Early Monday morning, Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas were wide awake and excited to announce the nominations for the 93rd Academy Awards. It makes sense that they were very chipper considering they were broadcasting from London where it was the afternoon. Nonetheless, the nominations from this very different and challenging year of film were announced and they leaped over the diversity and inclusive bar that was set by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and Golden Globes — but don’t get too excited. That bar was ridiculously low but that doesn’t mean the Academy didn’t have some noteworthy strides with Oscar nominations when it came to the buzzy hot button topic of diversity and inclusivity.
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After the mess that was the Golden Globes, we were willing to take any signs of inclusivity with the Oscar nominations — and they delivered. First off, there were a wild amount of “firsts” to celebrate.
Nomadland filmmaker Chloe Zhao became the first woman of color to be nominated for Best Director in the history of the Oscars. Please note that 2021 marks the 93rd edition of the ceremony so that is a long time without a woman of color being nominated. This parallels Zhao’s win earlier this year at the Golden Globes, where she was the first woman of Asian descent and second woman to ever win the Best Director award. This was also marked the first time three female directors were nominated in the category.
Sound of Metal‘s Riz Ahmed and Minari‘s Steven Yeun were both nominated for Best Actor alongside the late, great Chadwick Boseman who has been on a winning streak for his phenomenal performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. It was a pleasant surprise to see Ahmed and Yeun — two actors of Asian descent — earn nominations when usually in a situation like this, history and systemic issues would show us that there would normally be room for only one.
Nonetheless, Ahmed makes history as the first Muslim actor nominated for Best Lead Actor while Yeun makes history as the first Asian American actor to receive a nomination in the category — which is a huge deal. Compared to the Golden Globe actor categories, this category is much more inclusive but the omissions of performances from actors Delroy Lindo in Da 5 Bloods and John David Washington in Malcolm & Marie didn’t go unnoticed.
This brings us to the Best Supporting Actor category which includes nominations for Leslie Odom, Jr. for One Night In Miami as well as Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield for Judas and the Black Messiah. For the latter, it was expected that Kaluuya was vying for a spot in the category, but many would argue that Stanfield should have been included in the Best Actor category.
On the actress side, both lead and supporting categories were way more inclusive than the Golden Globes which barely had women of color besides Andra Day for The United States vs. Billie Holiday and Viola Davis for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Day ended up winning the Golden Globe which may give her some heat but today, Davis nabbed her forth acting Oscar nomination, making history as the most-nominated Black actress in Oscar history. In addition, Yuh-Jung Youn, who is known to many as the Meryl Streep of Korea, earned a nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her amazing turn in Minari, becoming the first Korean actress to receive a nomination.
All of this is good, but Youn was the only actress of color in the supporting category. If you ask me, Dominique Fishback from Judas and the Black Messiah should have been included in the mix.
Speaking of Judas and the Black Messiah, the Shaka King-directed pic about Chairman Fred Hampton and FBI informant William O’Neal made Oscar history as the first all-Black produced film that was nominated for Best Picture. Kaluuya and Stanfield’s acting nominations also marks the first time two Black actors from the same film were nominated. With the film’s 10 nominations, the pic also broke the record for most Black nominees ever from the same film. The previous record holder was The Color Purple which had seven nominations.
Circling back to Best Director, Minari’s Lee Isaac Chung joined Zhao as another person of color in the category — and that’s it. Chung and Zhao are nominated alongside David Fincher for Mank, Thomas Vinterberg for Another Round and Emerald Fennell for Promising Young Woman. It’s clear that One Night In Miami‘s Regina King, who was nominated for a Golden Globe, was snubbed in this category. Newcomer Shaka King of Judas and the Black Messiah could have also been included in the mix, but alas, he wasn’t.
However, King was nominated alongside Will Berson for Original Screenplay while Chung was nominated for penning Minari. Zhao also received a Best Adapted Screenplay nom for Nomadland and Kemp Powers earned one for adapting his own play One Night In Miami. For South Asian representation, Ramin Bahrani received a nomination for adapting Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger. So when it comes to inclusivity on the writing side, it’s pretty decent compared to the Globes where Zhao was the sole person of color in the screenplay category.
We saw inclusive Best Feature Documentary nominations for Crip Camp which helps bolster disability representation and saw a nomination for Garrett Bradley’s Time which puts the spotlight on prison abolition. For Best Picture nominations, the Academy gave love to Judas and the Black Messiah, Minari and Nomadland all helmed by and/or featuring people of color.
Sure, there seems to be great inclusivity in this year’s Oscar nominations compared to the Golden Globes, but when further examining the nominations, there is plenty of room for improvement. We saw no love for Spike Lee’s opus Da 5 Bloods while Regina King’s One Night In Miami received little recognition beyond a nomination for Leslie Odom, Jr. Other overlooked award season contenders that could have been in the Oscars game were Zendaya’s performance in Malcolm & Marie, and why was there no shine for the brilliant and adorable treasure Alan Kim from Minari.
Are this year’s Oscar nominations more diverse and inclusive than the Golden Globes? Yes. But as mentioned, the bar was low. We are able to see some slow and steady change as a result of the Academy’s effort to bolster inclusivity with its membership — but there is always room for improvement. It’s not really an #OscarSoWhite kind of year. It’s more like an #OscarsKindOfWhite year.
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