When the Oscar nominations were announced, my biggest takeaways were the diversity of the nominations. Two females were nominated for Best Director, with Chloé Zhao being the first woman of color nominated as director. So, now we’re up to only seven females ever nominated for director. Progress, but not much.
Concerning progress, or lack of it, what about Regina King for her marvelous directing of One Night in Miami, a film that got close to being shut out of the major categories, with the exception of Adapted Screenplay and Leslie Odom Jr. getting nominated for Best Supporting Actor. King’s direction in One Night in Miami is stellar and definitely one of the best things about the film. The way she highlights each of the four actors in their own way while keeping an eye on the overall storytelling is unexcelled. But, yet, the Academy chose to nominate the director for the Danish film, Another Round, Thomas Vinterberg, in her place, or in what should have been her place. Another Round deserves its Best International Film nomination but not nominating King as Best Director is a major oversight. One Night in Miami was also left off the Best Picture list of nominations as well.
Speaking of snubs, let’s talk about Da 5 Bloods also being shut out. NO major nominations. Only Best Original Score. This is one of my top films of the year. I feel this is Spike Lee’s tour-de-force, one of the best films he’s directed in his long career. Like One Night in Miami, Da 5 Bloods is a stunning piece of ensemble acting that is carefully and meticulously filmed in the hands of expert Lee. Each of the major characters evolves slowly, unraveling their individual stories in collaboration of the story as a whole. It’s a masterpiece in filmmaking, yet the Academy didn’t deem it worthy of any major nominations.
Let’s move onto The Mauritanian, a powerful movie featuring a great performance by Jodie Foster. She won the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress but was snubbed for the Oscar. Why? Well, in the Best Supporting Actress Oscar category, Glenn Close’s nomination for Hillbilly Elegy could have been the slot for Jodie Foster. Close’s performance is by far the best thing in the Hillbilly Elegy. But, the film is a highly flawed, mediocre, troubled adaptation of a great book. The Mauritanian is a strong film with an excellent performance by Foster. Was she robbed for Close being rewarded? Did the Academy decide to honor Close, a seven-time Oscar nominee (now eight) but never a winner in lieu of two-time Oscar winner Foster? Maybe…! Another phenomenal performance in The Mauritanian is Tahar Rahim, a French actor of Algerian descent who steals the show (sometimes even from Foster!) as a Mohamedou Ould Slahi, the real-life Mauritanian held in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp for 14 years without being charged with a crime. Both performances on their own would make this movie a must-see. The fact that it’s also a taut, well-paced legal drama makes it a very strong film indeed!
So, let’s focus on what the nominations did include. I already mentioned the two female Best Director nominations, Chloe Zhao for Nomadland and Emerald Fennell for Promising Young Woman. Fennell is the first female director ever nominated for a debut film. Also in the Director category is Minari’s Lee Issac Chung, who is of Korean descent.
The Best Actor category is even more diverse. Riz Ahmed from The Sound of Metal is only the second actor nominated of Indian descent (the first being Ben Kingsley for Gandhi). Minari’s Steven Yeun is the first Asian American nominated for Best Actor. And, of course, there’s Chadwick Boseman’s posthumous nomination for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. In the Best Supporting Actor category, three of the five nominees are Black: Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield for Judas and the Black Messiah and Leslie Odom Jr. for One Night in Miami.
In the Best Actress category, Viola Davis for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and Andra Day for The United States vs. Billie Holiday are both African American. And in the Best Supporting Actress category, only South Korean Yuh-Jung Youn from Minari brings any diversity of color.
What does all of this mean? It means the Academy has made progress. But, not enough! Want more? Join me, Cecilia, as I review the best and the worst of Hollywood in the very strange year of 2020.
The Oscars telecast is scheduled for Sunday, April 25, at 7pm.