The first — and hopefully the last — pandemic Academy Awards telecast wasn't just strange. It was also the lowest rated Oscars show ever. According to early Nielsen ratings, an average of just 9.8 million viewers tuned in to ABC to watch what was meant to be Hollywood's biggest night on April 25, 2021. As reported by CNN and Variety, that's a 58% drop from the 2020 Oscar show's rating when 23.6 million viewers watched — and that was the previous lowest rated Academy Awards telecast ever. Of course it didn't help that the show was so odd, or, as Entertainment Weekly's review headline put it, "What a weird Oscars." Other headlines declared what many viewers were thinking, with USA Today wondering how it all "went so terribly wrong," TVLine branding the ceremony "sluggish" and "humorless" and NPR trying to find the silver lining, nothing that while "The Oscars blew the ending … at least Glenn Close did 'Da Butt.'"
Keep reading for more 2021 Oscars buzz — the moments that had everyone talking…
RELATED: 2021 Oscars red carpet photos
Yuh-Jung Youn charms and teases
How charming is Yuh-Jung Youn?! After winning the Oscar for best supporting actress for her work in "Minari," she began a humorous and endearing speech with what seemed like some fangirling — and, perhaps, some gentle scolding — after a ponytailed Brad Pitt (who, coincidentally, was an executive producer on her film through his Plan B production company) presented her with the award. "Mr. Brad Pitt, finally. Nice to meet you," she said. "Where were you while we were filming in Tulsa? It's an honor to meet you!" (Hey, she's shooting her shot, and you can't blame her! Though the audience inside Union Station was amused, TMZ claimed her comment "played like a major diss.") As she got more personal in her joke-riddled speech, the "Minari" star also thanked her children. "This is the result because mommy worked so hard," she quipped. With the win, she became the first Korean actor to ever win an Academy Award. Brad then escorted her backstage where they snapped a few photos together. While speaking to the media over Zoom in the press room, she praised Brad for how he said her name while reading the nominees, E! News reported. "I can tell he practised a lot," she said. "He didn't mispronounce my name."
She bangs, she bangs
Halle Berry debuted a new look — a blunt bob and bangs — at the 2021 Oscars… and the internet had some mixed reviews. "What have you done to your hair Halle Berry?" one fan tweeted, while another wrote, "Whoever did Halle Berry hair need to get fired," summing up the feelings of many. Still, a lot of people loved it. "Stunning," raved one commenter on Instagram. "Kilt it. Per usual," wrote another.
Red carpet debut
Halle Berry also debuted something else at the Oscars. She and her boyfriend of less than a year, musician Van Hunt, made their red carpet debut as a couple at the 2021 Academy Awards. It's clear things are serious!
An upset, a new record and an anticlimactic ending
Anthony Hopkins didn't get to celebrate his big Oscar win because he wasn't there! The icon was named best actor for his work in "The Father." The win was rather shocking, though, considering it was universally believed that the late Chadwick Boseman was a lock in the category. (The "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" star, who died of colon cancer in 2020, swept all the other major 2021 awards season best actor prizes.) In an unusual move, the Academy presented best actor last instead of best picture — industry insiders speculated that Oscar producers assumed Chadwick would win and that his posthumous victory would end the evening on a deeply emotional note — instead, the ceremony's conclusion was incredibly anticlimactic. But with his April 25 win, Anthony is now a two-time Oscar winner, having previously taken home the best actor statue in 1992 for his work in "The Silence of the Lambs." At 83, he's also now the oldest winner of an Oscar for acting ever, beating the record set by the late Christopher Plummer, who was 82 when he won for his work in "Beginners" in 2012. The morning after the Oscars, Anthony posted a short Instagram video from his native Wales, where he's been riding out the coronavirus pandemic, in which he paid tribute to Chadwick. "Good morning, here I am in my homeland of Wales and at 83 years of age, I did not expect to get this award. I really didn't," he said. "I am grateful to the Academy and thank you. I want to pay tribute to Chadwick Boseman who was taken from us far too early, and again, thank you all very much. I really did not expect this, so I feel very privileged and honored. Thank you."
