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Oscar nominations 2021: Mank leads the way among diverse shortlist revealed for Academy Awards

Written by on 15 March 2021

Mank leads the way for this year’s Oscars – with the 2021 shortlist including two female directors for the first time ever and a diverse acting nominations list.

British stars including Daniel Kaluuya, Sacha Baron Cohen, Riz Ahmed, Carey Mulligan, Gary Oldman and Olivia Colman are among the stars in the running for prizes, while The Father, Judas And The Black Messiah, Mank, Minari, Nomadland, Promising Young Woman, Sound Of Metal and The Trial Of The Chicago 7 are shortlisted for best film.

The Oscars has significantly expanded its voting body over the past year, inviting more than 800 new members, after facing criticism for a lack of diversity in its nominations for the 2020 ceremony – with Harriet actress Cynthia Erivo the only non-white acting nominee and no female directors.

Carey Mulligan stars as Cassie in director Emerald Fennell's Promising Young Woman. Pic: Courtesy of Focus Features Image: Carey Mulligan stars as Cassie in director Emerald Fennell’s Promising Young Woman. Pic: Courtesy of Focus Features Riz Ahmed in Sound Of Metal. Pic: Amazon Studios Image: Riz Ahmed in Sound Of Metal. Pic: Amazon Studios

It seems progress is being made. In the directing category, Chloe Zhao (Nomadland) and Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman) make history up against Lee Isaac Chung (Minari), David Fincher (Mank) and Thomas Vinterberg (Another Round).

Only five women have ever been nominated in the category in the history of the Academy Awards – that’s 92 ceremonies so far – and only one has ever won: Kathryn Bigelow, for The Hurt Locker, in 2010.

Among the performers, it is the most diverse line-up of nominees ever – and a sign of change from the all-white shortlists that led to the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag starting five years ago.

Nine of the 20 acting nominees are from ethnic minority groups, including a posthumous leading actor nomination for the late Chadwick Boseman, for his role in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.

Netflix, which released the film, said Boseman’s co-star, Viola Davis, had made Oscars history after being nominated in the leading actress category – which will make this year’s ceremony her fourth time in the running.

“She is now the most-nominated Black actress ever, and the only Black woman with two Best Actress nominations”, the streaming service said on one if its official Twitter accounts.

Fincher’s Mank – which sees 1930s Hollywood re-evaluated through the eyes of social critic and alcoholic screenwriter Herman J Mankiewicz as he works to finish the screenplay of Citizen Kane – received 10 nominations in total, including best director, leading actor for star Oldman, and supporting actress for Amanda Seyfried.

Gary Oldman in Mank. Pic: Netflix Image: Gary Oldman stars in Mank, which is up for 10 awards. Pic: Netflix Nomadland director Chloe Zhao, pictured in 2018 Image: Nomadland director Chloe Zhao is one of two women, alongside Emerald Fennell, nominated for best director

Also nominated in the best acting category alongside Oldman and Boseman are Ahmed, who plays a drummer who goes deaf in Sound Of Metal; Sir Anthony Hopkins, who plays an elderly man trying to come to terms with ageing and dementia in The Father; and Steven Yeun for his role in Minari, about a Korean family who start a farm in 1980s Arkansas.

Black Panther star Boseman, who died of cancer in August, aged 43, is considered to be the frontrunner for his performance as an ambitious trumpeter in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, after being honoured at the Golden Globes and the Critics Choice Awards.

Andra Day as Billie Holiday in The United States vs Billie Holiday. Pic: Paramount Pictures Corporation/ Sky UK Image: Andra Day receives an acting nod for her debut role in The United States vs Billie Holiday. Pic: Paramount Pictures Corporation/Sky UK Chadwick Boseman's final screen performance in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. Pic: Netflix Image: Chadwick Boseman’s final screen performance was in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Pic: Netflix

As well as Davis, the nominees in the best actress category are Carey Mulligan, who plays a woman seeking vengeance in Promising Young Woman; Vanessa Kirby for her role in Pieces Of A Woman, about a mother grappling with her emotions after a home birth ends in tragedy; Frances McDormand for her portrayal of a woman embarking on a journey through the American West in Nomadland; and Andra Day, who scores a nomination for her debut acting role as Billie Holiday in The United States vs Billie Holiday.

