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ABC Exec Responds To Backlash Over Oscars 2021 Ending

The Oscars remain Hollywood's biggest night, which makes it odd that so many snafus have occurred in the awards show over the years. From declining ratings to the infamous "La La Land"/"Moonlight" mix-up several years ago, the ceremony always makes headlines, but it's not always for the best of reasons. Audiences knew going into the 2021 Academy Awards, which took place in the midst of a pandemic, that it was going to be a very different show from what we've seen in the past. 

There were some highlights and moments worth spotlighting, such as Chloé Zhao winning Best Director, becoming the first woman of color to do so. However, the general consensus from fans and people across social media seems to be that there were more cringey moments than inspirational ones. A lot of people took to Twitter to mention how they thought the winners' acceptance speeches went on too long, and there was the controversy surrounding the truncated "In Memoriam" segment that glossed over a lot of influential figures the world lost this past year. That's not even getting into the behind-the-scenes drama of how the Oscars displaced homeless residents of Los Angeles' Union Station to hold the telecast at that location, especially in the wake of the ceremony giving Best Picture to "Nomadland," a film that centers on people without homes. 

Then there was the ending, in which the show went out not with a bang but with a whimper. The last category of the night was "Best Actor," which appeared to indicate that the ceremony wanted its last moments to honor the legacy of Chadwick Boseman, who was nominated for his role in "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" but became a household name thanks to his part as Black Panther in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Instead, the trophy went to Anthony Hopkins for "The Father," and while Hopkins certainly delivered a powerhouse performance, it was just an odd way for the show to go out. Now, we have a little more insight into the moment from one of the producers of the Oscars. 

ABC's Rob Mills says at least 'there was no apathy' for the final moments of the Oscars

Despite record-low viewership for the 2021 Oscars, dipping to 10.4 million live viewers (via Deadline), it seemed as though everyone had watched it if you were on social media immediately following the ceremony. Everyone was talking about all of the issues and controversies that took place during the show, and now, Rob Mills, who works for Walt Disney Television as executive vice president of unscripted and alternative entertainment, has spoken to Variety about how the Academy Awards all came together this year. He detailed the reasoning behind allowing the speeches to go on longer than usual and the decision to make Best Actor come last. 

First, he said there was a concerted effort to mix up everything about the order in which the awards were presented, explaining, "I think the point was, sometimes you watch the show and you feel like, 'Gosh, I've seen this every year.' So, it really was the 'Wow, I really don't know what's coming next.'" As for making the Best Actor award come last, he mentioned, "It was a calculated risk, that I think still paid off because everybody was talking about it. ... Some people were upset, some people loved it and that was really the point that there was no apathy."

From the way he describes it, it certainly sounds as though people behind the scenes expected Chadwick Boseman to win, but they were happy regardless of how the final award played out. Above all else, it shows that even Mills has no idea who's going to win before the envelope opens. 

Anthony Hopkins paid tribute to Chadwick Boseman in his eventual acceptance speech

Ultimately, awards don't matter at the end of the day. It all comes down to which performances continue to be remembered, and it's safe to say Chadwick Boseman's legacy will live on for years to come. The actor may never get an Oscar to his name, but decades from now, people will continue to watch "Black Panther," "Da 5 Bloods," and "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" and remember what an immeasurable talent he was. 

As such, it was only fitting that Anthony Hopkins paid tribute to the late actor in his eventual acceptance speech, which he uploaded to Instagram the day after the ceremony. Hopkins couldn't be at the Oscars in person due to concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic, but he kept this speech short and sweet afterward. He thanked the Academy and expressed his disbelief in winning the award in addition to honoring his fellow nominee: "I want to pay tribute to Chadwick Boseman, who was taken from us far too early." Those kind words certainly help alleviate some of the uncomfortableness that came during the 2021 Oscars' closing moments. 

It remains to be seen how the Academy will respond to the general awkwardness that came from the anticlimactic ending of this year's ceremony when it comes to planning for 2022. Perhaps that was the intention all along, and they're hoping more people tune in to watch the awards next year to see what happens next.