After a completely crazy year, where the coronavirus forced most movie theaters to shut down — and the Oscars voting window was extended by two months — it was mostly business as usual at the 93rd annual Academy Awards nominations.
“Mank,” a black-and-white drama from Netflix about the making of “Citizen Kane,” led the pack with 10 nominations. After that, Oscar voters shared the wealth, as six films received six nominations: “The Father,” “Judas and the Black Messiah,” “Minari,” “Nomadland,” “Sound of Metal” and “The Trial of the Chicago 7.”
For decades, the Oscars have failed to nominate worthy female directors in the best director category. But on Monday morning, history was made: two women directors — Chloe Zhao (“Nomadland”) and Emerald Fennell (“Promising Young Woman”) — were nominated together in the category for the first time ever. Both films received best picture nods, the third time two female-helmed titles have been recognized in the top category.
For her acclaimed turn as the titular character in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” Viola Davis made history as the Black woman with the most acting nominations (with four) and the first Black woman to be nominated in best actress twice. This year also marks only the second time two Black women were nominated for best actress, thanks to a nomination for Andra Day’s scorching work in “The United States Vs. Billie Holiday.” The last time that happened was in 1973, when Diana Ross — who played Holiday in a more conventional biopic, “Lady Sings the Blues” — was nominated alongside Cicely Tyson (“Sounder”).
Here, Variety breaks down the biggest snubs and surprises of the 2021 Oscar nominations.
SNUB: Regina King for directing “One Night in Miami”
King would have been the first Black woman nominated for best director for making “One Night in Miami,” a critically-acclaimed drama that centers on a fictional conversation in 1964 between Malcolm X, Cassius Clay, Jim Brown and Sam Cooke. The Amazon Studios release, which received strong reviews out of last fall’s Venice Film Festival, didn’t get a best picture nomination either.
SNUB: Aaron Sorkin for directing “The Trial of the Chicago 7”
Aaron Sorkin’s drama about the activists who were arrested for protesting at the 1968 Democratic National Convention proved to be a major Oscar contender for Netflix, earning six nominations. But although Sorkin picked up a screenwriting nod (the fourth of his career in the category), he didn’t get his first Oscar nomination for directing.
SNUB: Delroy Lindo, “Da 5 Bloods”
Lindo had failed to snag a nomination from the most visible organizations (Globes, SAG and Spirit Awards), but he was said to have tons of critical support — and there was a hope a groundswell would land the actor his first Academy Award nomination. In the end, the category was just too competitive.
SNUB: Jodie Foster, “The Mauritanian”
Although she won the Golden Globe — while in her pajamas — for best supporting actress for playing defense attorney Nancy Hollander in the indie drama, the Oscars showed no love for Foster. Her last Oscar nomination (of the four she’s received for acting) was in 1995 for “Nell.” And “The Mauritanian,” which was a late release in the extended voting year, was completely snubbed by the Academy.
SNUB: Dominique Fishback, “Judas and the Black Messiah”
In many ways, Shaka King’s powerful film exceeded expectations, landing in big categories like best picture and original screenplay, and the surprise nomination for LaKeith Stanfield in supporting (alongside his co-star, Daniel Kaluuya) gave hope that Fishback might be recognized for her work as Deborah Johnson (now Akua Njeri). Earning a BAFTA nomination last week led some to speculate an Oscar nomination would follow. But while the supporting actress category had some surprises in store, it was ultimately too crowded.
SNUB: Helena Zengel, “News of the World”
Zengel nabbed both a Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild nomination for going toe-to-toe with Tom Hanks in “News of the World.” But the 12-year-old newcomer just missed out on an Oscar nomination. Paul Greengrass’ western epic earned four nominations in below-the-line categories — for production design, cinematography, original score and sound (but it lost out in the big categories such as best picture and best adapted screenplay).
SNUB: “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” for Best Picture
It was always going to be an uphill battle getting The Academy to recognize a comedy film, especially one as conventional as the “Borat” sequel. Still, after winning the Golden Globe for best picture, musical or comedy, and snagging a PGA nomination, there was hope that “Borat” might beat the odds. Ultimately, it wasn’t meant to be, but “Borat” still came out on top, with nominations for supporting actress Maria Bakalova and the adapted screenplay.
SNUB: “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” for best picture
Among the five nominations for “Ma Rainey,” both Chadwick Boseman and Viola Davis were recognized in the acting categories. And yet, Oscar voters didn’t give this Netflix drama — produced by Denzel Washington and based on August Wilson’s celebrated 1982 play— a best picture nomination. (It also missed out an adapted screenplay nomination.)
SURPRISE: LaKeith Stanfield, “Judas and the Black Messiah”
Stanfield received strong reviews for his performance as FBI informant William O’Neal. But he’d been submitted in the lead actor category, while his co-star Daniel Kaluuya has been picking up awards in supporting. Ultimately, the Academy opted to place Stanfield in supporting too, and he landed his first Oscar nomination.
SURPRISE: Thomas Vinterberg, “Another Round”
Many thought the Oscar nominees for best director would match up with the DGA Award nominees announced last week. But the director’s branch often goes their own way, and there’s usually one wild card. While many knew Vinterberg was on the cusp thanks to his delicate hand with the acclaimed comedy-drama, it was still a surprise to see his name called, beating out the likes of Aaron Sorkin, Regina King and Shaka King.
SURPRISE: Paul Raci, “Sound of Metal”
Though he was a leader of critics’ awards, Raci struggled to find footing with the major awards shows –— both the SAG Awards and the Golden Globe Awards failed to nominate him for his subtle, touching performance as Joe, a deaf Vietnam Veteran who takes in Riz Ahmed’s Ruben to his commune. But in the end, the 72-year-old character actor landed his first Academy Award nomination for best supporting actor.