The 2021 Oscars are happening and I agree that it feels weird to say out loud.
Even with a thousand reasons not to, I'm still going to be excited for the Oscars and especially so this year. With the running joke of "wait...there were movies last year" still embedding into conversation, if this year's ceremony can shine some light on some great films, who am I to say no to that?
It's certainly a bit more interesting given what 2020 forced the Academy to do: expanding their eligibility period to February, growing the membership more than before and realizing that streaming services, for better or worse, were going to be crucial in getting more eyes on more screeners.
But with every series of announcements comes a bit of a whiplash. There's the heavily marketed and campaigned "Oscar bait," the underdogs who you can't help but cheer for and, of course, the good old snubs we all like to argue about until we're blue in the face. So, after pouring over the nominees again, I wanted to go through just a few of the surprises, snubs and genuine satisfactions of the 2021 Academy Award nominations.
Let's get to it, shall we?
Snub: No Delroy Lindo for Best Actor?
Photo Credit: Netflix – YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5RDTPfsLAI
Between the dozens of Best of 2020 lists it's popped up on (including my own), 'Da 5 Bloods' has maintained a pretty consistent, if not tempered, following into awards season. For a lot of awards pundits, that momentum seemed most likely to manifest in a Best Actor nominee for Delroy Lindo's performance as the eccentric de facto leader of the titular "five bloods."
Lindo hasn't gone into awards season empty-handed, having garnered Critics Choice, Black Reel and Satellite nominations for his performance. However, his chances looked to be slimming between the other nominees and a lack of attention from major awards bodies like the BAFTA's and the SAG Awards (the latter of which shares the exact same Best Actor lineup). That all culminated on Monday where the Academy seemingly never got the memo and left the film (with one notable exception we'll get to) out in cold, including Lindo's lead performance.
Lindo's snub isn't so much angering as it is disappointing. He's been a critical darling for decades and 'Da 5 Blood's seemed primed early in the year for awards dominance if Netflix had properly marketed it. If it were up to me, I would have swapped him out with Gary Oldman in 'Mank.' That's to say Oldman doesn't deserve it, but he's also had a bit of a tiresome vice grip on the Best Actor category in the last few years. Meanwhile, Lindo has never been nominated and frankly gave the more fearless, heart-wrenching and dynamic performance between the two.
Surprise: 'Judas and the Black Messiah' gets dual Best Supporting Actor nominations
Phot Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures – YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ivHf4ODMi4
Does this mean Jesse Plemons was the lead in 'Judas and the Black Messiah' the whole time? I suppose if you take the Academy for their word, it does.
The Oscar voting system is, to be kind about it, weird, and can lead to outcomes like this where Film Twitter scratches their heads in annoyance. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the split between lead and supporting acting performances, where split votes in the acting branches of the academy can lead to nominees being put into their opposite categories (Christian Bale in 'The Fighter,' Forest Whitaker in 'The Last King of Scotland,' etc.)
Daniel Kaluuya almost certainly looked like an easy lock for a Supporting Actor nomination, between his wins at the SAG and Golden Globe Awards and his previous nomination for 2017's 'Get Out.' As for LaKeith Stanfield, his jump to the Supporting Actor race looks to have stemmed from gaining substantial votes in the aforementioned supporting category, but lacking enough to qualify for Best Actor. As someone who loved the film and both of their performances in the film, I can't be too mad at the recognition, even if it's a bit of a headscratcher.
Satisfaction: Paul Raci for Best Supporting Actor!
Photo Credit: Amazon Prime Video – YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFOrGkAvjAE
(Click here for my review of 'Sound of Metal')
Look, at the end of the day, I knew that it was near-impossible that both Paul Raci AND the late Brian Dennehy would get Best Supporting Actor nominations, so let's talk about the former before I go watch 'Driveways' again and cry, shall we?
Excuse me if I really thought there was going to be more competition in this category. 'Minari's Alan Kim and 'The Little Things' Jared Leto had the Golden Globe buzz that threw predictions to the wind, Bo Burnham's performance from 'Promising Young Woman' was getting increased attention, and there didn't seem to be one performance to pin down from either 'The Trial of the Chicago 7' or 'One Night in Miami.'
But then came Paul Raci's name as the fourth nominee and I couldn't have been happier. He's been racking up a ton of critics circle awards, along with nominations from the BAFTA's, Critics Choice and the Independent Spirit Awards and for good reason. If Riz Ahmed is the heart of 'Sound of Metal' (thankfully nominated as well), Paul Raci is the soul and he does so much to give the film the weight it deserves. At this point, it's probably Daniel Kaluuya's race to lose, but Raci provides a very interesting competitor that I'm just happy is getting due recognition.
