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Oscars 2021: The five biggest talking points, from Glenn Close doing "Da Butt" to Daniel Kaluuya's speech

Chloe Zhao at the Oscars 2021
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The Oscars 2021 have come and gone, and things were a bit different this year. With the pandemic having moved around various movie release dates, there was a notable lack of huge blockbuster draws. Instead, it was left to the likes of Nomadland, Sound of Metal, and Minari to draw in viewers. And for those who watched, it was certainly an interesting experience, with the celebrities not rubbing shoulders, but instead sharing socially distanced nods of acknowledgment. The awards themselves also offered a fair few surprises, with some notable upsets. Below, we round up the biggest talking points from the Oscars 2021.

A night of firsts

Chloe Zhao

(Image credit: Getty Images)

This year's Oscars award ceremony was a night of firsts for Chloé Zhao, who became the first woman of color to win the Academy Award for Best Director. She's only the second woman ever to win the award (after Kathryn Bigelow, who won for The Hurt Locker in 2010) and her nomination alongside Promising Young Woman director Emerald Fennell is the first time more than one woman has been nominated in the category. As well as the Best Director gong, she also took home Best Picture, and leading lady Frances McDormand won Best Actress for her role in the movie.

Daniel Kaluuya's speech

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“My mum and my dad... they had sex and now I’m here!” That's how Kaluuya celebrated winning his Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. And yes, his mother was in the audience, and she looked as embarrassed as you would think.

Directed by Steven Soderberg

Oscars

(Image credit: Getty Images)

This year's Oscars was always going to be different, but no one quite knew what Steven Soderberg had up his sleeve for the ceremony. Gone were clips of the acting nominees, replaced instead with the presenters talking about those potential winners. Gone was the awkward orchestra to play off award winners when they thanked too many people – instead, the speeches continued uninterrupted. Yes, some of them were really, really long. The broadcast was in widescreen, made to be cinematic. In fact, the whole thing had an ethereal, other-worldly feel, as if it were beaming into our living rooms from Saturn. And yet, it still felt natural. A strange, stunning celebration of film. 

Glenn Close did "Da Butt"

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Glenn Close may have been nominated for eight Oscars and not won a single one, but she went down this year as a beacon of joy. Lil Rel Howery went around the room, quizzing stars about whether the song being played by the night's emcee, Questlove, had won an Oscar, been nominated, or not had any recognition at all. For Close, Questlove played “Da Butt” from Spike Lee’s School Daze. Not only did Close know a suspicious amount about the track, but she even got up and started twerking. It was quite something.

Two acting upsets

Chadwick Boseman in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

(Image credit: Netflix)

Everyone thought Chadwick Boseman would win the Best Actor award, even the producers of the Oscars, who changed the order of events so that Best Actor would be the last announcement – not Best Picture, which has always previously been the case. Had Boseman won for his performance in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, it surely would have been a cathartic, emotional end to the ceremony, which, for the most part, was relatively drama-free. But then Anthony Hopkins won and the British actor was not in attendance to receive the award, meaning the ceremony ended with a slightly awkward Joaquin Phoenix just... standing there.

Then there was Frances McDormand winning Best Actress. Viola Davis, again for Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, was expected to come out triumphant, but Nomadland's pull proved too powerful, leaving McDormand as the victor. And while we cannot argue that Hopkins and McDormand did not give superb performances, the two coming out with Oscars in hand was certainly a surprise.

For more on the Oscars, be sure to check out the full list of Oscars 2021 winners.

I’m an Entertainment Writer at GamesRadar+, covering everything film and TV-related across the Total Film and SFX sections – I help bring you all the latest news and the occasional feature, too. I’ve previously written for publications like HuffPost and i-D after getting my NCTJ Diploma in Multimedia Journalism.