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Watch the 6 must-see moments from the 2021 Oscars

Daniel Kaluuya smiles and holds his Oscar
Daniel Kaluuya won an Oscar Sunday for his performance in “Judas and the Black Messiah.”
(AMPAS/ABC)


Nobody knew what the 2021 Oscars would entail.

We were promised a show that would look like a movie. There would be no masks on when the cameras were rolling. Anyone who could be there would be there in person — nobody would be Zooming in from home in a sweatshirt.

What we got was something like a fancy cocktail party with some famous hosts, coming live from L.A.'s Union Station. Everything was rolling along just fine until the absent Anthony Hopkins won his first Oscar since “The Silence of the Lambs,” and the producers who were betting lead actor would go to the late Chadwick Boseman missed their moment.

Keep up with the 93rd Academy Awards. Read our predictions and analysis, and follow our updates and takeaways from tonight’s potentially historic ceremony.

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If you missed the event, it’s not just you. Awards shows have struggled over the last year to draw television audiences as they’ve tried to adjust for the pandemic. Despite this year’s limited in-person attendance, the night was full of surprises. Here are the highlights.

Regina King evokes George Floyd in her opening remarks

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King began the night with a subtle but poignant reference to George Floyd.

“We are mourning the loss of so many. And I have to be honest, if things had gone differently this past week in Minneapolis, I might have traded in my heels for marching boots,” she said, referring to the conviction of Derek Chauvin, the police officer found guilty last week of murdering Floyd.

Amid the glitz and glamour, the actor brought the ceremony down to earth with her sober remarks.

“I know that a lot of you people 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.”

Daniel Kaluuya thanks his parents for having sex

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Yes, you read that right. In his acceptance speech for supporting actor, the “Judas and the Black Messiah” star raised some eyebrows when he mentioned something that most others — and certainly not his mother — would think to talk about in polite company.

“It’s incredible. Like, it’s incredible, my mom and my dad, they had sex. It’s amazing, man. I’m here. So I’m happy to be alive,” he said on national television. His mother’s and sister’s reactions, broadcast in the moment, ranged from embarrassed disbelief to unequivocal confusion. You can probably guess who was who.

Kaluuya’s response to the stir his comments raised? “I think I’m going to avoid my phone for a bit. ... I think my mom’s not going to be very happy.”

Yuh-Jung Youn makes history — and delivers the best speech of the night

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The “Minari” star is the first South Korean performer ever to be nominated for an Oscar in acting. So how did she open the speech for her historic win for supporting actress? “Mr. Brad Pitt, finally. Nice to meet you. Where were you when we were filming in person?” (Pitt presented the award to her, and his production company, Plan B Entertainment, was behind “Minari.”)

Youn’s wit was on full display, from acknowledging the talent of her fellow nominees (“Maybe I’m luckier than you”) to praising her children for their role in her storied career (“I would like to thank my two boys, who made me go out and work”).

Glenn Close loses the Oscar but wins the show with “Da Butt” dance

Glenn Close: perennial Oscar hopeful, acting tour de force, and “Da Butt” aficionado? The actor showed off her Oscars music knowledge during a bit from Lil Rel Howery and Questlove, who played “name that song” with a less-than-excited audience.

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The internet promptly lost its mind when Close not only correctly identified Experience Unlimited’s track from the 1988 Spike Lee film “School Daze,” but also got up from her seat to shake her booty to the beat.

Was that really impromptu? Alas, The Times confirmed that Close’s inspired performance was scripted. For being so good humored about losing another Oscar, we salute you, Glenn.

Chloé Zhao becomes first woman of color to win director

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One of the night’s most memorable wins went to Zhao, who won the Oscar for director and became the first woman of color ever to do so. Her win for “Nomadland” was among the three that the film took home, which included best picture and lead actress for Frances McDormand.

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“I’ve been thinking a lot lately of how I keep going when things get hard,” Zhao said in her heartfelt speech. She recalled a game she used to play with her father, in which the pair would memorize classic Chinese poems and texts and recite them together.

With her directing win for “Nomadland,” Chloé Zhao is in the Oscar history books as one of cinema’s great boundary breakers.

She recalled frequently returning to one text in particular, “The Three Character Classics,” then recited and translated its first phrase: “People at birth are inherently good.”

“I have always found goodness in the people I met, everywhere I went in the world,” she said, then dedicated the award for those who fiercely cling to the goodness people find in one another, and themselves.

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Frances McDormand howls at the moon — literally

McDormand added an unexpected touch to the best-picture acceptance speech for “Nomadland.” Following some moving words from director Zhao, McDormand implored viewers to watch the other nominees in theaters, when possible. Then she ended with a cry.

“We give this one to our wolf,” McDormand declared, patting her chest before raising both hands to the sky. McDormand, who also won the lead actress Oscar for her role in the film, bellowed out a long wolf’s howl before walking off stage.

“The howling is for our production and sound mixer, Wolf, who you saw in the In Memoriam,” Zhao explained in the ceremony’s virtual press room, referring to Michael Wolf Snyder, who died in March. “He’s part of the family. So the howling to the moon is for Wolf.”

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Times staff writer Yvonne Villarreal contributed to this report.


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