Only five women have ever been in the running for the award; only one – Kathryn Bigelow for ‘The Hurt Locker’ in 2010 – won, the Guardian reported.
British filmmaker Fennell is nominated for her first ever feature, a revenge comedy, ‘Promising Young Woman’. It is also up for best film, best original screenplay and best leading actress, for Carey Mulligan.
Zhao, meanwhile, goes into the race for both director and picture as the frontrunner, with ‘Nomadland,’ victorious in a sweep of preceding awards ceremonies.
Also up for best director are Thomas Vinterberg (for ‘Another Round’), David Fincher (for ‘Mank’) and Lee Isaac Chung (for ‘Minari’).
Mank, a black-and-white look at the backstage dramas around the writing of ‘Citizen Kane,’ starring Gary Oldman as the screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz, leads the scoreboard of nominations this year by some distance.
It is nominated for best film, best director, original screenplay, leading actor and supporting actress (for ‘Amanda Seyfried’), costume design, production design, score, cinematography and makeup.
Nine of the acting nominees are people of color, compared with one (Harriet’s Cynthia Erivo) in 2020. Riz Ahmed (for ‘Sound of Metal’), Steven Yeun (‘Minari’) and Chadwick Boseman (‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’) join Oldman and Anthony Hopkins (for ‘The Father’) in the best actor race. This is the first year two actors of Asian heritage have featured in the leading man category.
Boseman, who died from cancer aged 43 last August, is one of only seven actors who have earned Academy Award nominations after their deaths. Heath Ledger and Peter Finch are the only actors to have won posthumous Oscars.
Boseman’s ‘Ma Rainey’ co-star Viola Davis, and Andra Day (for ‘The United States vs Billie Holiday’) will compete against Vanessa Kirby (for ‘Pieces of a Woman’), Mulligan and McDormand for best actress.
Newcomer Maria Bakalova is in the running for best supporting actress for her role in ‘Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,’ while the script is up for best adapted screenplay.
Sacha Baron Cohen missed out on a leading actor nod for that film, but did pick up a supporting actor nomination for his role as Abbie Hoffman in ‘The Trial of the Chicago 7’.
Aaron Sorkin’s courtroom thriller about countercultural protests at the 1968 Democratic National Convention took six nominations, as did ‘The Father,’ ‘Judas and the Black Messiah,’ ‘Minari,’ ‘Nomadland’ and ‘Sound of Metal’.
‘Collective,’ ‘Another Round’ and ‘Quo Vadis, Aida?’ lead the field in the best international film category; the former – about astonishing medical corruption in Romania – is also up for best documentary, along with ‘Crip Camp,’ ‘The Mole Agent,’ ‘My Octopus Teacher’ and ‘Time’.
‘A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon’ was a surprise nominee in the best animated film category; it competes against frontrunner ‘Soul’.
The Guardian short film, ‘Colette,’ is up for best short documentary.
Some highlighted a curious discrepancy in the lack of recognition afforded to black directors, despite their films being up for best film and multiple acting awards.
Neither Shaka King (for ‘Judas and the Black Messiah’), Regina King (‘One Night in Miami’), George C. Wolfe (‘Ma Rainey’) or Spike Lee (‘Da 5 Bloods’) were nominated. The omission of Delroy Lindo in the leading actor category for the latter film was also perceived to be an oversight.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced in June that it was delaying all Oscar events in the light of the coronavirus pandemic. Eligibility for the prizes has been radically relaxed this year.
David Rubin, the current Academy president, revealed that this year’s ceremony will take place on April 25 in Los Angeles’s Union Station, as well as in the Dolby Theatre. As with last year’s Oscars, there will be no single host but a rota of presenters.