The 2021 Oscars Are Already Making History With These Much-Deserved Nominations

Including huge nods for Viola Davis, Emerald Fennell, and Chloé Zhao.

The 93rd Academy Award nominations dropped this morning, March 15th, and the list of nominees shows that the Academy is trying hard to scrub the #OscarsSoWhite stain from its reputation. This year, the categories made history with their diversity, and save for a few snubs (Regina King’s lack of a Best Director nom for One Night in Miami is the most talked about), it’s clear that the Oscars are making the moves to modernize, and that makes us excited to watch this year’s show on Sunday, April 25th.

This year’s acting nominations are the most diverse in the Academy’s 100-year history.

Nine actors of color received nominations this year. Chadwick Boseman is posthumously up for Best Actor for his work in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom alongside Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal), and Steven Yeun (Minari), and in the Best Actress category, Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) competes with Andra Day (The United States v. Billie Holiday).

Youn Yuh-jung (Minari) is nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role and Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah), Lakeith Stanfield (Judas and the Black Messiah), and Leslie Odom Jr. (One Night in Miami) are up against each other in the Best Actor in a Supporting Role category.

70 women received Oscar nominations.

According to the Academy, per CNN, it broke its own record in giving 70 women a total of 76 nominations this year. These nominations span across all the Oscar categories including Best Picture and Best Director.

Viola Davis became the most-nominated Black actress.

Davis’ nomination for her role in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom makes her the most-nominated Black actress in Academy history. It’s her fourth Oscar nomination ever, and second Best Actress nomination, making her the only Black actress with two Oscar noms under her belt in that category.

Davis previously won the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for her role in 2017’s Fences. She and Octavia Spencer were tied with the most acting awards in the industry until Davis nailed this year’s nom for Ma Rainey’s.

Steven Yeun is the first Asian-American man to be nominated for Best Actor.

Korean-American actor Steven Yeun, who is perhaps best known for his role as Glenn Rhee on The Walking Dead, scored a Best Actor nomination for his role in Minari, making him the first-ever Asian-American actor to be nominated in the category.

Minari also picked up nominations for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Director, and, as mentioned, Best Supporting Actress.

Riz Ahmed is the first Muslim nominated for Best Actor.

English actor Riz Ahmed is the first-ever Muslim to be nominated for Best Actor and received his nomination for his starring role in Sound of Metal.

And not only has Ahmed’s nomination made history for the Islamic community, but he and Yeun are making history together—this is the first time two Asian actors have competed for the Best Actor Oscar in the same year. Ahmed is of Mujahir and Pakistani descent.

Chloé Zhao is the first Asian woman nominated for Best Director.

In fact, Zhao, who directed Nomadland starring Academy Award nominee for Best Actress Frances McDormand, is the first woman of color ever to the nominated in the category. Zhao, who is a Chinese filmmaker, took home the Best Director win at the 2021 Golden Globes.

This is the first time two Asian directors have gone head-to-head.

Zhao is competing in the Best Director category with Minari’s Lee Isaac Chung. This is the first time two directors of Asian descent are competing against each other in the Best Director category.

Last year, Parasite director Bong Joon-ho took home the Best Director award, making him and Ang Lee the only two Asian directors to ever win in the category.

This is the first time two women are competing for Best Director.

Zhao is joined in the Best Director nomination camp by Emerald Fennell, who earned the nom for Promising Young Woman, starring Oscar-nominated actress Carey Mulligan. Zhao and Fennell are only the sixth and seventh women ever nominated for Best Director.

Only one female director has take home an Oscar—Kathryn Bigelow in 2010 for The Hurt Locker. Both Nomadland and Promising Young Woman are also up for Best Picture.

The Best Picture category is perhaps the most diverse it’s ever been.

History was made in the category this year with two Asian-directed films (Minari and Nomadland), an all-Black produced film (Judas and the Black Messiah), two Asian-led films, (Minari and Sound of Metal), and two films directed by women (Promising Young Woman and Nomadland).

Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7, The Father starring Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman, and Netflix’s Mank starring Gary Oldman are also nominated in the category.

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