EXPLAINER: What was with that weird Oscar ending?

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Nominees, including: Yorgos Lamprinos, bottom center, Adrien Merigeau, center left, Amaury Ovise, center right, Nicolas Becker, center, Jean-Louis Livi, top right, and Florian Zeller, top second left, attend a screening of the Oscars on Monday April 26, 2021 in Paris, France. (AP Photo/Lewis Joly, Pool)

The 93rd annual Academy Awards were always going to be a bit surreal this year.

The pandemic changed many of the usual rhythms and traditions of the Oscars on Sunday night. There was a glamour-filled red carpet but no onlookers or teams of publicists. There were in-person, mask-less winners but not in the usual order, and the speeches were never drowned out with play-off music.

Compounding the differences this year was a telecast, steered by producers Steven Soderbergh, Jesse Collins and Stacy Sher, that wanted a new look and feel to an often stodgy, persistently unchanging ceremony.

But what was with that ending? How staged was Glenn Close's dance? And where, oh where, was the play-off music? Here's my best try to answer some of the nights befuddlements.


The Oscars have known more dramatic and more shambolic endings ("Envelopegate" was a mere four years ago) but this may have set a new bar for anti-climactic. You would swear someone even played a sad trombone.

Going into Sunday, the show's producers had said they wanted to take “some big swings" in the telecast. One turned out to be switching the normal awards order. Best director, usually one of the final awards, was handed out mid-show. Best picture was third-to-last and the night's final two awards were best actress and best actor. Presumably, the thinking was that best actor would go to Chadwick Boseman (he won virtually every best-actor trophy leading up to the Oscars), and thus end the ceremony on a meaningful note of tribute.

But there had been hints of an upset. Two weeks earlier, Anthony Hopkins won at the BAFTAs, an award he was also absent for — though the show managed to track him down in his native Wales to talk to the BAFTA press. The Oscars had pressed nominees to attend, if possible, or join from a remote location. But the 83-year-old Hopkins ( who became the oldest actor to win an Oscar, his second ) elected not to travel to Los Angeles or the hub in London. Knighted living legends who adore the Welsh countryside get to do that. Only the next morning did Sir Anthony, with a bucolic vista behind him, post an Instagram video of thanks, and a few words on the late Boseman. “At 83 years of age, I did not expect to get his award, I really didn't,” he said.