2021 Academy Awards: ‘Mank’ is the top nominee

March 15, 2021

by Carla Hay

Amanda Seyfried and Gary Oldman in “Mank” (Photo courtesy of Netflix)

With 10 nods, the Netflix drama “Mank” is the top nominee for the 93rd Annual Academy Awards, which will take place at Union Station and at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on April 25, 2021. There will be no host for the ceremony, which will be telecast in the U.S. on ABC. The nominations were announced on March 15, 2021, by spouses Nick Jonas and Priyanka Chopra Jonas.

The nominations for “Mank” include Best Picture, Best Actor (for Gary Oldman), Best Director (for David Fincher) and Best Supporting Actress (for Amanda Seyfried). The movie is about screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz, nicknamed Mank, and his experiences while writing the Oscar-winning screenplay to the 1941 film “Citizen Kane, including his clashes with “Citizen Kane” director/co-writer Orson Welles.

The other contenders for Best Picture are Sony Pictures Classics’ “The Father,” Warner Bros. Pictures’ “Judas and the Black Messiah,” A24’s “Minari,” Searchlight Pictures’ “Nomadland,” Focus Features’ “Promising Young Woman,” Amazon Studios’ “Sound of Metal” and Netflix’s “The Trial of the Chicago 7.” All of these movies except for “Promising Young Woman” have six Oscar nominations each, which is the second-highest number of nominations for the 2021 Academy Awards ceremony. (Click here to read Culture Mix’s reviews of all these movies that are nominated for Best Picture.)

The awards are voted for by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. For the 2021 ceremony, eligible movies were those released in the U.S. in 2020 and (due to the coronavirus pandemic) the eligibility period was extended to movies released in January and February 2021. Because of the pandemic, movies that were planned for a theatrical release but were released directly to home video or on streaming services were also eligible. Beginning with the 2022 Academy Awards ceremony, there will be a required 10 movies nominated for Best Picture. From 2009 to 2021, the rule was that there could be five to 10 movies per year nominated for Best Picture.

Snubs and Surprises

“Da 5 Bloods” director Spike Lee (pictured at far left) with cast members Isiah Whitlock Jr., Delroy Lindo, Jonathan Majors, Clarke Peters and Norm Lewis on the set of “Da 5 Bloods.” (Photo by David Lee/Netflix)

The Netflix drama “Da 5 Bloods,” which has been getting nominations at other major award shows, only managed to garner one Oscar nod: Best Original Score (for Terence Blanchard). Some pundits had predicted that “Da 5 Bloods” would get Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Director (for Spike Lee) and Best Actor (for Delroy Lindo). Other highly acclaimed movies that were shut out of the Best Picture race include the Amazon Studios drama “One Night in Miami…” and the Netflix drama “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” although “One Night in Miami…” got three Oscar nods in other categories, while “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” received five Oscar nominations.

Meanwhile, movies that have been getting awards and nominations elsewhere were completely snubbed by the Academy Awards. They include the Focus Features drama “Never Rarely Sometimes Always,” the STX drama “The Mauritanian,” the Netflix comedy “The Forty-Year-Old Version” and the A24 drama “First Cow.” 

Although “Mank” leads with the most Oscar nominations this year, the movie failed to get a nod for Best Original Screenplay. (The movie was written by David Fincher’s late father Jack Fincher.) This lack of a screenplay Oscar nomination doesn’t bode well for “Mank’s” chances to win Best Picture. It’s very rare for a movie not to win Best Picture without getting a screenplay nomination.

And shut out of the race for Best Director is Aaron Sorkin of “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” even though he has been getting Best Director nominations at almost every major award show where he’s eligible for this movie. However, as the screenwriter for “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” Sorkin did score an Oscar nod for Best Original Screenplay. 

Some of the biggest surprise nominations came from international films. Thomas Vinterberg of the Samuel Goldwyn Films drama “Another Round” (a movie from Denmark) received a nomination for Best Director. Gravitas Ventures’ Chilean film “The Mole Agent” got a nomination for Best Documentary Feature, after being largely ignored for nominations at other movie award shows.

And “Judas and the Black Messiah” co-star LaKeith Stanfield got a surprise nod for Best Supporting Actor, a category that also includes “Judas and the Black Messiah” co-star Daniel Kaluuya. Stanfield was shut of of getting nominated for this movie at most other award shows, while Kaluuya has been winning Best Supporting Actor prizes for the movie, thereby making Kaluuya a frontrunner in the category this year.