In the supporting actor category, Baron Cohen is nominated for The Trial Of The Chicago 7; Leslie Odom Jr for One Night In Miami; Paul Raci for Sound Of Metal; and Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield, both for Judas And The Black Messiah.

Vanessa Kirby as Martha in Pieces Of A Woman. Pic: Benjamin Loeb / Netflix Image: Vanessa Kirby as Martha in Pieces Of A Woman. Pic: Benjamin Loeb / Netflix Olivia Colman and Anthony Hopkins in The Father. Pic: Lionsgate Image: Olivia Colman and Anthony Hopkins in The Father. Pic: Lionsgate

Kaluuya, 32, has already won a Golden Globe and scored BAFTA and Screen Actors Guild Award nominations for his stirring performance in Judas And The Black Messiah, which tells the story of civil rights activist and Black Panther deputy chairman Fred Hampton, and is now considered a frontrunner to take home the Academy Award as well.

On the supporting actress shortlist alongside Seyfried are: Maria Bakalova, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm; Glenn Close, Hillbilly Elegy; Colman, The Father; and Yuh-Jung Youn, Minari.

The nominations were revealed by Priyanka Chopra Jonas and her Nick Jonas on Monday morning in the US, shortly after midday in the UK.

It has been a strange year for film, with many releases delayed due to the COVID-19 crisis. Despite us hearing much buzz about them in the UK, several of the nominated titles – including Nomadland, Promising Young Woman and Sound Of Metal – are still waiting to be made available over here.

This year’s ceremony has also been delayed by the pandemic and is now scheduled to take place from two different locations on Sunday 25 April.

British actor Daniel Kaluuya was quite literally the only man for the job. Pic: Judas and the Black Messiah/Warner Bros Image: British actor Daniel Kaluuya is a frontrunner for best supporting actor. Pic: Judas and the Black Messiah/Warner Bros

Analysis: This year’s nominations feel more in touch with the viewing public than in many previous years

By arts and entertainment editor Amy Hitchcock

It’s wonderful to see such a great display of British actors nominated for this year’s Academy Awards – from the old guard of Gary Oldman and Sir Anthony Hopkins to first-time nominees Emerald Fennell, Riz Ahmed and Vanessa Kirby, and the favourites whose stellar talent has before been recognised by the Academy, including Olivia Colman, Daniel Kaluuya, Sacha Baron Cohen and Carey Mulligan.

This year, it feels for once like there is something for everyone.

Unlike all previous years in the Oscars’ 92-year history, rather than enjoy these films at the cinema, many of them helped – along with a gargantuan amount of other content – to get us through lockdown as we watched them on streaming platforms from the comfort of our homes. So it’s fascinating to see such a shift from the studio power of old, with 35 nods for Netflix and 12 for Amazon Prime Video. Tragic for cinemas, but arguably convenient if nothing else for the consumer.

It’s not insignificant that Emerald Fennell and Chloe Zhao occupy two spots in the best firector list. Only five women have ever been nominated in that category, so if either win it would be a historic moment for women behind the camera – at a time when the power shift in Hollywood still feels like slow progress, almost four years since the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke.

And five years since the #OscarsSoWhite controversy dominated the awards, this year it seems the changes the Academy has made to its voting membership are starting to make a difference. While Mank, which leads the nominations with 10, is your typical Oscar contender – black and white, stylised, a film about Hollywood – a more interesting mix from Minari to Judas And The Black Messiah and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom make for an awards ceremony that feels more in touch with the viewing public than in many previous years.

My predictions for the winners? I’ve not seen them all but I’ll stick my neck out to hazard a guess that the late Chadwick Boseman will win best actor and his co-star, Viola Davis, will be named best actress. If she wins, she will become only the second black woman in history to take the prize; the first was Halle Berry, for Monster’s Ball almost 20 years ago in 2002.

I predict Daniel Kaluuya for best supporting actor for Judas And The Black Messiah, while best supporting actress could go to Amanda Seyfried for Mank (meaning Glenn Close would miss out again!) Best film will probably go to Mank, although if previous years are to be heeded, the Academy has form for going against the expected in that category – remember Moonlight’s win over La La Land, the Hurt Locker over Avatar, and Parasite last year.

So who knows who will win? Making them predictable takes the fun out of it.