Hollywood’s biggest night is just over a month away, and even though this has been one of the strangest years ever for cinema the Academy Award nominees make me believe that the ceremony will be unlike anything we’ve seen from it before. The reason? With the delay of so many Hollywood epics and blockbusters, the Academy has finally been forced to pay attention to smaller films with more diverse representation on screen. And thus, this year’s ceremony includes many long overdue “firsts” for us to celebrate.
For instance, in the Best Director category, not only is Chloé Zhao (NOMADLAND) the first woman of color to be nominated, alongside her is Emerald Fennell, making this the first time that two women share the ballot. And with Lee Isaac Chung nominated for MINARI, this is also the first time that two Asian directors are nominated in the same year. In the Best Actor category, we see a similar scenario with two people of Asian descent being nominated for the first time: Steven Yeun (Minari), the first Asian-American, and Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal) the first Muslim.
Also, with Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) and Andra Day (The United States Vs. Billie Holiday), we see for the first time since 1973, two Black women on the ballot for Best Actress. In 1973, it was Cicely Tyson up against Diana Ross, who interestingly was also nominated for her role as Billie Holiday in Lady Sings the Blues. And if Davis or Day win, they will become just the second Black woman to earn the award, after Halle Berry won for Monsters Ball in 2001.
We will also finally see two films with Black composers compete for Best Original Score, with pieces from Soul and Da 5 Bloods, while Youn Yuh-jung (Minari) is nominated for Best Supporting Actress, becoming only the fourth woman of Asian descent to be recognized since Miyoshi Umeki won in 1957 for Sayonara.
Among other pleasant surprises, films from our Virtual Movie Palace found some recognition, with Thomas Vinterberg earning a Best Director nod for one of my favorite virtual-playing films, ANOTHER ROUND, and COLLECTIVE found some love for Best Documentary Feature and Best International Film. You can now watch both of these contenders via our AgileLINK platform with member benefits!
Of course, the nominations aren’t perfect. Regina King (One Night in Miami), for instance, was “snubbed” for Best Director, when it seemed she was poised to be the first African–American woman to earn a nomination. And Spike Lee, who knows snubs all too well, came away disappointed again with Da 5 Bloods, particularly regarding Delroy Lindo for Best Actor. And even though it was exciting to see LaKeith Stanfield finally earn some well-deserved respect, many find it confusing that he and Daniel Kaluuya are both nominated for Best Supporting Actor in Judas and the Black Messiah. However, according to Stanfield’s Instagram, he is the first actor with a face tattoo to receive the recognition.
Given the way that the 2020 Oscars concluded, with Parasite talking home the prize for Best Picture, it’s exciting to see the ceremony striving to continue this year in similar fashion. Never in my time watching the show have I ever seen more happiness and excitement on stage, and from the crowd as well, than the moment when Bong Joon-ho and his team accepted the award. It was something truly special to witness, not only because that stage has never looked so diverse, but also because it’s extremely rare for an industry like Hollywood to collectively rally behind something so strongly. As a refresher, you can enjoy that moment here again on YouTube. And remember that there are so many more milestones like that still to come.
We had another great year for ourselves in selecting many of the Best Picture nominees to play at the Michigan and State since we have been open, and we will continue to bring you more award worthy titles into April. If you still need to see them, keep a lookout for upcoming screenings of NOMADLAND, MANK, MINARI, PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN, and THE FATHER. And don’t forget our Virtual Movie Palace continues to grow with new titles every Friday!
Happy St. Patty’s Day and unless I see you at Virtual Trivia this Friday, have a terrific weekend.