“Mank,” David Fincher’s black-and-white ode to “Citizen Kane,” comfortably led this year’s Oscars nominations Monday with 10 nods including for best picture and best director, as female filmmakers and streamers smashed Academy records. The Netflix reimagining of Hollywood’s Golden Age was far ahead of the competition following the announcement, which saw six films receive six nominations apiece including US road movie “Nomadland” and anti-Vietnam War courtroom drama “The Trial of the Chicago 7.”
In a year that saw a record 70 women nominated, there were directing nods for Chloe Zhao (“Nomadland”) and Emerald Fennell (“Promising Young Woman”) — the first year the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has ever selected multiple women in the category. The nominations narrow the field to the final hopefuls for April 25, the latest-ever date for Hollywood’s award season-capping spectacle which has been transformed and delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Zhao is the first woman of color ever nominated as director, while Aaron Sorkin (“Chicago 7”) had to settle for a screenplay nomination after missing out to the likes of Fincher and Danish director Thomas Vinterberg (“Another Round.”)
The Academy awarded a historically diverse field, including six nods to civil rights drama “Judas and the Black Messiah” featuring Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield, and a first Asian-American best actor nod for Steven Yuen in Korean-American immigrant drama “Minari.” The other films tied in second with six nominations were Amazon’s “Sound of Metal,” about a rock drummer who loses his hearing, and harrowing dementia chronicle “The Father”-which saw former winner Anthony Hopkins bag a sixth career acting nod.
Ahead of the nominations announcement, Academy president David Rubin confirmed this year’s Oscars would be broadcast from Los Angeles’ cavernous Union Station as well as its traditional Dolby Theatre home in Hollywood. Celebrity couple Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Nick Jonas then read out the nominees in a live-stream from London.
‘Used to streaming’
No streaming film has ever won the Academy’s most prestigious prize-best picture. But with most US movie theaters closed all year due to COVID, several big-screen studio blockbusters skipped their 2020 releases entirely, leaving an eclectic field of hopefuls that favored the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime. Netflix dominated the nominations Monday, earning 35 stabs at glory, smashing its own record of 24 set last year. It earned multiple nods with 1920s blues drama “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” which saw Chadwick Boseman land a rare posthumous best actor nomination following his death from cancer last August.
Boseman missed out on a second, supporting acting nod for Spike Lee’s “Da 5 Bloods,” also from Netflix. Rival Amazon Prime broke its own record with 12 nods, including three nominations for another civil rights-themed movie, “One Night in Miami,” and two for comedy “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.” Appropriately, with Hollywood’s private screening rooms and glitzy film campaign events shuttered, even Oscar voters watched nearly all the 366 contenders via the Academy’s own online streaming platform.
“We are almost used to streaming now,” said one member of the Academy, which has traditionally championed the big-screen experience. “It’s quite incredible what can happen within a year.” New streamers Disney+ and Apple earned their first-ever Oscar nominations. But for top prize, streamers will still need to get past presumed best picture frontrunner “Nomadland,” which has dominated early festival and award season prizes including the Golden Globes.
The intimate US road movie comes from Searchlight-the arthouse distributor now owned by Disney which has steered the likes of “The Shape of Water” and “Birdman” to recent Oscars glory. Its director Zhao is the first woman to receive four nominations in a single year-also earning nods for editing, screenplay and as a producer-and Frances McDormand contends for best actress.
‘Areas of fluidity’
“Contagion” director Steven Soderbergh will produce this year’s pandemic-struck Oscars, which relaxed eligibility criteria to admit more streaming titles and movies released in early 2021. While locations are now confirmed, precise details of the ceremony will depend on local COVID restrictions in Los Angeles, where movie theaters are among indoor businesses set to reopen at limited capacity this week after a brutal winter COVID-19 spike. Unlike last year, clear frontrunners are yet to emerge in the acting categories, with Variety film awards editor Clayton Davis noting that there are many “areas of fluidity.”
“Borat” co-star Maria Bakalova, who was nominated Monday, has become “a darling of this year’s quarantine campaign trail,” he wrote. Viola Davis (“Ma Rainey”) was also picked alongside McDormand, Carey Mulligan for “Promising Young Woman” and Andra Day for “The United States vs Billie Holiday.” Along with Boseman and Hopkins, the lead actor category was rounded out by Riz Ahmed (“Sound of Metal”), Gary Oldman (“Mank”) and Steven Yeun (“Minari.”) – AFP