• December 10, 2023

Academy Awards Were Handed Out Despite Pandemic Theater Closures : NPR

The Oscar made history on Sunday night: the first woman of color won an Oscar for best director, and the first Korean woman won an Oscar for best supporting actress. Nomadland won the best picture.


Union Station, the classic transportation hub in Los Angeles, announced this when it hosted the Oscars last night. The roads outside were closed, but bus and rail traffic continued. The high-ceilinged entrance hall was used as a safe place during pandemic times, where stars mingled and some history was made. Mandalit del Barco reported by NPR.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: This year’s Oscar season literally ended on a high note.




DEL BARCO: That was Frances McDormand’s reaction on stage when Nomadland won for Best Picture. It was the howling that could be heard around Union Station. McDormand also starred an actress as an Oscar for starring in the film about a woman named Fern who travels the country in her van and meets real nomads. In a virtual media room, Oscar winner Chloe Zhao explained that McDormand was howling over her production sound mixer.


CHLOE ZHAO: Unfortunately we lost him recently. And his name is Wolf. And he’s the production sound mixer in both my previous film “The Rider” and “Nomadland”. He’s part of the family. So howling to the moon is for wolf.

DEL BARCO: Zhao was the first woman of color to win the award for best director. Their victory was announced by Korean director Bong Joon-ho, whose film “Parasite” won four Academy Awards last year. In her acceptance speech, Zhao thanked the nomad community she met while shooting her film and quoted a Chinese poem that she and her father shared. Zhao spoke to reporters about writing history.


ZHAO: You know, I am very happy to be able to do what I love for a living. And if this victory helps more people like me to achieve their dreams, I will be so grateful for it.

DEL BARCO: Yuh-jung Youn also made Oscar history as the first Korean and second Asian to win in a supporting role for the actress. She played the grandmother in the movie “Minari” about a Korean-American family in rural Arkansas. As she held her golden statuette in hand, she told her competitors that they were all winners. But she was joking …


YUH-JUNG YOUN: I think I’m luckier than you.


YOUN: And maybe it’s American hospitality for the Korean actor. I’m not sure. But thank you anyway. And I want to thank my two boys who made me go out and work.


YOUN: So that’s the result because mom worked so hard.


DEL BARCO: Other pioneers include Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson, now the first black women to win the Oscar for makeup and hairstyling. They created and styled the wigs for actress Viola Davis and the rest of the cast of “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”. In accepting the award, Neal was referring to her grandfather, who was a Tuskegee aviator.


MIA NEAL: I’m also standing here when Jamika and I break this glass ceiling with so much excitement about the future …

(Applause, cheers)

NEAL: … because I can imagine black trans women standing up here and Asian sisters and our Latina sisters and indigenous women. And I know that one day it won’t be unusual or groundbreaking. It will just be normal.

DEL BARCO: This year’s Oscars were an intimate affair with nominees sitting at fancy tables in the renovated Union Station pandemic style – socially distant, vaccinated but exposed. Questlove was the house DJ. And the guests even played a quiz game with film music.


DEL BARCO: The Pixar film “Soul” won the Oscar for best cartoon. It was released on Disney + and never hit theaters, an Oscar first. Soul also received an award for its score, written by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross and pianist Jon Batiste.


JON BATISTE: Hello, hello.

DEL BARCO: Batiste’s fingers were animated for the main character in the film, a jazz musician.

BATISTE: God gave us 12 notes. It is the same 12 notes that Duke Ellington had and Bach had. It’s the same 12 – Nina Simone. Man, it’s just so special.


DEL BARCO: Anthony Hopkins won the actor in a leading role as an Oscar for starring in the drama “The Father,” but he wasn’t there to accept it. Hopkins knocked out the late actor Chadwick Boseman in his last performance as a cornet player in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Boseman died of cancer last summer and his picture was the last on the part of the show honoring those who have died. Singer HER won the award for the best original from the film “Judas And The Black Messiah”.

Daniel Kaluuya, who played the lead role, won the award for the supporting actor. Kaluuya thanked his mother and may embarrass her. He paid tribute to the man whose life he portrayed, the leader of the Black Panther, Fred Hampton.


DANIEL KALUUYA: He was 21 years, 21 years on this earth. And he found a way to feed children’s breakfasts, raise children and, despite all adversities, provide free medical care. He showed me. He taught me. He, Huey P. Newton, Bobby Seale, the Black Panther Party – they showed me how to love myself. And with that love they overflowed into the black community and into other communities.

DEL BARCO: During the ceremony, actor and filmmaker Tyler Perry was honored for his philanthropic work, including providing financial support to the families of blacks killed by police. By accepting the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, Perry honored his mother. He said she grew up in Jim Crow, Louisiana, and saddened the deaths of Emmett Till, civil rights leaders and more.


TYLER PERRY: My mother taught me to reject hate. She taught me to reject the blanket judgment. And in this time and with all of the internet and social media and algorithms and everything that makes us think in a certain way, the 24 hour news cycle, I hope we all teach our kids – and not just that Remember – just reject hate.

DEL BARCO: This year’s coronavirus pandemic ceremony can be remembered for many of these poignant moments. It may also be known as the one where eight-time Oscar nominee Glenn Close worked on the song “Da Butt”. Mandalit del Barco, NPR News.


HER: Oh, I’ll get through it.

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