Diversity and Inclusion

Steven Yeun, Alan S. Kim, Yuh-Jung Youn, Yeri Han and Noel Cho in “Minari” (Photo by Josh Ethan Johnson/A24) 

For the first time in Academy Awards history, two women have been nominated in the same year for Best Director: Chloé Zhao of “Nomadland” and Emerald Fennell of “Promising Young Woman.” Zhao (who is the first women of color to get an Oscar nod for Best Director) is a quadruple Oscar nominee this year for “Nomadland,” since she’s also nominated for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Film Editing. Fennell is a triple nominee, since her other Oscar nominations this year are for Best Picture and for Best Original Screenplay.

Racial diversity is in every actor/actress category at 2021 Academy Awards, since there is at least one person of color nominated in each category. Black people are represented the most with “Judas and the Black Messiah,” which made Oscar history for being the first movie from an all-black team of producers (Shaka King, Charles D. King and Ryan Coogler) to be nominated for Best Picture. The movie also earned nominations for the aforementioned co-stars Kaluuya and Stanfield; songwriter H.E.R. and Tiara Thomas, whose song “Fight for You” is up for Best Original Song’; and “Judas and the Black Messiah” director Shaka King, who co-wrote the screenplay, is a double Oscar nominee this year, since he’s also up for Best Original Screenplay.

Leslie Odom Jr. is a double nominee for “One Night in Miami…,” since he received nods for Best Supporting Actor and for co-writing the song “Speak Now,” which is one of the contenders for Best Original Song. Kemp Powers received his first Oscar nomination (Best Adapted Screenplay), for “One Night in Miami…,” which is based on the play that he wrote of the same title. Powers is a co-director of the Oscar-nominated animated film “Soul,” but he was not nominated for this movie, since the nomination for Best Animated Feature goes to a film’s director(s) and producer(s). However, composer Jon Batiste of “Soul” is nominated for Best Original Score, along with lead composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.

“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” got expected nominations for the late Chadwick Boseman (Best Actor) and Viola Davis (Best Actress). With this nomination, Davis is the black actress with the most Oscar nods. She has four so far, including one win for Best Supporting Actress for the 2016 drama “Fences.” Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson of “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” made Oscar history by being the first black people nominated for Best Makeup and Hairstyling. 

Also nominated for Best Actress at the 2021 Academy Awards is Andra Day of Hulu’s “The United States vs. Billie Holiday.” Ironically, the only other time that two black actresses were nominated in the same year for Best Actress was in 1973, when Diana Ross was nominated for her role as Billie Holiday in 1972’s “Lady Sings the Blues” and Cicely Tyson was nominated for 1972’s “Sounder.” As of this writing, Halle Berry is the only black person who has won an Oscar for Best Actress. She did so for 2001’s “Monster’s Ball.”

Real-life singers Ma Rainey and Billie Holiday also represent the only LGBTQ characters in the actor/actress categories. In real life, Rainey was a lesbian and Holiday was bisexual. Their sexualities are each portrayed in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” and “The United States vs. Billie Holiday.”

Asians were represented in more Oscar categories than ever before, mostly because of “Minari,” a drama about a Korean American family that moves to rural Arkansas so that the family patriarch can become a farmer. “Minari” earned nods for producer Christina Oh (Best Picture); Lee Isaac Chung (Best Director and Best Original Screenplay); Steven Yeun (Best Actor); and Yuh-jung Youn (Best Supporting Actor). Yeun is the first Asian American to get an Oscar nomination for Best Actor.

As previously mentioned, Chinese filmmaker Zhao has four Oscar nominations for “Nomadland” this year. And the Hong Kong drama “Better Days” garnered a Best International Feature nomination for director Derek Tsang. And the Netflix drama “The White Tiger” earned a Best Adapted Screenplay nod for Indian filmmaker Ramin Bahrani.

Pakistani British actor Riz Ahmed of “Sound of Metal” received his first nomination for Best Actor. Ahmed plays a heavy-metal drummer who goes deaf in the film. Paul Raci, who is nominated for Best Supporting Actor for “Sound of Metal,” also portrays a deaf person in the film. The disability community is also represented in Anthony Hopkins’ role as a man with dementia in “The Father,” whose six nominations include Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay. Meanwhile, “Crip Camp” co-director Jim LeBrecht, who is paraplegic, is nominated for Best Documentary Feature for this Netflix movie, which is about the civil rights movement for the disability community.

