It’s hard to think of many upsides to the pandemic. But Oscar voters took advantage of the shutdown to recognize on Monday an historically diverse slate of Academy Award nominees: Some categories showcased a majority of underrepresented filmmakers and performers, and for the first time two women are competing for best director.
With most movie theaters shuttered for the past 12 months, the major studios postponed most of their releases, opening the door to more diverse, independently produced films. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences also abandoned one of its cardinal rules, allowing movies that debuted online to compete, benefitting an array of streaming titles with inclusive casts.
The result: Nine actors of color were nominated, an Oscar record.
In the best picture race, there was but one big studio release among the eight nominees, and it features a largely Black cast: “Judas and the Black Messiah.” In the best actor category, three of the five picks are non-white, as is the case for supporting actor, too.
In an Oscar first, two women are shortlisted for best director: Chloé Zhao for “Nomadland” (the first non-white woman ever to be nominated) and Emerald Fennell for “Promising Young Woman.” Only one woman — Kathryn Bigelow for 2008’s “The Hurt Locker” — has previously won the directing Oscar.
A total of 70 women received a combined 76 nominations, a record in a single year. Because she also wrote, produced and edited “Nomadland,” Zhao collected four nominations — the most by any woman in a single year.
All of this follows last year’s ceremony, when only one non-white performer (Cynthia Erivo of “Harriet”) was among the 20 lead and supporting acting nominees.
The Netflix release, “Mank,” about the screenwriter behind “Citizen Kane,” has the most nominations of any release, with 10.
The streaming service also earned multiple nominations for “The Trial of the Chicago 7” and “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” The latter film was snubbed in the best picture race, which, owing to voting consensus, included eight out of a possible maximum of 10 films.
The best picture nominees are: “Nomadland,” “Minari,” “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” “Promising Young Woman,” “Sound of Metal,” “Judas and the Black Messiah,” “Mank” and “The Father.”
Yet even after putting forward a diverse slate of acting nominations, Oscar voters not only snubbed the Black-led release “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” but also “One Night in Miami.”
In the supporting actor category, three of the nominees are Black: Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield from “Judas and the Black Messiah,” and Leslie Odom, Jr. for “One Night in Miami.”
Among the lead actor picks, three of the nominees are non-white: Riz Ahmed for “Sound of Metal,” the late Chadwick Boseman in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” and Steven Yeun in “Minari.” Yeun is the first Asian performer nominated in the category.
For lead actress, two of the nominees are Black: Viola Davis for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” and Andra Day for “The United States vs. Billie Holiday.” The other nominees are Vanessa Kirby in “Pieces of a Woman,” Frances McDormand for “Nomadland” and Carey Mulligan for “Promising Young Woman.”
Named for best supporting actor are Maria Bakalova for “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” Glenn Close for “Hillbilly Elegy,” Olivia Colman for “The Father,” Amanda Seyfried for “Mank” and Yuh-Jung Youn for “Minari.”
Details about the logistics for the April 25 ceremony remain vague, but Academy President David Rubin said the show will be broadcast from both its usual venue, the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, and Union Station in downtown Los Angeles. Maybe rather than take limousines, the nominees can travel by Amtrak — and hope the trains are running on time.