Snub: 'Ma Rainey's Black Bottom' and 'Mank' excluded from Screenplay nominations
Photo Credit: Netflix – YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ord7gP151vk
I'm looping these together because they're both screenplay snubs that don't quite add up.
The five nominations for George C. Wolfe's 'Ma Rainey's Black Bottom' are certainly nothing to scoff at, including Best Actress and Actor for Viola Davis and the late Chadwick Boseman respectively. But I didn't realize until the announcements were finished that Ruben Santiago-Hudson's screenplay (based on the late August Wilson's stage play of the same name) wasn't nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Considering Wilson's legacy in the theater/writing worlds and how well-received 'Fences' (which was also adapted from Wilson's work) was with the Academy just a few years ago, it's a bit shocking that 'The White Tiger' and 'Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm' got nominations over it.
Then there's 'Mank,' another huge win for Netflix as the most nominated film of the year. Ten nominations, including for Best Picture, Best Director for David Fincher, and the aforementioned Best Actor for Gary Oldman with one bizarre omission: no nomination for Best Original Screenplay, which would have gone to Fincher's late father, Jack Fincher.
Again, this isn't typical of the Academy to pass off nominating a movie about a Hollywood screenwriter for...well...screenwriting, especially if you're going to give it every other bit of praise you can. The prestige around these screenplays (both of which I think could have easily made the cut) seems like a no-brainer, and yet, in a year where anything could happen, these nominations didn't.
Surprise: 'Da 5 Bloods' gets single nomination...for Best Original Score?
Photo Credit: Netflix – YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QbuzPeSaDVw
This is that "one notable exception" I mentioned earlier regarding 'Da 5 Bloods.' When Terrence Blanchard's name came up, I was shocked, with my first thought being "this is one of the earlier announcements, could 'Da 5 Bloods' be getting it's due?" Sadly, that wasn't the case, but it still meant that Best Original Score didn't go quite as pundit were predicting.
The big name that got swept under the rug was Alexandre Desplat's elegantly blissful score for George Clooney's 'The Midnight Sky.' Desplat is a favorite with the Academy, with 11 nominations and two wins behind him. There was also a lot of buzz for Ludwig Goransson's work on 'Tenet' and Daniel Pemberton's score for 'The Trial of the Chicago 7' (though the latter did nab a Best Original Song nomination "Hear My Voice" with Celeste).
***(Personally I was vying for William Tyler's score on 'First Cow,' which for better or worse got shut out entirely)
As for Terrence Blanchard, he's been one of Spike Lee's most consistent collaborators since the '90s, even earning his first Oscar nomination just a few years ago for Lee's 'BlacKkKlansman.' I guess I was surprised because no other major awards body had recognized Blanchard's work this year, especially given how prevalent other music frontrunners were looking. That said, Blanchard's score on 'Da 5 Bloods' really turns up the scale and energy of the film; if we can only get one nomination for the film, I'll take this in a heartbeat and am glad to see him getting his due.
Satisfaction: 'A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon' sneaks into Best Animated Feature!
Photo Credit: Shaun the Sheep – YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YxRUSAIYieA
It's simple math: if I'm writing about Oscar season, I will inevitably talk about Best Animated Feature. There looked to be three locks right off the back: Pixar's 'Soul' and Cartoon Salon's 'Wolfwalkers' have garnered copious amounts of acclaim (and both making waves for streaming with Disney Plus and Apple TV Plus respectively). In addition, Netflix's 'Over the Moon' had a lot of industry veterans attached and a pretty significant marketing push, so that looked to be a safe bet as well.
The last two could have been anything, between Pixar's 'Onward' (which would wind up being the fourth nominee), Dreamworks' 'The Croods: A New Age' and 'Trolls: World Tour,' Netflix's 'The Willoughby's,' and Studio Ghibli's 'Earwig and the Witch' just to name a few. But the actual fifth spot on the list turned out to be *the black sheep of the bunch.
(*that's right, I did the pun and no one but my editors can stop me!)
Aardman Animations 'A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon' snuck in, giving the stop-motion legends their fourth Oscar nomination. The funny thing is that I completely forgot this movie came out this year and, when it was announced, my brain stopped working for a minute thinking "oh my goodness, that WAS last year, wasn't it!" It's always exciting to see stop-motion animation getting recognized by the Academy and I think 'Shaun the Sheep' is absolutely deserving to be part of that crowd.
What were your reactions to the recent Oscar announcements? What got snubbed, what will the ceremony be like and could 'Mank' win it all?
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