Oscar Nominations 2021: Snubs, surprises and reactions

Tom Beasley
·Contributor
·8-min read

Watch: Oscar nominations 2021

The home stretch of awards season can now take centre stage, following today's announcement of the nominations for the Oscars. Hollywood's most glamorous awards bash was delayed from its usual February date until April as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, with the eligibility period for movies extended as well in order to accommodate some delayed releases.

Read more: Full list of Oscar nominations 2021

It's a solid crop of nominations — far from the significantly weakened year many had feared when the effects of COVID-19 first began to bite in Hollywood. David Fincher's monochrome drama Mank won the day with 10 nominations, but the Academy spread the love elsewhere with six movies scoring six nods each and another two managing to land nominations in five categories.

Here are some of the most surprising and intriguing nominations from the Oscars, as well as some of the most egregious snubs...

Mank leads noms, but snubbed for Best Screenplay

It was a good afternoon for Mank, in which David Fincher told the story of larger than life screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz as he penned the script for what would become Citizen Kane. The film scored the most nominations of any, including recognition in Best Picture, Best Director for Fincher, Best Actor for Gary Oldman and Best Supporting Actress for Amanda Seyfried.

Read more: Gary Oldman says Mank was his most challenging role

However, the movie missed out on a key nomination in the Best Original Screenplay category. This is a huge snub and puts a serious dent in Mank's chances of winning Best Picture. You have to go all the way back to Titanic in 1998 to find a film which won the big prize without at least a nomination for its screenplay. In fact, during that time, 17 of the Best Picture winners have also won in either Original Screenplay or Adapted Screenplay.

So while Mank has scored a sizeable roster of nominations, it runs the risk of aping The Irishman's feat last year. Martin Scorsese's gangster epic equalled Mank with 10 nominations, but failed to win a single award.

Judas and the Black Messiah scores half-dozen nods, including Supporting Actor double

Judas and the Black Messiah, despite strong reviews, has been deemed something of an also-ran in the Oscars race, outside of Daniel Kaluuya's march to the Best Supporting Actor crown for his incendiary, brilliant performance as Fred Hampton. Today, though, it surprised everyone with its six nominations, including recognition in Best Picture.

The biggest shock, however, was in that Best Supporting Actor category. Kaluuya's inclusion was near-guaranteed, but his co-star Lakeith Stanfield also managed a nomination for portraying FBI informant William O'Neal. Questions have been raised as to who the film's lead is if both of them are classed as supporting performers, but there's no doubt that both actors are worthy of every drop of recognition offered to them.

Read more: Lakeith Stanfield discusses Judas casting controversy

Stanfield's inclusion — along with Paul Raci for Sound of Metal — ensured that the likes of Bill Murray for On the Rocks didn't make the cut. The late Chadwick Boseman was also a possibility for Da 5 Bloods, but his frontrunner status in Best Actor ensures that heartfelt tribute will be paid to the Black Panther star at the glittering ceremony without him being recognised in this category.

The Mauritanian completely shut out

The Mauritanian has been a constant presence during this awards season, scoring two nominations and a single win

 at the Golden Globes, as well as five nods at the BAFTAs. Globe winner Jodie Foster was completely absent from the Best Supporting Actress shortlist, while there was no love for leading man Tahar Rahim in Best Actor and the movie missed out on a Best Picture nod.

Kevin Macdonald's intense Guantanamo Bay thriller now joins the ranks of highly-fancied movies which didn't even manage a single nomination at the Oscars. Considering some of the films which did manage to earn recognition, that's a huge disappointment for a movie as accomplished and well-acted as this one.

Delroy Lindo missing from Best Actor

When Netflix released Da 5 Bloods in the summer of 2020, attention immediately crystallised around Delroy Lind

o. His performance as a Black veteran of the Vietnam War who supported Donald Trump was incendiary, controversial and complicated. It felt like one of cinema's great under-appreciated character actors was finely due to get some attention on the Oscar stage.

Read more: Delroy Lindo discusses Trump supporter role in Da 5 Bloods

Sadly, the months since the movie's release have seen the awards profile of Da 5 Bloods fade away, with Lindo 

absent from every major acting shortlist. The wider ensemble did receive recognition in the top category at the SAG Awards — Chadwick Boseman was also nominated for Best Supporting Actor — but Lindo has consistently been snubbed.

