For those keeping score (and plenty are, from Oscar pundits to social justice interest groups), the nominees for the 93rd Annual Academy Awards are quite possibly the least white — and white male — in history.
It marks continued and growing progress for an Academy body that has made intentional changes over the last five years, all in an effort to diversify its annual nomination slate. One of its biggest overhauls: adding more ethnic minorities to its membership.
That shift is among several reforms finally bearing fruit. It’s a welcome evolution for a once-beleaguered Academy that has sought to end the #OscarsSoWhite social media slander of a few years ago, when most major Oscar nominees remained exclusively Caucasian.
(See full list of nominations below, following my reaction recap)
Consider this year’s results:
- 9 of the 20 acting nominees are non-white people of color, an Academy record.
- For the first time in history, the Best Actor category is not majority white.
- In the Best Picture category, the three nominated producers for Judas and the Black Messiah (Charles D. King, Ryan Coogler, and Shaka King, who also directed) are the first all-black producing team in Oscar history to be vying for the top prize.
- Chadwick Boseman became the first actor of color to be nominated posthumously. He’s up for Best Actor (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom), an award he’s favored to win. (Notably, he missed out on a possible double nomination when he didn’t receive a Supporting Actor nomination for Da 5 Bloods.)
- Chloé Zhao (Nomadland) became the first woman of color (Asian-American) to be nominated in the Best Director category.
- Steven Yeun (Minari) became the first Asian-American to be nominated in the Best Actor category.
- Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal) is the first Muslim to be nominated in the Best Actor category.
- Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg is a non-English nominee in the Best Director category. His movie Another Round is also nominated in the Best International Film category (formerly Foreign Language Film).
- Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) are the first black women to be nominated in the Makeup & Hairstyling category.
- Two black composers were nominated for Best Score, a first for one year: Terence Blanchard for Da 5 Bloods and Jon Batiste as the jazz composer for Soul. Only six previous scores by black composers have been nominated in Oscar’s 93-year history. Of the 8 total, Blanchard and Quincy Jones account for 4 of them (two each). Only one black composer has ever won the award: Herbie Hancock, for the 1986 film Round Midnight.
And in terms of female nominees:
- For the first time ever, two women were nominated in the Best Director category. Along with Zhao, Emerald Fennell is up for her directorial debut of Promising Young Woman.
- With nominations in the Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay and Film Editing categories, Zhao is the first woman ever to receive 4 nominations in a single year. Fennell received 3 (Picture, Director, and Original Screenplay), which ties 2nd all-time with Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation) and Fran Walsh (The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King) who were both up for three in 2003.
- Overall, women accounted for 76 nominations — an all-time high.
Diversity was also defined more broadly, too, i.e. outside ethnic and gender designations. The only double-digit nominee was Mank (the “writing of” Citizen Kane bio-drama from director David Fincher) which led with 10 nominations. Netflix, which produced Mank, led all studios with 35 nominations, a first for a streaming platform, and up from an already-impressive 24 nominations a year ago. Other streamers that are competing — whether they’ve served as an exclusive platform or have done a streaming-theatrical hybrid — include Amazon Prime (14 noms), Hulu (9), HBO Max (6), Disney Plus (6), and Apple TV Plus (2).
Of the other 7 Best Picture nominees, six were tied with 6 nominations (The Father, Judas and the Black Messiah, Minari, Nomadland, Sound of Metal, and The Trial of the Chicago 7) and one had 5 nominations (Promising Young Woman). That’s as level a playing field as we’ve probably ever seen. Also of note: 5 of the 8 Picture finalists have played either exclusively or simultaneously on a streaming platform.
In addition, when you consider that Mank is probably the weakest nomination-leader in memory (meaning its win total will likely be very low, possibly even ending in a shutout), it’s theoretically anybody’s game. More realistically, Nomadland — the most honored film of the Awards Season — is the front-runner.
Still, for those who remain critical of the Academy’s progress (or lack thereof) towards representation and inclusion, the Best Picture category provided the most glaring target. Notable films about the African-American experience not nominated for the top prize: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, One Night in Miami…, and Da 5 Bloods.
Spike Lee‘s Da 5 Bloods was the most snubbed, with the exception of a surprise Score nomination for composer Terence Blanchard. Lee was ignored for Director while Delroy Lindo was denied a Best Actor slot (despite universal praise), and the supporting cast entirely ignored.
