The 2021 Oscar Nominations — The Diversity Awards Have Finally Arrived

The pandemic has brought a variety of challenges for The Oscars and also provided more opportunities.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has been grappling with a couple of challenges over the past years. One has involved getting more inclusiveness and diversity in both its membership and the recognition at The Oscars, and the other has been how to deal with the mounting challenge brought by the streaming services. The crater-inducing impact the pandemic created in the entertainment industry meant that one issue was essentially solved for the organization, and this led to it seeing a solution for the other.


For years, streaming has been looked down on by the Academy. They have tried imposing requirements on the services to be considered for awards, and there have been efforts made to diminish their influence on the nominations. That all shifted in 2020. With theaters closed for a significant part of the year and only partial openings taking place when a full recovery had been hoped for, streaming suddenly was seen as a needed outlet for motion pictures. The three films looked at as the frontrunners all had exclusive showings on Netflix or Amazon.

Studios opted for day-and-date releasing into theaters and video on demand to get recognized by a broader audience. For most people, streaming became the only option for them to see the Oscar-worthy titles and the Academy shifted their stern standards. As a case in point, one Best Picture contender — “Minari” — was only released digitally in 2020, and eventually saw a theatrical release last month. But this relaxing of the rules meant that a number of movies that would have previously been lost in the mix were not only able to be seen but have risen to become power players in the awards race.

Many of the expected titles were present, but as usual, there were some surprising inclusions throughout the major categories and some head-scratching omissions. David Fincher’s “Mank,” a black-and-white ode to the creation of the classic “Citizen Kane,” led the field with 10 nominations. Also looking like a favorite is “Nomadland,” with nominations seen in most of the major categories. 


One surprising result has been “Judas and the Black Messiah,” nabbing a number of serious nominations. The two stars, Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield, were split into the  Supporting Actor category, probably yanking an expected nomination away from the late Chadwick Bosman, who was expected to be seen here for “Da 5 Bloods.” That film, directed by Spike Lee, came away without any nominations, but the wide array of POC nominations will blunt any of his potential claims of being — literally — blacklisted. Boseman is nominated in the Best Actor category, for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” where he is deemed the favorite.

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Another title with a light representation is the once-favored “One Night In Miami,” an engaging character piece about a meeting between Muhammed Ali, Jim Brown, Sam Cooke, and Malcolm X. The only major nominations were for Adapted Screenplay, and Leslie Odom Jr., playing Cooke. Regina King was thought to be a lock-in Best Director, but she was likely pushed aside when the surprise Thomas Vinterburg was included for his foreign language “Another Round.” “One Night” is also notably not among the Best Picture nominees. Meanwhile, significance is still seen with two female directors nominated, and there are three POC performers in the Supporting Actor category.

Another surprisingly strong showing was from “The Sound of Metal,” the drama about a hard rock drummer losing his hearing. The film was originally a 2019 production, but did not get a formal release until this past November, and then streaming on Amazon Prime the next month. The film joins a varied field of challengers, with”The Father,” “Judas and the Black Messiah,” “Minari,” “Nomadland,” and “The Trial of the Chicago 7” all receiving 6 nominations apiece.


Here are the major nominations, for the ceremony that has been delayed two months, to be seen on April 25.


Best Picture

“The Father” /“Judas and the Black Messiah” / “Mank” / “Minari” / “Nomadland” / “Promising Young Woman” / “Sound of Metal” / “The Trial of the Chicago 7”

Best Director

Thomas Vinterberg (“Another Round”) / David Fincher (“Mank”) / Lee Isaac Chung (“Minari”) / Chloé Zhao / (“Nomadland”) / Emerald Fennell (“Promising Young Woman”) 

Best Actor in a Leading Role

Riz Ahmed (“Sound of Metal”) / Chadwick Boseman (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”) / Anthony Hopkins (“The Father”) / Gary Oldman (“Mank”) / Steven Yeun (“Minari”) 

Best Actress in a Leading Role

Viola Davis (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”) / Andra Day (“The United States v. Billie Holiday”) / Vanessa Kirby (“Pieces of a Woman”) / Frances McDormand (“Nomadland”) / Carey Mulligan (“Promising Young Woman”) 

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Sacha Baron Cohen (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”) / Daniel Kaluuya (“Judas and the Black Messiah”) / Leslie Odom Jr. (“One Night in Miami”) / Paul Raci (“Sound of Metal”) / Lakeith Stanfield “Judas and the Black Messiah”)

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Maria Bakalova (‘Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”) / Glenn Close (“Hillbilly Elegy”) / Olivia Colman (“The Father”) / Amanda Seyfried (“Mank”) / Yuh-jung Youn (“Minari”) 

Best Animated Feature Film

“Onward” (Pixar) / “Over the Moon” (Netflix) / “A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon” (Netflix) / “Soul” (Pixar) / “Wolfwalkers” (Apple TV Plus/GKIDS) 


Best Adapted Screenplay

“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.” Screenplay by Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Dan Swimer, Peter Baynham, Erica Rivinoja, Dan Mazer, Jena Friedman, Lee Kern; Story by Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Dan Swimer, Nina Pedrad /  “The Father,” Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller / “Nomadland,” Chloé Zhao / “One Night in Miami,” Kemp Powers / “The White Tiger,” Ramin Bahrani 

Best Original Screenplay

“Judas and the Black Messiah.” Screenplay by Will Berson, Shaka King; Story by Will Berson, Shaka King, Kenny Lucas, Keith Lucas / “Minari,” Lee Isaac Chung / “Promising Young Woman,” Emerald Fennell / “Sound of Metal.” Screenplay by Darius Marder, Abraham Marder; Story by Darius Marder, Derek Cianfrance / “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” Aaron Sorkin 

Best Original Song

“Fight for You,” (“Judas and the Black Messiah”)  / “Hear My Voice,” (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”) / “Húsavík,” (“Eurovision Song Contest”) / “Io Si [Seen]” (“The Life Ahead”) / “Speak Now,” (“One Night in Miami”). 

Best Cinematography

“Judas and the Black Messiah” Sean Bobbitt / “Mank,” Erik Messerschmidt / “News of the World,” Dariusz Wolski / “Nomadland,” Joshua James Richards / “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” Phedon Papamichael 

Best Film Editing

“The Father,” Yorgos Lamprinos / “Nomadland,” Chloé Zhao / “Promising Young Woman,” Frédéric Thoraval / “Sound of Metal,” Mikkel E.G. Nielsen / “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” Alan Baumgarten



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