It's certainly a strong field in the Best Actor category this year, but it seems bizarre the Academy couldn't find room for a performance as distinct, memorable and brave as Lindo's in Spike Lee's excellent film. Lee was also notably absent from Best Director and the film earned just a single nomination, for Terence Blanchard's musical score.

Glenn Close does Oscar and Razzie double

An enormous critical raspberry greeted the Netflix drama Hillbilly Elegy on its release last year. But there was a sneaking suspicion among many Oscar prognosticators that the Academy might still find room for Glenn Close's transformative supporting performance as the protagonist's no-nonsense grandmother. Close secured a Razzie nomination for the movie last week, but that didn't stop the Academy nominating the performance too.

She becomes only the third performer to manage this feat, after Amy Irving (Yentl) and James Coco (Only When I Laugh) in the 1980s. With Close's inclusion, performances like Jodie Foster in The Mauritanian and Helena Zengel in News of the World found themselves on the outside looking in. This is Close's eighth Oscar nomination, and it seems unlikely this will be the one which finally earns her the win. There will be some barely stifled chuckles if it does.

Vinterberg muscles Sorkin out of Best Director

Thomas Vinterberg at the 15th Rome Film Fest on 20 October, 2020 (Photo by Massimo Insabato/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)
Thomas Vinterberg at the 15th Rome Film Fest on 20 October, 2020 (Photo by Massimo Insabato/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)

Parasite did a lot of work last year to break down the "one-inch barrier" represented by subtitles. Bong Joon-ho's movie won four awards — including Best Picture and Best Director — and showed the Academy might finally be ready to look beyond American cinema in its major categories. The main beneficiary of that this year is Thomas Vinterberg's Danish comedy-drama Another Round, starring Mads Mikkelsen.

Read more: Vinterberg discusses preserving the cinema experience

Though Mikkelsen failed to land the Best Actor nod he managed at the BAFTAs, Vinterberg did manage to sneak into the five-person shortlist for Best Director. It's a historic list, in which two women are competing for the first time ever in the shape of Chloe Zhao (Nomadland) and Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman).

Aaron Sorkin was widely expected to secure a nomination for The Trial of the Chicago 7, but he was pipped by Vinterberg. It's a major boost for the director and his wildly entertaining movie, which now looks like a safe bet for victory in the Best International Feature Film category.

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom misses out on Best Picture nod

Chadwick Boseman is streets ahead with bookies in terms of the Best Actor race, with the star almost a dead cert to be posthumously recognised with a statuette for his live-wire performance as trumpeter Levee. Elsewhere, though, it was a disappointing day for Ma Rainey's Black Bottom at the Oscar nominations. Viola Davis's performance as the titular music star managed a nod for Best Actress, but the film missed out in Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Read more: Boseman's wife gives emotional Golden Globes speech

The only other nods for Ma Rainey's Black Bottom were in technical categories, with its costumes, production design and make-up and hairstyling recognised by the Academy. Given the film's status as one of the most impressive works of the year, many will be disappointed to see it not given more love at the Oscars.

Eurovision sneaks into Best Original Song

'Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga'. (Credit: John Wilson/Netflix)
'Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga'. (Credit: John Wilson/Netflix)

The Best Original Song category is always one of the oddest races at the Oscars. Often it comes down to one random song from a musical and a handful of tracks which play over the credits of movies that don't otherwise feature original songs. This year, that very much holds true, but many didn't expect the random musical to get in. However, Netflix's divisive comedy Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga has indeed managed to net a spot on the shortlist.

The nominated song is closing number Husavik (My Hometown), performed by the characters played by Rachel McAdams and Will Ferrell. Molly Sandén provides the singing voice for McAdams's character, while Ferrell does his own singing. Let's just say the void between the two performers could not be more stark.

Presumably, when the performance of the song at the ceremony does air, there will be plenty of requests for them to "play Ja Ja Ding Dong" instead. Nobody who avoided seeing the film would know what hit them.

Watch: Mank leads nominations at the Oscars