The ratings for the Academy Awards were the lowest in history. A smaller than usual audience was expected, but in the end, it was worse than anticipated. CNBC reports:

Only 9.85 million viewers tuned into Sunday’s Oscars ceremony, a nearly 59% percent drop from the 23.6 million viewers that turned on their TVs for the program last year, according early fast national numbers released by Nielsen.

Despite the low ratings, many are applauding this year’s show for recognizing diversity more than ever before.

The best director category is one of the most talked-about of the night. NPR reports:

Chloé Zhao has won the Oscar for directing Nomadland, becoming the first woman of color to win the award and the second woman to win (Katheryn Bigelow, was the first). Zhao was also the first woman to get four Oscar nominations in a single year, in the Best Film Editing, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director and Best Picture categories.

During her acceptance speech Zhao said:

“I have always found goodness in the people I met everywhere I went in the world. So this is for anyone who has the faith and the courage to hold onto the goodness and themselves, and…in each other.”

Watch her speech above.  It was a very different year for film, as Covid kept movie-goers at home.  Many of the contenders came from streaming services like Netflix.  CNN writes:

In a year where the pandemic shuttered theaters and turned movie-goers into couch potatoes, 16 of the 23 statuettes went to projects that at the very least simultaneously premiered on streaming services, with “Nomadland,” which was acquired by Hulu, representing the first best picture winner from that relatively new medium.

Another memorable moment came as Yuh-Jung Youn became the first Korean to win an Academy Award for acting. Youn won best supporting actress her work in “Minari.” The AP writes, “It was the first Oscar nomination in a career that spans five decades for the 73-year-old Youn, long a star in South Korea.”

Several other artists of color took home trophies including Daniel Kaluuya, who won best supporting actor for “Judas and the Black Messiah.” One particularly special moment came as Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson became the first Black women to win for makeup and hairstyling for their work in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. The women were actually the first Black women to be nominated in the category. During her speech, Neal remarked:

I wanted to say thank you to our ancestors who put the work in, were denied, but never gave up. And I also stand here as Jamika and I break this glass ceiling with so much excitement for the future. Because I can picture Black trans women standing up here, and Asian sisters, and our Latina sisters, and Indigenous women. And I know that one day it won’t be unusual or groundbreaking it will just be normal.”

While two Black women were nominated for best actress, Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) and Andra Day (The United States vs. Billie Holiday), that award went to Frances McDormand (Nomadland).

In years past, the best picture award is given out at the end of the program, but this year the best actor category was shifted to last with speculation the award would be given posthumously to Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom). Didn’t happen.  Instead, Anthony Hopkins, who wasn’t in attendance, took home the honor.

Hopkins was a no-show after his win Sunday night (perhaps due to the time difference in Wales) but did release an acceptance speech via video on Monday.

The awards show was moved from its traditional theater to Los Angeles’ Union Station, and the crowd was smaller and spaced out. But the event was not without its controversial moments. During Regina King’s speech that opened the awards, the actress/director said:

“It has been quite a year, and we are still smack dab in the middle of it. We are mourning the loss of so many, and I have to be honest, if things had gone differently this past week in Minneapolis I may have traded in my heels for marching boots.”

During his win for live-action short film, director Travon Free also addressed racial injustice.

“Today, the police will kill three people, and tomorrow, the police will kill three people—and the day after that, police will kill three people because on average, the police in America everyday kill three people, which amounts to about 1,000 people per year. Those people happen to disproportionately be Black people. The most despicable thing a person can be is indifferent to other peoples’ pain.”