It's a woman's world… at least in Hollywood! Chloé Zhao became just the second woman in history to ever win an Oscar for best director at the Academy Awards (Kathryn Bigelow was the first — she did it for 2009's "The Hurt Locker"). The victory also makes Chloé the first Asian woman and first woman of color to ever win a best directing Oscar. In her speech, the "Nomandland" filmmaker saluted "anyone who has 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 inspire me to keep going." Toward the end of the night, Chloé enjoyed another victory when "Nomadland" was named best picture. After her speech, co-producer Frances McDormand took the mic to pay tribute to Michael Wolf Snyder, the movie's production sound mixer who died by suicide last month. "We give this one to our Wolf," Frances said before she began howling like, well, a wolf.
Oscar bookends for Frances McDormand
Frances McDormand can do no wrong at the Oscars — she won two awards on Sunday, taking home statues for best actress (again!) for her performance in "Nomadland" and for best picture, as the film won the night's big prize, and Frances was a producer on the Chloé Zhao project. The acting award was a bit of an upset, as online oddsmakers had Viola Davis and Carey Mulligan with a better chance of winning. For those keeping track, Frances is now a four-time Oscar winner, having previously won the best actress award for "Fargo" and "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri." She's now won best actress more than anyone else other than Katharine Hepburn.
Back it up, Glenn!
Leave it to Glenn Close to have what it sure to be the most viral moment of the night. During a somewhat odd segment in which Lil Rel Howery asked some of the nominees in the crowd about music from the past and if it was ever nominated for an Oscar, the "Hillbilly Elegy" best supporting actress nominee waxed poetic about the song "Da Butt" by the go-go band E.U., which was a single off the soundtrack to Spike Lee's film "School Daze." She then did, well, a butt dance (see it here). Honestly, she did, and she quickly owned the Oscars. She also got bleeped for apparently using foul language about the song — this, just moments after Andra Day got bleeped for speaking passionately about Prince's "Purple Rain."
Yup, they're dating! After days of speculation that they'd quietly started seeing each other, best original screenplay nominee Aaron Sorkin, who wrote "The Trial of the Chicago 7," and model Paulina Porizkova made their red carpet debut as a couple at the 2021 Oscars. The pair have been seeing each other for a few months, a source told Page Six.
Age is clearly nothing but a number. When presenter Don Cheadle read Ann Roth's name as the Oscar winner for best costume design for her work on "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom," she made history. Ann, 89, became the oldest woman to ever win a competitive Oscar. (She was not at the ceremony to accept her prize in person.)
More new fringe!
Another actress who sparked a lot of attention for her new look, which she debuted on the 2021 Oscars red carpet, was Margot Robbie. Hairstylist Cervando Maldonado gave her the "fresh bangs and cut," he revealed on Instagram, while Bryce Scarlett styled the actress-producer's new 'do featuring curtain fringe.
Awesomely awkward sex shout-out
Did Daniel Kaluuya just talk about his parents having sex — at the Academy Awards? He sure did! After winning the Oscar for best supporting actor for his work in "Judas and the Black Messiah," Daniel spoke of how "incredible" it is to be alive. "My mom met my dad, they had sex. It's amazing. I'm here. I'm so happy to be alive" he said. The camera just happened to be zeroing in on Daniel's mom and sister at that very moment. His sister buried her head in her hands. His mom looked stunned and said something. If only we were lip readers…
A concentration of big names
Per capita, this might be the most star-studded Academy Awards of all time. How so? Well, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the invitees are basically limited to A-list presenters, nominees and each nominee's single guest. While people like Brad Pitt, Harrison Ford, Angela Bassett and Halle Berry were there, top Hollywood moguls couldn't even score invitations to the ceremony this year. Reports say nominees were highly encouraged to attend, as to avoid Zoom speeches that have become the norm during the pandemic-era awards shows. Further, 20 international satellite locations were set up for those in Europe who were unable to travel due to COVID-19 restrictions. Rather than Zoom'ing their speeches, they'll be able to "attend" via industry-standard satellite hookups.
