Daniel Kaluuya wins Oscar in return to awards ceremony glamour
Britain's Daniel Kaluuya was among the early winners on Sunday at a pandemic-era Oscars ceremony that brought back glamour and in-person appearances after a year of mostly Zoom awards shows.
Kaluuya, 32, was named best supporting actor for his role as 1960s Black Panther activist Fred Hampton in "Judas and the Black Messiah."
"What a man!. How blessed we are that we lived in a lifetime where he existed," Kaluuya said, referring to Hampton. "There is so much work to be done," he added.
Hollywood's drive for diversity over the past five years could lead to all four acting prizes, as well as the best director trophy, going to people of color for the first time in the 93-year history of the highest honors in the movie business.
Denmark's alcoholism dark comedy tale "Another Round" was named the best international feature film. An emotional Thomas Vinterberg dedicated his Oscar to his daughter, who died in a car accident shortly before he started shooting the film.
The #MeToo revenge tale "Promising Young Woman" won an original screenplay trophy for Briton Emerald Fennell. French playwright Florian Zeller won adapted screenplay for "The Father," and accepted via a satellite link.
Social distancing and travel restrictions forced a complete rethink of the ceremony, moving it to Union Station in downtown Los Angeles and shifting the nominated original song performances into a pre-show that was recorded in advance.
After strict COVID-19 testing and quarantine protocols, many celebrities were not wearing masks and were shown chatting in an outdoor courtyard ahead of the ceremony, which took place on a nightclub-style set inside the Mission Revival-style train station.
"This was indeed a hard year for everyone, but our love for movies helped to get us through it," said actor and director Regina King, who kicked off the ceremony.
"Yes, we are doing it maskless," said King. "Think of this as a movie set, an Oscars movie with a cast of over 200 nominees."
Celebrities were delighted to be back together in the same room.
"It's an amazing party! I was surprised. We haven't had that," Margot Robbie told reporters before the show began.
"We're so excited to be out of the house!" said Reese Witherspoon.
Few of the winners seem to be locked down after an extended awards season, but "Nomadland" - China native Chloe Zhao's slow- burn quasi-documentary about the traveling community of American van dwellers - is seen as the front-runner for taking home best picture.
Zhao brought two of the van dwellers who appeared as themselves in the film to Sunday's ceremony.
If Zhao, 39, wins best director, she will be only the second woman and the first Asian woman to clinch the Academy Award in that field.
The other best picture nominees are 1930s Hollywood drama "Mank," which led with 10 nominations; "Promising Young Woman," Korean immigrant family story "Minari," civil rights biopic "Judas and the Black Messiah," dementia tale "The Father" and "Sound of Metal" - about a deaf drummer.
The winners are chosen in a secret ballot by the 9,000 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
The late "Black Panther" star Chadwick Boseman, 43, appears to be in line for his first Oscar, for his final film role in "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom." But Britain's Anthony Hopkins, who plays a man struggling with dementia in "The Father," could be rewarded, while Riz Ahmed's deaf punk drummer in "Sound of Metal" is seen as another possible best actor winner.
(REUTERS, Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Additional reporting by Maria Caspani and Lisa Richwine; Editing by Dan Grebler and Jonathan Oatis)