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Oscar Nominations 2021: A Year of Firsts

The past year has by no means been easy. As a society we have been asked to stay at home, witnessed injustice, protested and seen governments change, all whilst trying to tackle an international pandemic. However, the film industry has also seen a lot of change, which is evident in this year’s Academy Award nominees.

The nominees for 93rd Academy Awards will go down in history for being the most diverse thus far. This year, 45% of the 20 acting nominees come from ethnic minority backgrounds – a long awaited change following the infamous all-white 2015 ceremony. Viola Davis’s well-deserved fourth nomination for her role as a 1920s blues singer in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom has given her the title of the most-nominated black actress ever. Furthermore, Minari’s Yuh-Jung Youn is the first South Korean actress to be shortlisted.  In addition to these big steps forward, Riz Ahmed made history with his best actor nomination for Sound of Metal. Ahmed is the first Muslim and the first person of Pakistani descent to be nominated in the best actor category. 

However, the British invasion did not stop there. Ahmed is up against more fellow Brits, including Sir Anthony Hopkins for his role as a man struggling with memory loss and reality in The Father. Sir Anthony’s sixth Academy Award nomination is also record breaking as at 83 he is the oldest person ever to be nominated for best actor. Both Sir Anthony and Ahmed are up against another British actor, Gary Oldman, for his role as screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz in the biopic Mank. In addition to the best actor category, Sacha Baron Cohen and Daniel Kaluuya have also been nominated for their roles in The Trial of the Chicago 7 and Judas and the Black Messiah respectively. 

British actresses have also taken centre stage. The Crown’s Olivia Coleman and Vanessa Kirby have been nominated for their roles in The Father and Pieces of a Woman, and another Crown alumnus, Emerald Fennell, made headlines with her feature film directorial debut Promising Young Woman. Despite being snubbed by this year’s BAFTAs, the revenge thriller has bagged 5 nominations, including best director, best actress, best picture and best original screenplay. Fennell’s nomination has made her the first British woman to be nominated for the director prize. However, Fennell is not the only female director in this category. Nomadland’s Chloé Zhao is also in the running, making 2021 the first year in the award’s 93-year history that two women have been shortlisted for best director.

Netflix and Amazon Prime have been a great comfort blanket over the last year. Their important role in our lives has been recognised in this year’s nominations. With the pandemic causing cinemas across the world to shut their doors, the Oscars briefly dropped their mandate that films play commercially in theatres in order to be eligible for awards. Without a doubt, this is a streaming-centric year; Netflix bagged 35 nominations, beating any other Hollywood film studio, whilst Amazon secured 12 nominations for 4 films, including Sound of Metal and Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. Apple also got a slice of the pie by obtaining its first ever nominations for Wolfwalkers and Greyhound.

Surely such an important year in film history should be commemorated properly?

The Awards Season has had a serious case of ‘Zoom Fatigue.’ Unfortunately, as part of Covid-19 safety measures, 2021’s Golden Globes and Emmys went virtual, leading to nominees having to accept their awards via Zoom. Nonetheless, this shall not be the case for the 93rd Academy Awards. The show’s producers, Steven Soderbergh, Stacey Sher and Jesse Collins, confirmed in a letter to all nominees that they had gone to ‘great lengths to provide a safe and enjoyable evening for all of you in person.’ The ceremony is due to take place on 25th April in Los Angeles and should reintroduce some normality into show business. 

Image: Martin Vorel via LibreShot