainey’ Black Bottom” / SURPRISE: Anthony Hopkins, “The Father”
With the best actor category being moved to the end, it felt like the show’s producers were gearing for a posthumous Chadwick Boseman win. Boseman won both the Golden Globe and the SAG Award, but Hopkins took home the BAFTA, which did give some people pause. In what was likely a tight race to the end, Hopkins took home his second Academy Award, nearly 30 years after he won for 1991’s “Silence of the Lambs.”

SURPRISE: “The Father,” Best Adapted Screenplay
While many people were predicting a win for “The Father” here, nothing was for certain. Many felt best picture frontrunner “Nomadland” had a strong chance, while “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” won the WGA Award — where “The Father” and “Nomadland” weren’t eligible. But ultimately the award went to director Florian Zeller, adapting his own play, with help from Christopher Hampton, who won in this category in 1989 for “Dangerous Liaisons.”

SURPRISE: Erik Messerschmidt, Best Cinematography, “Mank”
Though Messerschmidt earned raves for his stunning black-and-white cinematography, this category had Joshua James Richards heavily favored for his work in “Nomadland.” It was a tough category, packed with greats, and a case could have been made for any winner — but Messerschmidt’s stunning work portraying Hollywood of old ultimately won the night. And for his feature film debut as a DP, no less! (Messerschmidt had previously shot David Fincher’s series “Mindhunter” and worked as a gaffer on “Gone Girl.”)

SURPRISE: Awards speeches that weren’t rushed 
In perhaps the most noticeable change of the night, there was no orchestra playing off winners’ speeches. In fact, there was no orchestra — Questlove did an excellent job DJing the proceedings. And winners were allowed to take their time, resulting in some wonderful moments, from Yuh-jung Youn continuing to crack up the crowd as she tried to comprehend she was an Oscar winner. A lesson for future shows: let the winners speak.

SNUB: “One Night in Miami”
Regina King’s directorial debut went into the evening with three nominations: adapted screenplay, supporting actor and best song. It was the latter category, where the song “Speak Now” was nominated, where it had a strong shot, but the award ended up going to the song “Fight for You” from “Judas and the Black Messiah,” with music and lyrics by H.E.R., music by D’Mile (as Dernst Emile II) and lyrics by Tiara Thomas.