This year's Oscar nominations were announced early Monday morning, and after years of criticism over the awards' lack of diversity — and the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag campaign that began with the 2015 awards — the 2021 slate of nominees is more diverse than ever.
Chloe Zhao, who directed Nomadland, and Emerald Fennell, who directed Promising Young Woman, made history simply by both getting nominations for Best Director. Two women have never been nominated in the category in the same year before, and only five women have ever gotten Best Director nods in the award show's history. Zhao becomes the first woman of color to be nominated for Best Director, and Fennell becomes the first woman to be nominated for her debut feature.
It's also the first time two men of Asian heritage have been nominated together in the Best Actor category: South Korean-born Steven Yeun for Minari, and Riz Ahmed — a Briton of Pakistani descent — for The Sound of Metal. And Ahmed is the first Muslim to get a Best Actor nod.
And Oakland native Ryan Coogler, who directed 2013's Fruitvale Station as well as 2018's Black Panther, made history as part of the first all-Black producing team to win a nomination for Best Picture. Coogler and co-producers Shaka King and Charles D. King were nominated for Judas and the Black Messiah, a film about Black Panther party chairman Fred Hampton and his betrayal by an FBI informant. This is Coogler's first Oscar nomination. (The film is available to stream on HBO Max, and it's now playing at AMC's Bay Street theater in Emeryville.)
As the Mercury News recounts, the 34-year-old Coogler was born in Oakland and grew up in Richmond, and later attended St. Mary's College in Moraga — about 12 years behind Oscar winner Mahershala Ali, another Oakland native who went to St. Mary's.
The Bay Area has plenty to celebrate and root for in this year's Oscar nominations. Because of the pandemic, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences changed the rules for nominees to allow films that debuted on streaming services to be eligible — and this a unique year in which virtually all the nominated films are immediately available for home viewing.
Los Gatos-based Netflix garnered 35 nominations in total, and produced the most-nominated film of the year, Mank, directed by David Fincher. And Emeryville-based Pixar notched up more nominations to add to its awards-filled history, for both Soul and Onward, in the Animated Feature category.
Also, as the Merc notes, in the Best Documentary Feature category, Berkeley-based filmmakers James LeBrecht and Nicole Newnham won a nomination for the film Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution. (The entire film is available to watch on YouTube and Netflix.)
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