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Many Firsts & Records Among the 2021 Oscar Nominees!

03-15-2021 by Katie Marzullo

  ( © Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)  


The 2020 pandemic put a lot of things on hold, not the least of which were big, flashy, epic Hollywood blockbusters – the kinds of movies that seem tailor-made to win Oscars. This allowed other, smaller, independent, and more diverse films to rise and grab the acclaim that they may have otherwise been overlooked for in the large wake of big studio pictures. To that end, this year’s Oscar nominations feature an array of talent that could have easily gotten lost in the shuffle, but with the big studio noise muffled, these voices can finally be heard.


A lot of firsts and records were made with this year’s nominations, scoring a big win for diversity at the Oscars. Let’s break down some of the biggest ones!


- This year marks the first year in Oscars history that TWO women have been nominated for Best Director. Emerald Fennell lands a nod for her intense hit Promising Young Woman, and Chloé Zhao joins her for her film Nomadland. In addition, Chloé becomes the first WoC to be nominated for Best Director.


- Viola Davis lands her 4th acting nomination, this time for Best Actress for her role in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. She not only becomes the first Black woman to be nominated for an acting Oscar four times, she is also the first Black woman to be nominated twice for Best Actress. Seems hard to believe, but it’s true!


- Over on the men’s side of things, Riz Ahmed makes history as the first Muslim to be nominated for Best Actor (and only the 4th to be nominated in any acting category), for his role in Sound of Metal. In addition, Steven Yeun, noticeably snubbed at the Golden Globes, becomes the first Asian-American man nominated for Best Actor, for his acclaimed role in Minari. Yeun’s co-star Youn Yuh-jung was also recognized in the Supporting Actress category; a year after every Korean actor from Best Picture winner Parasite were shut out, this nicely makes up for it. All told, PoCs outnumber white actors 3 to 2 in the Best Actor category and 4 to 1 in the Best Supporting Actor category.


Some other interesting tidbits to note:


- Chadwick Boseman posthumously receives his first ever Oscar nomination, a Lead Actor nod for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. In Oscars history, a total of 9 actors have been nominated posthumously, and out of those 9, only 2 (Peter Finch and Heath Ledger) have actually won. Chadwick’s chances are just as good as anyone else’s, even against powerhouses like Anthony Hopkins and Gary Oldman in the mix. The Academy is nothing if not traditional and conservative, though, so I would not be surprised to see Hopkins or Oldman take home the prize, but honestly this should be a race between Chadwick, Riz, and Steven, full stop.


- Singer Andra Day, in her first major acting role as the titular legend in The United States vs. Billie Holiday, now finds herself an Oscar nominee. How’s that for a rookie season?!


- Sacha Baron Cohen receives his first ever acting nomination, and no, sadly, it was not for Borat – it was for The Trial of the Chicago 7. Sacha has been nominated once before, though, for Adapted Screenplay for the first Borat film. He gains another nomination in the same category for the Subsequent Moviefilm.


- Borat was not left wanting in the acting categories altogether, though – Cohen’s co-star, Maria Bakalova, who arguably stole the whole movie out from under its creator, landed a nomination for Best Supporting Actress! Very niiiice!


- Joining Ms. Bakalova with her first nomination as well is the amazing Amanda Seyfried, who was recognized for her work as legendary movie star Marion Davies in Mank. I’ve spoken at length before about how the Academy looooves a good cosplay, especially if it’s one of their own, so Amanda has more than a fair shot thanks to her embodiment of Hollywood royalty.


- Remember Eurovision Song Contest? It seems like a hundred years ago but that movie actually came out last June, and as such it qualifies for the Academy Awards. Where, you may ask? It’s obvious – Best Original Song! Sigrit and Lars might have gone home empty-handed (spoiler alert!), but perhaps a nice shiny Oscar can make up for it!


Check out the full list of nominees here.


The 93rd Academy Awards will air on April 25 on ABC!