Last night’s Academy Awards was a big night for Nomadland. The sparse road drama about the continued displacement of Americans following the 2008 economic crisis took home awards for Best Picture, Best Actress, and Best Director. The wins made history, too, with Chloé Zhao becoming the first woman of color to receive a Best Director trophy. However, of all the memorable moments from Nomadland’s wins, one spontaneous outburst from McDormand took centerstage.
Surrounded by her producing partners, Zhao, and the film’s breakout stars Swankie and Linda May, two of the film’s titular nomads, McDormand accepted the Best Picture award and encouraged viewers to see all the nominated films on the largest screen possible. Then, she tilted her head back and released out a bellowing wolf’s howl to the rafters. The rest of her pack followed suit, howling on stage as McDormand pulled a little mic drop by leaving the Oscar statue on the podium, which is a pretty boss move. The howl became one of the show’s most memorable moments for viewers at home. However, not everyone was quite sure what it meant.
During the post-Oscars press conference, Zhao explained that the howling was a tribute to the film’s production sound mixer Michael Wolf Snyder, who died by suicide at 35 last month.
“The howling is for our Production Sound Mixer, Wolf, who you saw in the memorial,” Zhao said. “We, unfortunately, lost him recently. He was the production sound mixer both on my previous film, The Rider, and Nomadland. He’s part of the family. That howling to the moon is for Wolf.”
In early March, the cast and crew of Nomadland released a statement on Snyder’s death. They said:
While our hearts break with Wolf’s loss, we hope it is a comfort to know that his spirit will live forever in every laugh he recorded, every breeze, and every gallop of a horse. He was part of our little movie family and his kind soul touched us all. Wolf truly brought life to our film. We send our condolences to his family on behalf of the entire Nomadland company. See you down the road, sweet friend.
In a Facebook post, Snyder’s father wrote of his son’s death:
People have asked if his death was Covid related. I think we can assume that it played a role in the form of increased isolation and loneliness, but it was certainly more than that. Major Depression is a severe disease, causing people to suffer dark feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, and worthlessness, convinced that nothing can help them. And this is not a rare condition, affecting at least 15% of all of us at some time in our lives. In this day and age, it is nothing to be ashamed of, and there many successful therapies available.
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.