After a two month pandemic-induced delay, the OSCARS will happen this SUNDAY NIGHT April 25 at 8 p.m. (ET/5 p.m. PT) on ABC. The 93rd annual Academy Awards honors all things movies! I have reported live from THE red carpet over the course of 20 years as the A & E Anchor for WBZ-TV (CBS- BOSTON). This year, I will once again be tweeting live from my living room as the first “in-person” pandemic awards show unfolds. According to Oscar producer Steven Soderbergh, this year’s show will be an “intimate, in-person event at Union Station in Los Angeles, with additional show elements live from the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.” No one will be zooming in!
Leading the pack with 10 nominations is Best Picture nominee Mank, a film I admired but found exhausting. Six other Best Picture nominees follow with 6 nominations apiece: The Father, Judas and the Black Messiah, Minari, Nomadland, Sound of Metal and The Trial of the Chicago 7.
This is the most diverse list of nominees with 9 out of 20 acting nominations going to nominees of ethnic minority backgrounds. The late Chadwick Boseman is the odds-on favorite to win Best Actor posthumously for his final role, a searing performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom opposite Best Actress nominee Viola Davis– the most nominated black actress ever– in another stunning performance in the title role. Steven Yeun is the first Asian-American actor nominated for Best Actor in the bittersweet Minari alongside Best Supporting Actress nominee Yuh-Jung Youn the first South Korean actress to be nominated. British actor Riz Ahmed is the first actor of Pakistani descent to earn an Oscar nomination and the first Muslim to be nominated for Best Actor. Ahmed opens our eyes and ears in the illuminating Best Picture nominee Sound of Metal, an extraordinary hidden gem you must see; it will absolutely change the way you take in the world. Ahmed’s co-star Paul Raci is also nominated as Best Supporting Actor for his warmly received standout performance as an addiction counselor whose humanity is grounded in self-discipline and lived experience.
Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield are each nominated for Best Supporting Actor (why not Best Actor?) as Black Panther party leader Fred Hampton and government infiltrator Bill O’Neal who betrayed him in Judas and the Black Messiah. The first Best Picture nominee with an all-black cast of producers, resurrects and illuminates the ongoing fight for racial equality in the harsh glare of contemporary hindsight.
Women are also making waves with 2 of 5 nominations in the Best Director category. Front runner for Best Director Chloe Zhao is the first Chinese woman and first woman of color to be nominated in this category for Nomadland which is also the front runner for Best Picture. Its star, the even more marvelous than usual Frances McDormand, is also the front runner for Best Actress. But these nominations have incurred some blowback from China which has chosen not to air the Oscar telecast live in Hong Kong for the first time in more than 50 years. There may be concern that Zhao’s past criticism of China along with the nomination of two other films from China–the documentary short Do Not Split about the 2019 protests in Hong Kong and Better Days the front runner for Best International Feature–may afford potential winners a political platform to criticize China.
Then there’s British actress Emerald Fennell whose feature film directorial debut Promising Young Woman has earned her a Best Directing nomination. This provocative film stars Carey Mulligan in a sly & shocking performance as a traumatized young woman who preys on male predators in an effort to avenge a tragedy in her past. Both Fennell and Zhao are only the second and third women to be nominated for writing, directing, and producing a Best Picture nominee in the same year.
Finally check out Pieces of a Woman (not to be confused with Promising Young Woman) which earned a Best Actress nomination for its star Vanessa Kirby whose devastating performance outshines an underdeveloped script. Kirby plays a woman whose home birth ends in tragedy. The film’s riveting opening sequence induces equal parts anxiety and agony.
Follow me on Twitter @JoyceKulhawik and Facebook this Sunday night!!! Can’t wait.