The Hits and Misses of the 2021 Oscar Nominations

Early on this Monday, March 15th, Priyanka and Nick Jonas announced the nominees for this year’s Academy Awards. It’s safe to say that this award show season has been unlike any other. Some frontrunner nominees have been prevalent since the festival season and have been getting nods at most shows so far. However, as history shows, the Academy often throws a couple of snubs and surprises our way on nomination morning.

The Hits

Starting things off with a personal favorite hit from this year’s list of nominees. My favorite movie of the season, Promising Young Woman, had a great morning and garnered FIVE nominations! The most probable nomination for the film going into the announcement was for Carey Mulligan in lead actress, with the possibility being also pretty high for Emerald Fennell to get into the directing category. Historically, however, the Academy has never been great at nominating women in that category, so the chances of a snub were equally high. In the end, Both Mulligan and Fennell got in in their respective categories. The film also got a nomination for Film Editing, Original Screenplay, and the biggest category of the show; Best Picture. A best-case scenario for Promising Young Woman!

Speaking of the directing category, the Academy made history this morning by nominating two women in a single year! Chloe Zhao for Nomadland and Emerald Fennell for Promising Young Woman have so deservingly made it into the Oscars history books! And that’s not the only way that Zhao made history. She is also the first every Asian woman to be nominated for director. Although it is worth noting that it took them 93 years to get there, but it seems like the Academy’s inclusivity initiative is paying off with its most diverse set of nominees yet!

The hits kept coming in the director category with a surprise nominee for danish director, Thomas Vinterberg. His film, Another Round, is considered to be the frontrunner in the International Feature category, but wasn’t expected to show up in any other category. Against all odds, Vinterberg managed to get an acknowledgement for his directorial achievement.

Another hit that NO ONE saw coming was Lakeith Stanfield’s nomination is Best Supporting Actor for his role in Judas and the Black Messiah. Now, there are two reasons why this was a huge surprise. Firstly, despite being an exceptional performance on Stanfield’s part, he was not garnering any nominations earlier in the season outside of a few critics’ groups. Secondly, he was being campaigned in the leading actor category while his co-star Daniel Kaluuya was campaigned in supporting. So, to have both Kaluuya and Stanfield appear in the supporting actor category left quite a few people confused… Happy, but confused… And asking themselves: “who is the lead actor in this film?” Despite the confusion, Lakeith Stanfield’s nomination was a great surprise.

Judas and the Black Messiah was one of the films that overperformed in nominations. It got a total of 6 nominations, which was more than what a lot of critics and fans were predicting. Another similar case was that of The Father. Also with 6 nominations to its name, the biggest hit for this film is its Production Design nomination. The Academy tends to gravitate towards more period pieces when it comes to that category, with contemporary or modern sets always underperforming. The Father managed to defy the odds and garner its production design nomination for its very modern and intricate design that adds so much value to the story as a whole. Similarly, Sound of Metal also got 6 nominations. Although it is a favorite among critics, many believed that the Academy wouldn’t necessarily go for this film in all its deserved categories. To everyone’s delight and surprise, it got into the sound, editing, screenplay, lead and supporting actor categories. All three of these films also managed to find their way into the Best Picture category, even though the Academy only opted for 8 nominees even though they’re allowed a maximum of 10.

The Misses

On the opposite side of the spectrum, one film that underperformed was Regina King’s directorial debut, One Night in Miami. Many had hopes that King would get into the directing category and that the film would get a Best Picture nod. While it didn’t quite manage to reach those expectations, the film still managed to record 3 nominations in adapted screenplay, original song and supporting actor.

Similarly, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom also missed the Best Picture category, as well as one of its strongest categories. The film was snubbed in the adapted screenplay category, even after having been nominated in the category for a lot of precursor awards, notably the Writer’s Guild Awards. Even though it missed in screenplay, the film still got 5 nominations including the two lead actor categories, one of which it is a frontrunner to win with Chadwick Boseman.

With the happy surprise nomination for Thomas Vinterberg in Best Director, someone had to miss out on the category. The culprit became the widely respected, Aaron Sorkin. Sorkin still got a nomination to his name with his original screenplay for The Trial of the Chicago 7. The Academy widely respects Aaron Sorkin as a screenwriter. For that reason, they probably didn’t pay him too close attention in the directing category.

While Sorkin did get a screenplay nod, there was one huge miss in that same category. MANK is the film that leads nominations for the 2021 Oscars with 10 nominations to its name. The story surrounding the making of MANK was maybe just as, if not more, intriguing than the film itself. Essentially, David Fincher made the film that his father, Jack Fincher, wrote the screenplay for years ago. Therefore, it was a big shock to everyone that Mank didn’t get recognized for its screenplay, when that was its most endearing aspect.

Overall, the 2021 list of nominations is an incredibly positive one, with so many outstanding performances recognized from big-budget and lower-budget indie films. The 93rd Academy Awards will take place on April 25th. It will definitely be one to watch, not just for the exciting history-making nominees, but also because it will be the first partially in-person award show of the season!


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