Glorious in gold
Some nominees took their inspiration from Oscar himself when they chose their looks for the 2021 Oscars. "One Night in Miami" star — and best supporting actor and best original song nominee — Leslie Odom Jr. hit the red carpet in a double-breasted metallic Brioni suit. "Promising Young Woman" star and best actress nominee Carey Mulligan stunned in a voluminous Valentino Couture gown. And "The United States vs. Billie Holiday" star and best actress nominee Andra Day wowed in a metallic Vera Wang Haute Couture dress that was crafted in part by a welder (it's really made of metal!).
Regina kicks things off
About one minute into the Academy Awards, Regina King almost fell all over herself. Literally. The actress and "One Night in Miami" director opened the show while cinematically strolling through Union Station with an Oscar in hand (ironically, she did not receive a nod for best director). She then tripped and nearly tumbled after arriving on stage. "Live TV, here we go," she said unapologetically. Although the show is without a host, Regina acted like a master of ceremonies at the top of the show, calling out several of the stars in the crowd. She then awarded the original screenplay statue to Emerald Fennell for "Promising Young Woman," and the adapted screenplay Oscar to "The Father."
It's very evident that this is not your typical Academy Awards, and you can see that from the location alone. While Hollywood's biggest night is usually held inside the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, this year's show is primarily taking place at Los Angeles's Union Station… yep, an active (and very famous) train station. "The appropriate irony is my first impressions of Union Station in its physical grandeur are from seeing it in movies," Oscars producer Steven Soderbergh said at a press conference in the lead-up to the awards. "That was certainly part of the reason I proposed it as a possible venue for this year's show." Union Station, by the way, is no stranger to the movie biz, as it's appeared in more movies than Kevin Bacon (no kidding). The Oscars said it needed a "star" location this year, and it got one. Not everyone was a fan. According to a report from DailyMail.com, Elton John — who hosts a big charity Oscar viewing party every year, which went virtual this year — quipped, "The Oscar ceremony looks like it's coming from a Starbucks somewhere."
When Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg took home the award for best international feature film for "Another Round," he tugged on everyone's heartstrings as he discussed his daughter Ida, who died in a car accident in 2019 just four days into filming. Fighting back tears, he said Ida was supposed to be in the movie. It was made, he said, "for her, as her monument." In ending his speech, Thomas said, "So Ida, this is a miracle that just happened — and you're a part of this miracle. Maybe you've been pulling some strings somewhere, I don't know. But this one is for you." Not a dry eye in the house.
Perfect pregnancy reveal
Congratulations to Emerald Fennell and her husband, advertising director and producer Chris Vernon! The "Promising Young Woman" writer, director and producer — who's up for three Oscars for her work on the best picture contender (and won best original screenplay at the top of the show) — announced her second pregnancy by debuting her growing baby bump on the Academy Awards red carpet. Fun fact: The multitalented British star — who also played a young Camilla Parker Bowles on "The Crown" and served as the showrunner for season 2 of "Killing Eve" — was also pregnant (and in her third trimester!) with her first child, a son, during the entire 23-day "Promising Young Woman" shoot.
Ladies in red
Red was another big trend on the Oscars red carpet. Presenter Reese Witherspoon arrived wearing a red Christian Dior gown. Amanda Seyfried, a nominee for best supporting actress for her work in "Mank," donned a scarlet Giorgio Armani Privé strapless tulle ballgown. And the sleeves on Angela Bassett's dress were as big as her talent.
