‘Nomadland’ Wins Best Picture, Zhao Makes History in COVID-Altered Oscars

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"Minari" actress wins in supporting category.

Chloe Zhao became the first woman of color to win the best director Oscar for “Nomadland,” which also scored a third leading actress Oscar for Frances McDormand and the Academy Award for best picture.

Rafu Wire and Staff Reports

“Nomadland,” the gritty yet life-affirming tale of wandering van-dwellers, scored a triple crown at the 93rd Oscars, winning for best picture while Chloe Zhao became the first woman of color to win best director and Frances McDormand took home her third career best-actress prize.

Anthony Hopkins, who was not present, scored an upset win in the best-actor category for his work as a man struggling to maintain his independence while his memory fades in “The Father.” Many pundits had anticipated a posthumous win for sentimental favorite Chadwick Boseman in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.”

Also up for the award was Steven Yeun for “Minari,” the first Asian American to be nominated for best actor.

In 1985, Haing S. Ngor won the Oscar for best supporting actor for “The Killing Fields.” Also nominated that year was Pat Morita for “The Karate Kid.” Other nominees in this category include Sessue Hayakawa in 1958 for “The Bridge on the River Kwai.”

Chloe Zhao accepts the Oscar for best director on Sunday.

This year Daniel Kaluuya won best supporting actor for “Judas and the Black Messiah,” while celebrated Korean actress Yuh-Jung Youn was named best supporting actress for “Minari.” Youn, 73, is the first Korean actress to win an Academy Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, and a British Academy Film Award, as well as the first to be nominated for a Critics’ Choice Movie Award. Brad Pitt presented her with the Oscar.

Youn, who won for her portrayal of the feisty, outspoken family matriarch, joked about the frequent mispronunciation of her name in Hollywood, saying, “Tonight, you are all forgiven.”

She hailed her castmates, saying, “We became a family, and most of all, above all (writer-director) Lee Isaac Chung. Without him I couldn’t be here tonight. He was our captain and my director. So thanks to you. Tremendous thanks to you.”

She also hailed her fellow nominees —Amanda Seyfried (“Mank”), Olivia Coleman (“The Father”), Glenn Close (“Hillbilly Elegy”) and Maria Bakalova (“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”) — saying she didn’t like to think that they were competing against each other, but on this night, “I have just a little luck. I’m luckier than you.” She also thanked her “two boys who made me go out and work.”

“This is the result because mommy worked so hard,” she said.

The first Asian woman to win the best supporting actress Oscar was Miyoshi Umeki in 1958 for “Sayonara.”

“Minari” was also nominated for best picture, best director, best original screenplay and best score (Emile Mosseri).

But “Nomadland” was the evening’s big winner. Zhao, accepting the best-picture award, gave thanks to the “nomadic community” and “all the people we met on the road.”

Youn Yuh-Jung won in the best supporting actress for “Minari.”

“Thank you for teaching us the power of resilience and hope and for reminding us what true kindness looks like,” she said.

Earlier in the evening, Zhao reflected on her upbringing when she accepted her historic Oscar for best director, which was announced by last year’s winner, Bong Joon-ho (“Parasite”). Bong, accompanied by his translator, Sharon Choi, spoke in Korean.

“I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I keep going when things get hard,” Zhao told the sparse crowd at downtown’s Union Station, where the ceremony was moved in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. “And I think it goes back to something I learned when I was a kid. … My dad and I used to play this game. We would memorize classic Chinese poems and texts and we would recite it together and try to finish each other’s sentences. And there is one I remember so dearly, it’s called the Three Character Classics. And the first phrase goes … ‘People at birth are inherently good.’

“And those six letters had such a great impact on me when I was a kid, and I still truly believe that today, even though sometimes it might seem like the opposite is true. I have always found goodness in the people I’ve met everywhere I went in the world. This is for anyone who had the faith and the courage to hold onto the goodness in themselves and to hold onto the goodness in each other, no matter how difficult it is to do that. This is for you. You inspired me to keep going.”

From left, Steven Yeun, Alan Kim, Yuh-Jung Youn, Ye-Ri Han and Noel Kate Cho in Lee Isaac Chung’s “Minari.” Yeun and Youn received acting Oscar nominations (Youn won), while Chung was nominated for directing and best original screenplay. “Minari” was also nominated for best picture and best score..

McDormand, who took on the role of a woman recovering from loss as she travels in her van from place to place in search of work, offered a short speech while collecting her best actress prize, saying, “I have no words. My voice is in my sword. We know the sword is our work. And I like work. Thank you for knowing that. And thanks for this.”

The win was the third of her career in the best-actress category. She previously won for “Fargo” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”

As part of the “Nomadland” producing team, she urged film lovers to see the picture — and all other Oscar nominees — in a theater.

“Please watch our movie on the largest screen possible,” she said. “And one day very, very soon take everyone you know into a theater, shoulder-to-shoulder in that dark space and watch every film that’s represented here tonight.”

McDormand also let out a primal wolf howl on stage, which was a tribute to the film’s sound mixer, Michael Wolf Snyder, who died by suicide in March.

The award for best original song went to “Fight for You” from “Judas and the Black Messiah,” with music by H.E.R. and Dernst Emile II and lyrics by H.E.R. and Tiara Thomas.

H.E.R., whose real name is Gabriella Sarmiento Wilson, is the daughter of a Filipina mother and an African American father. She has won multiple Grammy Awards, including Song of the Year for “I Can’t Breathe.”

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