One Night in Miami… also saw first-time feature director Regina King left out of the Directing category, though it did nab two (both for Leslie Odom Jr. in the Supporting Actor and Song categories). Meanwhile, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom was able to notch 5 nominations including two in the lead acting categories: Boseman for Actor and Viola Davis for Best Actress. This is Davis’s fourth acting nomination, a record for black women.
With 2020 being a pandemic year in which most theaters were closed and, therefore, virtually every studio tentpole was delayed, there was no blockbuster like Black Panther or Joker vying for the marquee award.
In terms of surprises, Judas and the Black Messiah may have been the biggest. Along with its Best Picture nomination, the riveting civil rights drama-thriller secured six total including two in the Supporting Actor category: Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield. Both are actually the film’s leads, but this kind of category fraud is common. It occurs when studios perceive that having the supporting designation will allow their actor to be more competitive. Judas also earned nods for Original Screenplay and Cinematography.
The Father also snuck in over contenders like Da 5 Bloods, Ma Rainey’s, and One Night in Miami. The British production was likely boosted by the Academy’s Brit contingency, with Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman each being nominated for their performances. The dementia drama was adapted by first-time film director Florian Zeller from his stage play. His screenplay is nominated as well.
Multiple nominations for indie upstarts Minari and Amazon Prime’s Sound of Metal (each with 6, including Best Picture) weren’t surprising, but they weren’t locks either. The fact that both made such strong showings in the major categories (including Supporting Actor Paul Raci for Sound of Metal, the nomination I was most relieved and excited to see) shows just how much these two small titles are surging.
Two foreign films also notched a few surprises. One was a new live-action Italian adaptation of Pinocchio, which co-stars former Best Actor winner Roberto Benigni (Life is Beautiful) as Geppetto. The darker take on thid classic tale is nominated in Costume Design and Makeup & Hairstyling.
There was also Thomas Vinterberg. The Danish filmmaker slid into a Best Director slot for his movie Another Round. The Directing branch has a long history of embracing foreign filmmakers, even at times over more notable American contenders.
Which leads me to…
When it came to snubs, oddly enough, you’d have to include 6-time nominated Best Picture contender The Trial of the Chicago 7. The film’s biggest, most surprising rejection: no directing nomination for Aaron Sorkin, who had to settle for an Original Screenplay nod.
Da 5 Bloods remained the most overlooked, at least as it relates to its critical embrace and early Awards Season expectations, although close behind is the low showing for News of the World, the studio Western from Universal that seemed primed for old school Academy voters. It garnered three tech nods (Score, Production Design, and Sound) but was ignored in the major categories where it was expected to compete: Picture, Director (Paul Greengrass), Actor (Tom Hanks), Supporting Actress (Helena Zengel), and Adapted Screenplay.
For more omissions, I’ve cited notable ones in each nomination category below. I’ve based these on Oscar pundit expectations and this year’s Awards Season trends, not on my perception of merit (which is why you won’t see me cite a film like, say, First Cow, one of the year’s best).
Finally, in the year’s most notable change, there’s a new category: Best Sound. Historically, the work of sound technicians has been divided into two fields: Sound Effects Editing (i.e. the actual choosing and placement of sound effects) and Sound Mixing (the art of volume balance between the various sound elements, from dialogue to sound effects to music). Now there’s just one category, Best Sound, but it will include both editors and mixers. Even so, with Sound winners often being split in years past between the two categories, it does reduce the possibility for sound professionals to be nominated, or to win.
We’ll see how things shake out over the next three weeks, most notably in the various guild awards, and I’ll make my final predictions before Oscar night.
The 93rd Annual Academy Awards will take place on Sunday night April 25, 2021, at 8pm EST / 7pm CST. It will be held in two L.A. venues (the traditional Oscar home of the Dolby Theatre, and Union Station, the city’s iconic 1939 railway hub) and will air on ABC. A host (if any) is yet to be named. The show is being produced by filmmakers Steven Soderbergh and Stacey Sher, along with Grammys producer Jesse Collins.
