History couldn’t be missing from the Oscar nominees for 2021. Duly, it’s over twice. To begin with, Chinese filmmaker Chloé Zhao is the first woman of color ever to be nominated for the Best Director Award. Her nomination alongside British director Emerald Fennell also makes this the first time that two women will compete in the category.
Likewise, after a year of almost no cinemas and with forced changes to admission rules, the contenders reflect 12 months in which streaming has come to define the movie industry. In several categories, Netflix is the winner on the night of April 25. Many would argue that the greatest victory is already theirs.
The biggest string of nominations – 10, including Best Picture – went to Limp, an inky Hollywood Valentine produced by the streaming giant and directed by David Fincher. Zhao’s Nomadland, meanwhile – the story of an American woman rebuilding her off-grid life – garnered six nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actress for star Frances McDormand. Six nominations were also secured by Minari Judas and the Black Messiah The Chicago Trial 7 The father and Sound of Metal
That even field can be narrowed down to a year when blockbuster release plans and rewards campaigns have been toppled by the pandemic. A new accommodation with streaming is a result. As far back as April last year, the Academy was moved to ease admission rules that insisted Oscar contenders must screen in a movie theater first and play in Los Angeles for at least seven days. (By then, LA cinemas had been closed for a month; some, not all, are reopening this week.) The pandemic has evaded previous frictions between the Academy and Netflix. Like Limp The Chicago Trial 7 and the 1920s set Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom were released by the company, which claimed a total of 35 nominations.
In recent years, the Oscars have also been dogged by complaints of diversity shortcomings. Last year, a male-only list for best director was upset. The Academy hopes a page has turned with the nominations of Zhao and Fennell, who were shortlisted for her debut Promising young woman
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Acting categories, too, have previously been troubled by a perceived exclusion of performers of color. Not like this this year. Nominees for Best Actor include the late Chadwick Boseman for his performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal) and Stephen Yeun (MinariBoseman’s co-star Viola Davis has been nominated for Best Actress alongside Andra Day, the breakthrough star of The United States vs. Billie HolidayThe nominees for Best Supporting Actor include two artists from Judas and the Black Messiah, Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield, as well as Leslie Odom Jr. before One night in Miami
In a typical year, the Oscars tend to put one unknown name above all others. In 2021, Day and Fennell aside, novelty surrounds the nomination for Best Supporting Actress of Maria Bakalova, who got the impossible done by Sacha Baron Cohen in the raw Borat Later film filmStill no tears shed for Baron Cohen. Not only did his sequel also receive a nod for Best Original Screenplay, the star will also compete for Best Supporting Actor for The Chicago Trial 7
Now comes the next phase of campaigning, a deep political process that usually centers on unqualified Hollywood schmoozing. Sometime before April 25, the Academy will also announce how many of the nominees will be physically present at the ceremony. Covid is not ready for the credits yet.
The nominees in the four main award categories are as follows:
Anthony Hopkins stars as a man with dementia in Florian Zeller’s adaptation of his own play
Judas and the Black Messiah
An FBI informant infiltrates the Black Panthers in Shaka King’s truth-based film starring Lakeith Stanfield and Daniel Kaluuya
Gary Oldman plays screenwriter Herman J Mankiewicz in The Truth of Netflix Burger Kane origin story
Lee Isaac Chung’s drama about a Korean-American family starting a new life on a farm in Arkansas
Frances McDormand stars in Chloé Zhao’s film about a woman who goes it alone and a hidden American subculture
Promising young woman
Carey Mulligan turns roles with predatory men in Emerald Fennell’s dark comedy of revenge and retaliation
Sound of Metal
Riz Ahmed plays a hard rock drummer who begins to lose his hearing in Darius Marder’s film
The Chicago Trial 7
Aaron Sorkin’s rigid Netflix drama is a courtroom story about 1960s activism
Lee Isaac Chung, Minari
Emerald Fennell, Promising young woman
Chloé Zhao, Nomadland
David Fincher, Limp
Thomas Vinterberg, Another round
Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Andra Day, The United States vs. Billie Holiday
Vanessa Kirby, Pieces of a woman
Frances McDormand, Nomadland
Carey Mulligan, Promising young woman
Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal
Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Anthony Hopkins, The father
Gary Oldman, Limp
Steven Yuen, Minari
Full list of nominees in all categories at Oscars.org
Did the Academy do well this year? Share your thoughts – and your personal choices – in the comments section below