Oscars nominations 2021: Brits, diversity and female directors rewarded

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Left-right: Sacha Baron Cohen in The Trial of the Chicago 7, Carey Mulligan in Promising Young Woman and Riz Ahmed in Sound of Metal

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Sacha Baron Cohen, Carey Mulligan, Olivia Colman, Daniel Kaluuya and Sir Anthony Hopkins are among the British stars nominated for this year’s Oscars.

Vanessa Kirby, Gary Oldman and Riz Ahmed are among the other UK nominees.

It’s also the most diverse Oscars ever, with nine of the 20 acting nominees from ethnic minority backgrounds.

And two women were nominated for best director – the first time more than one woman has been shortlisted for that prize in the awards’ 93-year history.

Chloe Zhao is nominated for directing Nomadland, and Britain’s Emerald Fennell is recognised for Promising Young Woman.

Other nominated stars include Frances McDormand, Glenn Close, Viola Davis and the late Chadwick Boseman.

Mank, the black-and-white drama starring Oldman as Citizen Kane writer Herman Mankiewicz, leads the overall field with 10 nominations.

This year’s winners will be announced on 25 April at a delayed ceremony that will take place at both the Dolby Theatre, the ceremony’s normal home, and Los Angeles’ main railway hub, Union Station.

Olivia Colman and Sir Anthony Hopkins in The Father

SEAN GLEASON/Lionsgate

The leading nominees:

  • 10 nominations – Mank
  • 6 – The Father
  • 6 – Judas and the Black Messiah
  • 6 – Minari
  • 6 – Nomadland
  • 6 – Sound of Metal
  • 6 – The Trial of the Chicago 7
  • The Oscar nominations in full

The Brits are coming

Daniel Kaluuya in Judas and the Black Messiah

Glen Wilson/Warner Bros

The eight British acting nominees range from Ahmed, who receives his first Oscar nomination for playing a drummer who loses his hearing in Sound of Metal, to Sir Anthony, whose performance as a man who loses his grip on reality in The Father earns him his sixth nomination.

At 83, he is the oldest person ever to be nominated for best actor. Sir Anthony and Ahmed are joined on the award’s five-strong shortlist by Oldman, who won the trophy three years ago for playing Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour.

Colman will hope to repeat her 2019 success with The Favourite after being nominated this year for her role in The Father.

Carey Mulligan is nominated for Promising Young Woman despite being shut out by this year’s Baftas. The revenge thriller also earns Fennell – best known for her acting in Call the Midwife and The Crown – nominations for best picture and best original screenplay as well as best director.

Kirby, who also made her name on The Crown, is nominated for playing a traumatised mother in Pieces of a Woman, while Kaluuya and Baron Cohen are up for best supporting actor for Judas and the Black Messiah and The Trial of the Chicago 7 respectively.

Other British nominees include singer Celeste for best song, for her contribution to The Trial of the Chicago 7; and Aardman’s A Shaun The Sheep Movie: Farmageddon, which is up for best animated film.

Most diverse Oscar nominations

Minari

Altitude

Six black actors and actresses are nominated, equalling the record set in 2017. This year, Kaluuya, Boseman and Davis are joined by US stars Andra Day, LaKeith Stanfield and Leslie Odom Jr – who is also up for best original song.

Davis is shortlisted for playing a 1920s blues singer in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – the fourth nomination of her career, making her the most-nominated black actress ever.

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Ahmed is the first actor of Pakistani descent to get an Oscar nomination and the first Muslim to be up for best actor; and Yuh-Jung Youn is the first South Korean actress to get an Oscar nod.

“Never in my dreams did I ever think a Korean actress would be nominated for an Oscar, and I can’t believe it’s me!” she said. She will be joined at the ceremony by Steven Yeun, her Korean-American co-star in Minari, who is nominated for best actor.

Minari is also up for the Academy Awards’ top prize, best picture, which is given to a film’s producers. Its rivals for that award include Judas and the Black Messiah, which is the first best picture nominee to have an all-black line-up of producers.

Posthumous Oscar for Boseman?

Boseman is nominated alongside Davis for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – his final role before he died of cancer at the age of 43 last year.

The much-loved star, who is also known for his role in Black Panther, is the favourite to be given the best actor award.

If he does, he will be only the second posthumous best actor winner after Peter Finch for Network in 1976.

Female directors make history

Frances McDormand (left) with Nomadland director Chloe Zhao

Joshua Richards/Searchlight Pictures

Only five women had been nominated for best director before, and only one has won – Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker in 2010.

This year, two of the five contenders are female, with Chinese-born, US-based Zhao the hot favourite for her story of a woman, played by Frances McDormand, who lives a nomadic life in a van.

Zhao is up for a total of four awards this year – best picture, best adapted screenplay and best editing, as well as best director. If she wins them all, she will equal a record set by Walt Disney, who is the only person to have won four Oscars in the same night.

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Fennell is the first British woman to be up for best director. Some predicted a third female best director nominee this year, with Regina King tipped for One Night in Miami. She won an Oscar for her acting for If Beale Street Could Talk in 2019, but will not get a directing award to go with it this year.

Overall, a record 76 nominations went to women this year, according to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which organises the awards.

Eighth time lucky for Glenn Close?

Glenn Close in Hillbilly Elegy

Lacey Terrell/NETFLIX

The 73-year-old has her eighth Oscar nomination for playing a foul-mouthed, prosthetic-nosed grandmother in Ron Howard’s Hillbilly Elegy.

“I dedicate this honour to all the grandmothers in the world who fight to give their children a better life,” she said.

Her previous nominations have come for films like The World According to Garp, Fatal Attraction and Dangerous Liaisons. She has never won. So could this finally be her year?

Probably not – the favourites for best supporting actress are Yuh-Jung Youn and Maria Bakalova, the Bulgarian newcomer who is rewarded for playing Borat’s daughter in Baron-Cohen’s comedy sequel.

Plus, Hillbilly Elegy was panned by many critics, and Close now has the dubious honour of being only the third person to be up for an Oscar and a Razzie (for the worst films of the year) for the same performance.

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Why Mank won’t win best picture

Analysis box by Colin Paterson, arts and entertainment correspondent

Mank, about the making of Citizen Kane, may have the most Oscar nominations with 10, but it is highly unlikely to win best picture.

Crucially, it failed to land a screenwriting nomination. In the past 55 years, the only films to have been named best picture without one are The Sound of Music and Titanic – a musical and a film that relied on spectacle rather than script.

It has also missed out in best editing, a category in which, since 1981, every best picture winner has been nominated – apart from Birdman, which gave the appearance of not having been edited.

Mank’s omission in these categories suggests it is a film the Academy admires, rather than loves.

It would appear to be destined for the same fate as the film it is about, which nominated for best picture at the 1941 Oscars, but lost out to How Green Was My Valley.

I have the favourite as Nomadland, which has already been a winner at the Golden Globes and the Critics’ Choice Awards. However, it has one thing going against it – the Academy almost never rewards female-fronted films. Last year, 68% of Oscar voters were men and of the last 15 best picture winners, only one (The Shape of Water) even managed a best actress nomination.

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