The Hispanic/Latino people nominated for Oscars this year were all people who work in behind-the-camera roles. Sergio Lopez-Rivera is one of three people nominated for Best Makeup and Hairstyling for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” And as previously mentioned, the Chilean film “The Mole Agent” (directed by Maite Alberdi) is nominated for Best Documentary Feature.

Also in the Best International Feature category is director Kaouther Ben Hania, who is nominated for the Tunisian film “The Man Who Sold His Skin,” making it the first time that a movie from Tunisia has gotten an Oscar nomination in this category. 

Here is the complete list of nominations for the 2021 Academy Awards:

Best Picture

“The Father” (Sony Pictures Classics) 

“Judas and the Black Messiah” (Warner Bros.) 

“Mank” (Netflix) 

“Minari” (A24) 

“Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures) 

“Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features) 

“Sound of Metal” (Amazon Studios) 

“The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix) 

Best Director

Thomas Vinterberg (“Another Round”)

David Fincher (“Mank”) 

Lee Isaac Chung (“Minari”) 

Chloé Zhao (“Nomadland”) 

Emerald Fennell (“Promising Young Woman”) 

Best Actor in a Leading Role

Riz Ahmed (“Sound of Metal”) 

Chadwick Boseman (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”) 

Anthony Hopkins (“The Father”) 

Gary Oldman (“Mank”) 

Steven Yeun (“Minari”) 

Best Actress in a Leading Role

Viola Davis (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”) 

Andra Day (“The United States v. Billie Holiday”) 

Vanessa Kirby (“Pieces of a Woman”) 

Frances McDormand (“Nomadland”) 

Carey Mulligan (“Promising Young Woman”) 

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Sacha Baron Cohen (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”) 

Daniel Kaluuya (“Judas and the Black Messiah”) 

Leslie Odom Jr. (“One Night in Miami”) 

Paul Raci (“Sound of Metal”) 

LaKeith Stanfield (“Judas and the Black Messiah”)

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Maria Bakalova (“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”) 

Glenn Close (“Hillbilly Elegy”) 

Olivia Colman (“The Father”) 

Amanda Seyfried (“Mank”) 

Yuh-jung Youn (“Minari”) 

Best Adapted Screenplay

“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.” Screenplay by Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Dan Swimer, Peter Baynham, Erica Rivinoja, Dan Mazer, Jena Friedman and Lee Kern; Story by Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Dan Swimer and Nina Pedrad

“The Father,” Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller

“Nomadland,” Chloé Zhao 

“One Night in Miami,” Kemp Powers 

“The White Tiger,” Ramin Bahrani 

Best Original Screenplay

“Judas and the Black Messiah.” Screenplay by Will Berson, Shaka King; Story by Will Berson, Shaka King, Kenny Lucas and Keith Lucas

“Minari,” Lee Isaac Chung 

“Promising Young Woman,” Emerald Fennell 

“Sound of Metal.” Screenplay by Darius Marder and Abraham Marder; Story by Darius Marder, Derek Cianfrance

“The Trial of the Chicago 7,” Aaron Sorkin 

Best Cinematography

“Judas and the Black Messiah,” Sean Bobbitt 

“Mank,” Erik Messerschmidt 

“News of the World,” Dariusz Wolski 

“Nomadland,” Joshua James Richards 

“The Trial of the Chicago 7,” Phedon Papamichael 

Best Film Editing

“The Father,” Yorgos Lamprinos

“Nomadland,” Chloé Zhao 

“Promising Young Woman,” Frédéric Thoraval 

“Sound of Metal,” Mikkel E.G. Nielsen 

“The Trial of the Chicago 7,” Alan Baumgarten 

Best Sound

“Greyhound,” Warren Shaw, Michael Minkler, Beau Borders and David Wyman

“Mank,” Ren Klyce, Jeremy Molod, David Parker, Nathan Nance and Drew Kunin

“News of the World,” Oliver Tarney, Mike Prestwood Smith, William Miller and John Pritchett

