In a year where the pandemic shuttered theaters and turned movie-goers into couch potatoes, 16 of the 23 statuettes went to projects that at the very least simultaneously premiered on streaming services, with “Nomadland,” which was acquired by Hulu, representing the first best picture winner from that relatively new medium.
Frances McDormand also won for the film, three years after her Oscar for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Anthony Hopkins, meanwhile, was named best actor for his role as a dementia-ridden man in “The Father,” eclipsing the emotional moment that would have come had Chadwick Boseman been only the third actor to receive posthumous honors for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.”
At 83, Hopkins becomes the oldest winner ever. His previous Oscar came almost 30 years ago, for “The Silence of the Lambs.”
Unlike some past ceremonies that have seen one film dominate, this year’s awards spread the wealth among multiple movies. “Nomadland” led the way with three awards, while five other films nabbed a pair.
Among the producers’ several puzzling choices, best picture was actually presented before the two top acting awards, breaking with years of precedent.
Overall, Netflix garnered seven trophies, marking the culmination of the leading streamer’s courtship of Oscar voters, despite resistance and misgivings within the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the organization that presides over the awards.
Adding to the international flavor, the evening began with screenplay awards that went a pair of Europeans: “Promising Young Woman’s” Emerald Fennell — for a story that dealt with sexual assault — and “The Father’s” Florian Zeller, both of whom also directed those films. (The latter accepted remotely, but most nominees were in Los Angeles.)
Daniel Kaluuya earned his first Oscar for “Judas and the Black Messiah,” playing Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton, in a movie that released simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max, and also saw H.E.R. earn best song for “Fight For You.” (Both Warner Bros. and the streaming service are, like CNN, a unit of WarnerMedia.)
“Soul,” one of the movies redirected to streaming — in this case, Disney+ — was named best animated film, marking the third Pixar movie from director Pete Docter (with Kemp Powers as co-director) so honored, following “Up” and “Inside Out.” It’s also the first of the studio’s movies to feature a predominantly African-American cast, with Jamie Foxx voicing the central character, and added an Oscar for best musical score.
The makeup/hairstyling team from Netflix’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” also became the first Black winners in that category, with the Netflix film receiving the Oscar for costume design as well.
In other technical categories, “Mank,” the Hollywood history lesson about the making of “Citizen Kane,” took honors for production design and cinematography, “Sound of Metal” claimed sound and editing, and Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi thriller “Tenet” earned best visual effects.
Other political issues, such as gun violence, played a role in the ceremony, but one of the most impassioned pleas came from the winner of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ humanitarian award, Tyler Perry, who urged viewers to join him to “refuse hate” when it came to other people.
The pre-show included a video urging people to return to theaters as the movie industry heads into the summer, using the hash tag #TheBigScreenIsBack.
Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the number of Oscars Netflix won. It is seven.