Commentary: The Oscars are more diverse than ever opening the door for history to be made

Commentary: Preview of the most diverse Oscars ever

“Mank” leads the Oscar nominations with 10, after a tumultuous year for the movie industry.
Published: April 20, 2021
Alternative Text
Movies like "Mank," "The Sound of Metal” and "Nomadland" are poised to make history at the 2021 Oscars on April 25.

After years of critics calling out the Academy for a lack of diversity, this year’s nominations are the most diverse in history and feature many firsts.

Chloe Zhao is the first woman of color nominated in the directing category and if she wins in the four categories she is nominated in for her film Nomadland then, she will win the most number of Oscars by any woman at a single ceremony. Alongside her in the directing category is Emerald Fennell for her movie Promising Young Woman making it the first time two women have been nominated in the category. Furthermore, Steven Yeun (Minari) is the first Asian American to be nominated for best actor and Riz Ahmed (The Sound of Metal) is the first Muslim nominated in the category.

Additionally, this past year saw the prevalence of digital releases as movie theaters were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Five of the best picture nominations were released on streaming services. The Movies Borat Subsequent Movie and One Night in Miami were nominated in other categories, cementing streaming services in the Academy’s scope.

 

Alternative Text
"Nomadland" is nominated for six Oscars including Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Director, Best Adapted of a Screenplay, Best Cinematography and Best Film Editing.

Nomadland

This is probably my favorite movie of the year. It does an exceptional job at taking a realistic look at the lifestyle of a modern nomad – a person living out of their van. Rather than being plot-driven, this movie is heavily character-driven, playing into the strength of Frances McDormand. There were so many moments where I forgot this was not a documentary as the dialogue and performances seemed so authentic. This is partially because they hired actual van dwellers such as Bob Wells. There’s a beautiful monologue from one of the characters, Swankie, in which she describes that she has a terminal illness and how she remembers a flock of swallows flying around her. The cinematography does an excellent job giving intimate, uncut shots of the individuals as they speak allowing the viewer to truly see into the character’s soul and emotions.

In my mind, Nomadland should win Best Picture, though I do not think it will. Rather I think it will win best directing or best cinematography. McDormand may also take home Best Actress.

Mank

Mank is a phenomenal movie about the writer of the classic film Citizen Kane. Director David Fincher does a great job telling the story of the very interesting and, to some, polarizing individual Herman Mankiewicz, but you can just call him Mank. There are so many references to early film history and the politics/culture of the time — which I loved, but can definitely be seen as pretentious. Gary Oldman does a phenomenal job portraying the witty, perpetually drunk Mank as he makes friends and enemies in early Hollywood. By the end, you learn to love the man for being self-aware and also willing to stand up against the big man. Fincher effectively tells the story through flashbacks and the use of black and white helps put the viewer in that setting. I’m not sure what, or even if, Mank will win in terms of Oscars as it’s a good overall movie but nothing truly stands out relative to other nominees in the 10 categories Mank received a nomination.

Alternative Text
Alternative Text
"Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom" is nominated for 5 Oscars including Best Actor and Actress, Best Production Design, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, and Best Costume Design.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

If you want to some phenomenal acting look no further than Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Tensions rise between characters played by Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman in this film based on a play that depicts a band’s recording session in the 1920s. Davis and Boseman give phenomenal performances that warrant Oscar wins. The movie struggles with its plot as it is heavily carried by the performances and the dialogue that tackles issues of race head-on. It is likely that both Best Actor and Actress go to this film and Boseman and Davis respectively. If they do win and Daniel Kaluuya/Leslie Odom Jr. and Yuh-Jung Youn win supporting actor and actress, it would be the first time in history that all four awards go to people of color.

Alternative Text
"Sound of Medal" is nominated for six Oscars including Best Actor, Best Original Screenplay, Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor, Best Film Editing, Best Sound.

Sound of Metal

The Sound of Metal is probably the best movie about the deaf community ever made. Riz Ahmed does a great job portraying a drummer who loses his hearing and the frustration that manifests. The film follows Ahmed’s character as he is separated from his girlfriend to join a rehabilitation community for deaf people and his journey back to her. Sound of Metal should get the Oscar for sound as it seems to do a great job showing the viewer what it’s like to be deaf creating empathy with the deaf characters.

Best Picture

I think Best Picture will either go to Minari or Judas and the Black Messia as both films have been critically acclaimed and are very thematically on point in terms of race and class in America. It’s just difficult for me to see something other than those two winning after the year of Black Lives Matter protests and amid the trial over the killing of George Floyd.

Avatar for Toby Craner

is a newspaper and online journalism and political philosophy junior. He is a digital producer for The NewsHouse. He is also in Army ROTC.