"Nomadland" director Chloé Zhao brings real-life nomads to the show
In choosing her Oscars guest, "Nomadland" director Chloé Zhao and the movie's nominated cinematographer, Joshua James Richards (who is also her partner), went to the heart of her nominated movie — they brought actual nomads Charlene Swankie and Linda May, who were both featured in the film. "I'm not an actor," Charlene (pictured with Chloé) told E! News before the show. "It's not my acting that's Oscar-worthy, it's my nomadic lifestyle that is Oscar-worthy." The film was up for six awards including best picture and best director. "I feel like sometimes filmmaking can be a quite lonely and transient existence — we go from movies to movies to movies," Chloé said. "And having been with a lot of nomads who also live a transient life, but there's also a great sense of community that they built for themselves that you feel like you're part of something bigger. And I try to see things the same way."
It only took them 10 years!
Better late than never? After a decade as a couple, 2021 best actress nominee Carey Mulligan and husband Marcus Mumford — whom she married in 2012 — finally made their red carpet debut as a couple. And they did it at the 2021 Academy Awards. The two-time Oscar nominee and the Mumford & Sons frontman, who were childhood friends, have two kids.
Another red carpet debut
Riz Ahmed and his new wife Fatima Farheen Mirza, also made their red carpet debut at the 2021 Oscars. The best lead actor nominee for his work in "Sound of Metal" revealed in January that he'd secretly married the novelist after meeting in a New York City cafe in 2020.
Cutest kid at the Oscars
There isn't an Academy Award for cutest kid, but if there was, it would go to "Minari" star Alan S. Kim. The 9-year-old — who brought his mom, Vicky Kim, as his date — captured hearts while discussing the new bike he got on his recent birthday with E!'s Giuliana Rancic on the Oscars red carpet during the pre-show. "It was really good," he said while dressed in a suit jacket, matching shorts and mismatched high socks. Alan, who won a Critics Choice Award for best young performer earlier this year, said he "mostly stayed inside" for his big day. "I got a Fitbit for kids, a new bike, obviously, a new iPad mini 5, and that was really cool," he said. The kid is adorable.
An unexpected trend at the 2021 Oscars? Midriff-baring designer gowns. Zendaya revealed her stomach in a canary yellow Valentino dress. A sliver of skin peeked out of Carey Mulligan's golden Valentino confection. And Andra Day revealed her toned tummy in a custom-made Vera Wang look with an asymmetrical midriff cut-out.
Telecast producer Steven Soderbergh explains how the 2021 show is different
Part of the buzz surrounding this year's Academy Awards pertained to how it would work since the usual format and theater location wouldn't be possible to replicate because of COVID-19 restrictions. Days before the show, Oscars telecast producer Steven Soderbergh (right, with fellow producers Jesse Collins and Stacey Sher) said it would be presented like a movie, as opposed to an awards show. In sticking with the this-is-a-movie theme, presenters aren't even being called "presenters" but rather the "cast." The host-less show, Soderbergh said in a press conference, will "have a voice." What else? Get ready for some long speeches! In Oscars past, winners typically get 45 seconds for a speech. This year, they're being encouraged to tell a personal story. And masks? "The cast" won't be required to wear them on camera. "Masks are going to play a very important role in the story," Soderbergh said. "That topic is very central to the narrative." The show is being likened to an active film set where COVID-19 safety protocols and testing are done.
There was a scary incident at Union Station — the site of the Academy Awards — the morning of the ceremony that led to a man's arrest for battery. TMZ reported that a man tried breaking into a secure area at the train station and even pushed past security in the early hours of April 25 (less than 24 hours before the A-listers were set to arrive on site). The man was eventually detained and taken to jail. And this apparently wasn't a one-off incident. The webloid also reported that a member of the Oscars crew was "mugged" over the past week in the Union Station area while setting up for the show. The suspect fled and it's unknown if they've been caught. Union Station is located in the heart of downtown L.A. in a fairly high-crime area.