Why the Oscars ended with Best Actor instead of Best Picture

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Academy Awards, Oscars, 2021

The 93rd Academy Awards ceremony took place yesterday and there were more than a few surprises when it came down to who walked away with the big golden fella, but one of the biggest surprises of the night was that for the first time in decades, the ceremony did not end with the award for Best Picture.

Instead, the Best Actor and Best Actress awards were presented after Nomandland was named Best Picture, and while speaking with Variety, ABC’s Rob Mills, executive VP of unscripted and alternative entertainment at Walt Disney Television, explained why.

It wasn’t just the final categories, the whole show was mixed up. Screenplay, that usually comes in Act 5 or 6, one of the later acts. And best director was also very early. I think the point was, sometimes you watch the show and you feel like, ‘Gosh, I’ve seen this every year.’ So, it really was the ‘Wow, I really don’t know what’s coming next.’

Anthony Hopkins wound up taking home the Best Actor award for his performance in The Father, but as Hopkins wasn’t in attendance, it made for something of a anticlimactic ending, and Mills admitted that “it was not meant to end on somebody who was not present.” While Mills doesn’t say as much, it’s clear that the producers were likely banking on a posthumous win for Chadwick Boseman in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, which likely would have given them the emotional ending they wanted. “It was a calculated risk, that I think still paid off because everybody was talking about it,” Mills continued. “Similarly, nobody wants the wrong envelope to happen, like it did three years ago, but everyone was talking about it. I think some people thought maybe they missed some awards. ‘Why is best picture early?’ or, ‘What’s happening, this is crazy,’ almost like, ‘How can this possibly happen? Best picture has to end it!’ Some people were upset, some people loved it and that was really the point that there was no apathy.” In Anthony Hopkins’ belated acceptance speech, the actor said, “Here I am in my homeland in Wales. At 83 years of age, I did not expect to get this award, I really didn’t. I’m very grateful to the Academy.” Hopkins also paid tribute to Chadwick Boseman, “I want to pay tribute to Chadwick Boseman, who was taken from us far too early. I really did not expect this, so I feel very privileged and honored.“

What were your thoughts on the Oscar ceremony and the reshuffling of the categories?

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