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Reactions to the 2021 Oscar Nominations

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the nominations for the 93rd annual Academy Awards this morning (view the entire list here), and there were a few fun surprises in the mix!

To start off, three movies that have played at Red River or through our Virtual Cinema are nominated: Emma. (Costume Design and Makeup & Hairstyling), Colectiv (Best Documentary Feature and Best International Feature), and Another Round (Best Director and Best International Feature). Of the Best Picture nominees, I’d like to think (if the pandemic hadn’t forced us to close our doors), we would have had theatrical runs for The Father, Minari, Sound of Metal and Nomadland (all of which earned six nominations), as well as Promising Young Woman (which earned five).

That didn’t happen, however, and as a result of the pandemic, movies released almost exclusively on streaming platforms ended up making the majority of the nominees. Of the eight Best Picture nominees five are currently available on streaming services: Judas and the Black Messiah is on HBO Max, Mank and The Trial of the Chicago 7 are on Netflix, Nomadland is on Hulu, and Sound of Metal is available through Amazon Prime Video. Both Minari and Promising Young Woman are available through various online video rental outlets, and The Father will also be available to rent later this month, on the 26th.

Of the Best Picture nominees, I was happiest to see both Promising Young Woman and Sound of Metal earn notices. Promising Young Woman in particular was a pleasant surprise, as the film balances dark comedy and drama in a way that some audiences have found hard to connect with. I thoroughly enjoyed the tonal shifts and plot twists, and found myself consistently surprised and impressed with writer/director Emerald Fennell’s confidence behind the camera.

I was also very excited to see the young actress Maria Bakalova nominated in the Best Supporting Actress category for Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, released on Amazon Prime Video. Buzz had been building around Bakalova since that film’s release, but if you’ve seen the film you may understand why that would seem like a longshot. She is hilarious in the movie, and manages to hold her own against Sacha Baron Cohen while pulling the wool over unsuspecting participants such as plastic surgeons, anti-abortion center workers, and (most famously) Rudy Guiliani. I’m glad the Academy recognizes the impressive work she was able to pull off in that film, which not only required her to be funny, but also build a relationship with Cohen’s Borat and convey a believable dramatic arc in a film whose narrative was crafted during production.

I’m glad to see my personal favorite feature film of 2020 – Wolfwalkers – get nominated for Best Animated Feature, though that wasn’t much of a surprise. The film is a true masterpiece of animation, filled with breathtaking visuals that use stylistic flourishes such as showing traces of outlines in the drawings to convey untamed wildness in its characters. I was also very happy to see Thomas Vinterberg get a Best Director nomination for Another Round, along with that film’s Best International Feature nod.

I found it amusing that Tenet received two nominations, though neither were for Best Sound. That film had a notoriously rough theatrical release, with numerous delays and an eventual rollout that included drive-ins and IMAX screens, and ended up taking in far less than had been expected, even considering it came out in the middle of a global pandemic. Many felt Christopher Nolan’s choice to make Tenet’s audio as loud and incomprehensible as possible was counterintuitive (particularly for a movie with seemingly complicated time travel logic), and that seems to have played out in it being overlooked for the Best Sound award.

It was disappointing to see Kirsten Johnson’s wonderful documentary Dick Johnson is Dead get snubbed in the Documentary Feature category. Speaking of snubbs, it’s kind of hard to believe Elisabeth Moss didn’t receive a nod for her captivating work in The Invisible Man, not to mention that film’s incredible direction and cinematography. For a film that had audiences enthralled at the start of last year it seems to have lost some steam in end-of-year discussions.

The Academy may have overlooked the screenplay for Palm Springs if enough members felt it was too much of a riff on Groundhog Day, and Bill Murray’s work in On the Rocks may have felt too much like Bill Murray being Bill Murray. Both those films are well worth watching, however, and would have been deserving of nominations. Although it wasn’t as widely embraced as Oscar usually prefers, I would have loved to see a nomination for Robert Elswit’s unbelievably grainy cinematography in The King of Staten Island. His work on the visuals of that film lend it a dramatic believability that director Judd Apatow’s improvisation-heavy movies typically lack.

I’m looking forward to the ceremony on April 25th, and I hope we see a wide range of the nominated titles awarded.

Click here to read more about Caleb McCandless!

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