Below, I break down the biggest surprises from the 2021 Oscar nominations.
‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’ and ‘One Night in Miami’ Shut Out of Best Picture
Bolstered by nominations from the Producers Guild of America and positive reviews, Best Picture nominations were expected for Netflix’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and Amazon’s One Night in Miami, and yet they did not come. These two Black-centric stories were among the best reviewed films of 2020, but One Night in Miami in particular scored fewer nominations than expected despite landing nods for Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actor (Leslie Odom Jr.), and Original Song. Regina King failed to make the Best Director cut, as some had anticipated, but the excellent film’s shutout of the Best Picture category certainly stings.
Ditto Ma Rainey, as George C. Wolfe’s stage play adaptation drew rave reviews and was a mainstay on the circuit leading up to the Oscar nominations. The film still picked up five nominations in total, including Best Actor (Chadwick Boseman) and Best Actress (Viola Davis), but instead of these two particular films landing Best Picture nominations it appears the Academy went with two other bubble candidates that were right on the line of getting in: Judas and the Black Messiah and The Father. The latter is a curiosity given that it did not score a PGA nomination, which historically is an accurate bellwether for the Best Picture category.
Thomas Vinterberg Scores a Best Director Nomination Over Sorkin and King
The Directors voting branch of the Academy has lately been keen on throwing a wild card into the mix almost every year, and this year that was Thomas Vinterberg for his Danish film Another Round. Vinterberg was on practically no predictions lists for the Best Director category, as Aaron Sorkin (Chicago 7) and Regina King (One Night in Miami) were considered much better bets to land a nomination. Sorkin in particular had a nomination from the Directors Guild of America to bolster his position. But just as Pawel Pawlikowski earned a surprise nomination in 2018 for the Polish drama Cold War, Vinterberg snuck into the Best Director race at the last minute. Still, given that One Night in Miami was Regina King’s first film as a director, surely her day will come.
Both Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield Nominated for Supporting Actor
The Warner Bros. film Judas and the Black Messiah was a latecomer to this year’s race, not screening for critics or press until January. But given the Oscars’ extended deadline (films released before the end of February were still eligible), Judas made the cut, and performed better than some had anticipated given that historically films released late in the game have less of a shot at earning nominations. That love extended to dual Best Supporting Actor nominations for Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield. In previous awards ceremonies, Stanfield had competed in the Best Actor category, but for whatever reason he was under consideration for Supporting Actor here (even though the film is told from his character’s point of view).
But I’m not complaining. Kaluuya and Stanfield are two of the best actors of their generation, and they deliver outstanding performances in Shaka King’s story about the assassination of Fred Hampton. The question now is whether Kaluuya retains his frontrunner status or if he runs the risk of splitting votes with his co-star.
Glenn Close Made the Cut After All
Glenn Close really wants an Oscar. Like, really, really, really. Just revisit her reaction to losing in 2018 to Olivia Colman after acting her heart out in The Wife. And indeed on the press circuit for her Netflix film Hillbilly Elegy, Close was not hiding the fact that she wanted an eighth nomination for the Ron Howard film. And she got it. She got her Best Supporting Actress nomination over a surprise Jodie Foster nomination for The Mauritanian or the young Helena Zengel in News of the World. Mammaw is officially in contention.
‘The Father’ Makes a Strong Showing
Not necessarily a huge surprise as the drama The Father has been earning rave reviews since it premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, but Florian Zeller’s film about a father slipping into dementia picked up more nominations than expected. Not only did it crack the Best Picture field, but the film also scored Adapted Screenplay, Film Editing, and even Production Design nominations in addition to recognition for Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman. That firmly puts the Sony Pictures Classics film into “must-see” status for those looking to brush up before the awards ceremony.
‘Eurovision’ Gets a Best Original Song Nomination
Again not a huge surprise, but can we all just join in celebration that we might get to see Rachel McAdams and Will Ferrell perform their Oscar-nominated song “Husavik” at the Academy Awards? McAdams’ voice was combined with that of Swedish singer Molly sandén for the film, so it’s possible McAdams doesn’t take the stage, but still what a deserving nomination for such a beautiful song. If only “Ja Ja Ding Dong” could have been nominated as well.
No Oscar for Delroy Lindo
Netflix made a last-minute push to secure Delroy Lindo a Best Actor nomination for his outstanding performance in Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods, but unfortunately it was too little too late. Lindo was left on the outside looking in, unfortunately, and Lee’s film was almost entirely ignored save for a lone Best Original Score nomination for Terence Blanchard. I suppose it’s nice to know that even in a pandemic year the Academy will find ways to forget that movies released before September exist, but the snubbing of Da 5 Bloods overall stings quite a bit.
KEEP READING: Every Best Actor Winner of the 21st Century Ranked From Worst to Best
In the words of Jamie Fraser, “I am ready.”
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