It's certainly arguable that Hopkins gave the best performance of five nominees that included Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal), Gary Oldman (Mank), Steven Yeun (Minari), and, of course, Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey's Black Bottom).
In any other year, I might have leaned toward Hopkins myself, although -- to be clear -- I'm not a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Both courage and talent are required for an 83-year-old actor to portray a man whose life is vanishing in a haze of dementia.
On top of that, Hopkins' character was named Anthony, which makes it difficult not to wonder whether the character might have struck Hopkins as a preview of his own coming attractions.
The loneliness Hopkins captured by the film's end was nearly unbearable and he carried a bigger burden than Boseman, who was part of a terrific ensemble.
But this wasn't any other year.
The voting members of the Academy missed a hell of an opportunity to add a beautiful exclamation point to this year's Oscars.
Boseman had played heroic black men such as Jackie Robinson (42) and Thurgood Marshall (Marshall) but in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, he made a major departure, pushing aside previous work, including any resemblance to his ennobled performance as T'Challa in Black Panther.
Boseman unleashed deep pain and fury as Levee, a rebellious cornet player with a shocking backstory.
Writing in the New York Times, A. O. Scott pointed out that Boseman had given a performance against which all future actors who played Levee would be judged.
The point: Giving Boseman an Oscar for his work in the film adaptation of August Wilson's play would not have represented any kind of sentimental compromise.
But even if voters thought Hopkins gave the better of the two performances, they still should have voted for Boseman, who never will have a chance at another Oscar.
Hopkins already won an Oscar for his portrayal of Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs (1991) and Boseman was slighted for not receiving an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of singer James Brown in Get On Up (2014).
Before I saw Get On Up, I wouldn't have believed that the actor who played Jackie Robinson could transform himself into James Brown. He did.
Boseman's death last August wasn't just an untimely passing of a gifted young actor: It was cause for shared grief among moviegoers. We'd never know where Boseman's talents could have lead him.
An Oscar for Boseman in no way would have slighted any of the other nominees. It should have happened.
Unfortunately, it didn't. The voters made a mistake that can't be corrected. I feel bad for Hopkins, a great actor who had nothing to do with the outcome, and for Boseman's fans and family, and that kind of sadness is the last thing I expected to take away from this year's Oscars.