The Nominees for
THE 93rd ANNUAL ACADEMY AWARDS
– The Father (6 Nominations)
– Judas and the Black Messiah (6 Nominations)
– Mank (10 Nominations)
– Minari (6 Nominations)
– Nomadland (6 Nominations)
– Promising Young Woman (5 Nominations)
– Sound of Metal (6 Nominations)
– The Trial of the Chicago 7 (6 Nominations)
Notable Omissions: Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, Da 5 Bloods, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, News of the World, One Night in Miami, Soul
– Thomas Vinterberg, Another Round
– Lee Isaac Chung, Minari
– Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman
– David Fincher, Mank
– Chloé Zhao, Nomadland
Notable Omissions: Paul Greengrass (News of the World), Regina King (One Night in Miami), Shaka King (Judas and the Black Messiah), Spike Lee (Da 5 Bloods), Darius Marder (Sound of Metal), Aaron Sorkin (The Trial of the Chicago 7), Florian Zeller (The Father)
– Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal
– Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
– Anthony Hopkins, The Father
– Gary Oldman, Mank
– Steven Yeun, Minari
Notable Omissions: Tom Hanks (News of the World), Delroy Lindo (Da 5 Bloods), Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat Subsequent Moviefilm)
– 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
Notable Omissions: Amy Adams (Hillbilly Elegy), Sophia Loren (The Life Ahead), Michelle Pfeiffer (French Exit), Meryl Streep (Let Them All Talk)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
– 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
Notable Omissions: Chadwick Boseman (Da 5 Bloods), Jared Leto (The Little Things), Bill Murray (On the Rocks)
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
– Judas and the Black Messiah, Will Person, Shaka King
– Minari, Lee Isaac Chung
– Promising Young Woman, Emerald Fennell
– Sound of Metal, Darius Marder, Abraham Marder
– The Trial of the Chicago 7, Aaron Sorkin
Notable Omissions: Mank (Jack Fincher), Soul (Pete Docter, Mike Jones, Kemp Powers)
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
– Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Dan Swimer, Peter Baynham, Erica Rivinoja, Dan Mazer, Jena Friedman, Lee Kern
– The Father, Christopher Hampton, Florian Zeller
– Nomadland, Chloé Zhao
– One Night in Miami…, Kemp Powers
– The White Tiger, Ramin Bahrani
Notable Omissions: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Ruben Santiago-Hudson), News of the World (Luke Davies, Paul Greengrass)
Notable Omission: The Croods: A New Age
BEST INTERNATIONAL FILM
– Another Round (Denmark)
– Better Days (Hong Kong)
– Collective (Romania)
– The Man Who Sold His Skin (Tunisia)
– Quo Vadis, Aida? (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
Notable Omissions: La Llorona (Guatemala), The Life Ahead (Italy)
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
– Crip Camp
– The Mole Agent
– My Octopus Teacher
Notable Omissions: Boys State, Dick Johnson is Dead, The Painter and the Thief, The Truffle Hunters, Welcome to Chechnya
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
– Da 5 Bloods, Terence Blanchard
– Mank, Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross
– Minari, Emile Mosseri
– News of the World, James Newton Howard
– Soul, Jon Batiste, Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross
Notable Omissions: The Midnight Sky (Alexandre Desplat), Tenet (Ludwig Göransson)
BEST ORIGINAL SONG
– “Fight for You” – Judas and the Black Messiah – H.E.R.
– “Hear My Voice” – The Trial of the Chicago 7 – Celeste
– “Husavik (My Home Town)” – Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
– “Io Si (Seen)” – The Life Ahead – Laura Pausini
– “Speak Now” – One Night in Miami… – Leslie Odom Jr.
Notable Omission: “Tigress & Tweed” – The United States vs. Billie Holiday – Andra Day
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT
– A Concerto is a Conversation
– Do Not Split
– Hunger Ward
– A Love Song for Latasha
BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT SUBJECT
– Feeling Through
– The Letter Room
– The Present
– Two Distant Strangers
– White Eye
BEST ANIMATED SHORT SUBJECT
– Genius Loci
– If Anything Happens I Love You
– Judas and the Black Messiah, Will Person, Shaka King
– Mank, Erik Messerschmidt
– News of the World, Dariusz Wolskis
– Nomadland, Joshua James Richards
– The Trial of the Chicago 7, Dariusz Wolskis
Notable Omission: Tenet (Hoyte Van Hoytema)
Notable Omission: Emma., The Personal History of David Copperfield
Click on links below for other Critics Group Awards and Guild Nominees that have been announced so far for the 2020 / 21 season:
Directors Guild of America Nominations
Producers Guild of America Nominations
Critics Choice Award Winners
Golden Globe Award Winners
Screen Actors Guild Awards Nominations
National Board of Review
National Society of Film Critics
Oklahoma Film Critics Circle
Chicago Film Critics Association
Los Angeles Film Critics Association
New York Film Critics Circle
Boston Society of Film Critics