Women Take Top Prizes at Critics Choice Awards (RogerEbert.com)

26th Critics Choice Awards

Women took home top honors at the 26th Critics Choice Awards on Sunday, March 7th, 2021. Chloe Zhao’s “Nomadland” not only won Best Picture, but she was also awarded Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. Emerald Fennell‘s “Promising Young Woman” took home the Best Original Screenplay award as well as Best Actress for Carey Mulligan. At the same time, Ann Roth was the winner of Best Costume Design for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” In the television awards, “The Queen’s Gambit” won in the Best Limited Series category, as did its star, Anya Taylor-Joy.

Yes, the show did go on. Hollywood’s finest in film and TV were honored at the 26th Critics Choice Awards show in Los Angeles, California, via an in-person/virtual hybrid format. Taye Diggshosted for the third year and began the evening by joking about the stars wearing formal on the top and comfy on the bottom due to Zoom’s headshot format. All acceptance speeches were conveyed in this format worldwide—from private living rooms, home offices, and hotel suites.

The highlight for me was meeting Anya Taylor-Joy, in the winners press room, the Best Actress Award winner. Taylor-Joy plays Beth Harmon in “The Queen’s Gambit,” which follows her life in an orphanage in the mid-1950s as a burgeoning chess prodigy and continues into the 1960s, following her drug and alcohol addiction through to her recovery. Based on the 1983 novel by Walter Tevis of the same name, the seven-episode series was written and directed by Scott Frank, who created it along with Allan Scott.

MARCH 7: In this screengrab, Anja Taylor Joy, winner of Best Actress in a Limited Series or Movie Made for Television Award, arrives at the press room at the 26th Annual Critics Choice Awards on March 07, 2021. (Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images for the Critics Choice Association)
Anya Taylor-Joy appeared wearing lovely deep red sheer gloves that matched the striking color of her strappy, floor-length gown. She answered the first question by a critic who said, “Many people feel that Beth Harmon’s story isn’t over, are there plans to continue?” She answered by saying that she appreciates that people want to spend more time with a character that she also loves, yet the series was always intended to be limited. She ended with a glimmer of hope, replying, “Never say never.”In speaking with her next, I praised her for her wonderful performance while informing her that I taught chess to my students as a former teacher. She said, with a look of surprise followed by a big smile, “Really?” I asked her, “What has chess taught you about the world?” She replied, “Oh goodness, it’s such a beautiful metaphor, you can have a plan that you will be able to adapt, you have to be able to pivot and to think on your feet, it’s important to know when to attack and when to defend, and you have to learn when to do both. You also know that you need all of the pieces on the board; it’s not just the Queen running around. You need every single one of them. I would say those are a couple of things that I learned from chess.”

If this were a typical show, I would have followed up by talking about the implications her female character has had on the game of chess for girls and women of the world. As most know, chess competitions have a history of boys and men leading the sport. The series reflects men’s unwillingness to treat females with respect in the game of chess and beyond. Her smart, hard-working character presents a bird’s-eye view of female perseverance, realizing individual rewards and breaking barriers.

As a side note, my father, Richard Knight, taught me to play chess in high school as I believe he wanted someone to play with, although it afforded me quality time with him as I was the oldest of five siblings. He bought me books by chess masters, we worked on openings, various pre-set boards, strategies, etc. I’ll never forget the day I finally won a match—I ran through the house cheering in jubilation. Years later, I taught gifted children and utilized chess to teach life lessons and critical thinking skills. I do thank my father for teaching me the game and miss him dearly.

Sarah Knight Adamson© March 7, 2021