“Soul,” Ren Klyce, Coya Elliott and David Parker

“Sound of Metal,” Nicolas Becker, Jaime Baksht, Michelle Couttolenc, Carlos Cortés and Phillip Bladh

Best Original Score

“Da 5 Bloods,” Terence Blanchard 

“Mank,” Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross 

“Minari,” Emile Mosseri 

“News of the World,” James Newton Howard 

“Soul,” Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, Jon Batiste 

Best Original Song

“Fight for You,” (“Judas and the Black Messiah”). Music by H.E.R. and Dernst Emile II; Lyric by H.E.R. and Tiara Thomas

“Hear My Voice,” (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”). Music by Daniel Pemberton; Lyric by Daniel Pemberton and Celeste Waite

“Húsavík,” (“Eurovision Song Contest”). Music and Lyric by Savan Kotecha, Fat Max Gsus and Rickard Göransson

“Io Si (Seen),” (“The Life Ahead”). Music by Diane Warren; Lyric by Diane Warren and Laura Pausini

“Speak Now,” (“One Night in Miami”). Music and Lyric by Leslie Odom, Jr. and Sam Ashworth

Best Animated Feature Film

“Onward” (Pixar) 

“Over the Moon” (Netflix) 

“A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon” (Netflix) 

“Soul” (Pixar) 

“Wolfwalkers” (Apple TV+/GKIDS) 

Best International Feature Film

“Another Round” (Denmark) 

“Better Days” (Hong Kong)

“Collective” (Romania) 

“The Man Who Sold His Skin” (Tunisia)

“Quo Vadis, Aida?”(Bosnia and Herzegovina) 

Best Documentary Feature

“Collective” (Magnolia Pictures and Participant) 

“Crip Camp” (Netflix) 

“The Mole Agent” (Gravitas Ventures) 

“My Octopus Teacher” (Netflix) 

“Time” (Amazon Studios) 

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

“Emma,” Marese Langan, Laura Allen, Claudia Stolze

“Hillbilly Elegy,” Eryn Krueger Mekash, Patricia Dehaney, Matthew Mungle 

“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” Sergio Lopez-Rivera, Mia Neal, Jamika Wilson

“Mank,” Kimberley Spiteri, Gigi Williams, Colleen LaBaff

“Pinocchio,” Mark Coulier, Dalia Colli, Francesco Pegoretti

Best Costume Design

“Emma,” Alexandra Byrne 

“Mank,” Trish Summerville 

“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” Ann Roth 

“Mulan,” Bina Daigeler 

“Pinocchio,” Massimo Cantini Parrini

Best Production Design

“The Father.” Production Design: Peter Francis; Set Decoration: Cathy Featherstone

“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” Production Design: Mark Ricker; Set Decoration: Karen O’Hara and Diana Stoughton

“Mank.” Production Design: Donald Graham Burt; Set Decoration: Jan Pascale

“News of the World.” Production Design: David Crank; Set Decoration: Elizabeth Keenan

“Tenet.” Production Design: Nathan Crowley; Set Decoration: Kathy Lucas

Best Visual Effects

“Love and Monsters,” Matt Sloan, Genevieve Camilleri, Matt Everitt and Brian Cox 

“The Midnight Sky,” Matthew Kasmir, Christopher Lawrence, Max Solomon and David Watkins

“Mulan,” Sean Faden, Anders Langlands, Seth Maury and Steve Ingram

“The One and Only Ivan,” Nick Davis, Greg Fisher, Ben Jones and Santiago Colomo Martinez

“Tenet,” Andrew Jackson, David Lee, Andrew Lockley and Scott Fisher

Best Documentary Short Subject

“Colette” (Time Travel Unlimited) 

“A Concerto Is a Conversation” (Breakwater Studios) 

“Do Not Split” (Field of Vision) 

“Hunger Ward” (MTV Documentary Films)

“A Love Song for Latasha” (Netflix) 

Best Animated Short Film

“Burrow” (Disney Plus/Pixar)

“Genius Loci” (Kazak Productions) 

“If Anything Happens I Love You” (Netflix) 

“Opera” (Beasts and Natives Alike) 

“Yes-People” (CAOZ hf. Hólamói) 

Best Live-Action Short Film

“Feeling Through” 

“The Letter Room” 

“The Present” 

“Two Distant Strangers” 

“White Eye”