US road movie Nomadland on Sunday emerged as the big winner at the Oscars with three major prizes, including a history-making award for director Chloe Zhao (趙婷), as Hollywood celebrated its most glamorous night with a COVID-19 pandemic-era gala.
Zhao’s drama about marginalized Americans roaming the West in vans was honored for best picture, director and actress for Frances McDormand, who now is in elite company with her third Academy Award for performing.
No-show Anthony Hopkins pulled a surprise upset to win best actor in the final award of the night, besting sentimental favorite Chadwick Boseman, who died of cancer last year.
The unorthodox Oscars ceremony was moved from a Hollywood theater to a glammed-up downtown train station to abide by strict COVID-19 protocols, and reunited Tinseltown A-listers for the first time in more than a year.
Zhao, who is the first woman of color ever honored as best director, thanked “all the people we met on the road ... for teaching us the power of resilience and hope, and for reminding us what true kindness looks like.”
She is also only the second woman to win best director after Kathryn Bigelow, who broke the glass ceiling in 2010 when she won the prize for The Hurt Locker.
“It’s pretty fabulous to be a woman in 2021,” Zhao told journalists at a virtual backstage news conference. “If this win means more people get to live their dreams, I’m extremely grateful.”
With movie theaters closed all year, and blockbuster content delayed, Beijing-born Zhao’s film captured the pandemic zeitgeist with its stunning portrait of the isolated margins of society.
Zhao has drawn controversy in China after years-old interviews resurfaced in which she appeared to criticize her country of birth.
In China, her history-making success has not been trumpeted or celebrated. State media in China remained silent as of yesterday afternoon, with no mention of her win by either China Central Television or Xinhua news agency.
Instead, there was even censorship. A post announcing Zhao’s directing win by film magazine Watch Movies, which has more than 14 million followers on Sina Weibo, was censored a few hours after it appeared yesterday morning. A hashtag called “Chloe Zhao wins Best Director” was also censored on the platform.
Hopkins’ win at 83 for his shattering portrayal of a dementia patient in The Father makes him the oldest actor to win a competitive Oscar in history.
However, he did not travel to Los Angeles or a London venue to accept the prize, and his victory, with no speech, made for a strange ending to the night.
The film, adapted by French playwright Florian Zeller from his own stage production, also won best adapted screenplay. Zeller accepted his award from Paris.
Additional reporting by AP
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