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2 women scoring best director nods top this year's Oscar nomination surprises

For the first time ever, two of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' nominees for best director are female – and yet, there were other women who were surprisingly missing from the list when the Oscar nominations were announced Monday morning. Chloé Zhao, a Golden Globe-winner for "Nomadland," and Emerald Fennell, for "Promising Young Woman," were nominated along with David Fincher for "Mank," Lee Isaac Chung for "Minari," and — in another surprise — Thomas Vinterberg, for the Danish film "Another Round."

Chloe Zhao became the first woman of color to receive an Oscar nomination for best director, for her film "Nomadland." Searchlight Pictures

Missing from the directors roster: Aaron Sorkin, "The Trial of the Chicago 7"; Spike Lee, "Da 5 Bloods"; Darius Marder, "Sound of Metal"; George C. Wolfe, "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom"; Shaka King, "Judas and the Black Messiah"; Regina King, "One Night in Miami"; Florian Zeller, "The Father"; Kelly Reichardt, "First Cow"; and Eliza Hittman, "Never Rarely Sometimes Always."

There were, in this pandemic year of strangled theatrical exhibition and throw-in-the-towel streaming releases, 366 feature films deemed eligible for the best picture Oscar. (One film deemed ineligible, a recorded performance of Lin-Manuel Miranda's stage musical "Hamilton," had been disqualified by the academy without much explanation. Awards Rules Committee: History will have its eyes on you.)

This year's best picture lineup ("The Father," "Judas and the Black Messiah," "Mank," "Minari," "Nomadland," "Promising Young Woman," "Sound of Metal" and "The Trial of the Chicago 7") had some notable omissions, considering their awards season history and nominations in other categories. "Borat Subsequent Moviefilm," "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom," "One Night in Miami," "Da 5 Bloods," "Soul" and "The United States vs. Billie Holiday" were missing from the list along with critics group favorites "First Cow" and "Never Rarely Sometimes Always."

The lead acting categories were pretty much as predicted. Best actress nods went to Carey Mulligan, "Promising Young Woman"; Viola Davis, "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom"; Frances McDormand, "Nomadland"; Andra Day, in her first acting job in "The United States vs. Billie Holiday"; and Vanessa Kirby, "Pieces of a Woman." Squeezed out of the category were Golden Globe winner Rosamund Pike, "I Care a Lot"; Screen Actors Guild nominee Amy Adams, "Hillbilly Elegy"; Michelle Pfeiffer, "French Exit"; Anya Taylor-Joy, "Emma"; Kate Winslet, "Ammonite"; and Sidney Flanigan, "Never Rarely Sometimes Always."

The best actor lineup mirrored this year's Screen Actors Guild nominees: Chadwick Boseman, receiving a posthumous nomination for "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom"; Anthony Hopkins, "The Father"; Riz Ahmed, "Sound of Metal"; Gary Oldman, "Mank"; and Steven Yeun, "Minari." Missing were Golden Globe-winner Sacha Baron Cohen, "Borat Subsequent Moviefilm"; Delroy Lindo, "Da 5 Bloods"; Golden Globe nominee Tahar Rahim, "The Mauritanian"; Tom Hanks, "News of the World"; Denzel Washington, "The Little Things"; Mads Mikkelsen, "Another Round"; John Magaro, "First Cow"; and Jesse Plemons, "I'm Thinking of Ending Things."

Boseman did not receive a second posthumous nomination in the supporting actor category, for "Da 5 Bloods," as was the case with the SAG Awards. LaKeith Stanfield did land a nomination, for "Judas and the Black Messiah," joining co-star Daniel Kaluuya; Sacha Baron Cohen, "The Trial of the Chicago 7"; Leslie Odom Jr., "One Night in Miami"; and Paul Raci, "Sound of Metal." Also missing: Mark Rylance and Frank Langella for "The Trial of the Chicago 7," SAG and Globes nominee Jared Leto, "The Little Things"; Globes nominee Bill Murray, "On the Rocks"; and Robert Pattinson, "Tenet."

Competition was fierce for the best supporting actress category. While nods went to Maria Bakalova for "Borat Subsequent Moviefilm," Glenn Close for "Hillbilly Elegy," Olivia Colman for "The Father," Amanda Seyfried for "Mank," and Yuh-Jung Youn for "Minari," missing were SAG and Globes nominee Helena Zengel, "News of the World"; Globe nominee Jodie Foster, "The Mauritanian"; Ellen Burstyn, "Pieces of a Woman"; Saoirse Ronan, "Ammonite"; Lily Collins, "Mank"; Olivia Cooke, "Sound of Metal"; Toni Collette, "I'm Thinking of Ending Things"; and Talia Ryder, "Never Rarely Sometimes Always."

In the documentary feature category, the strong lineup includes the Romanian "Collective," "Crip Camp" (executive produced by the Obamas), "The Mole Agent," "My Octopus Teacher" and "Time." But where is "76 Days," the potent fly-on-the-wall film shot anonymously in Wuhan hospitals at ground zero of the coronavirus? And in the best song category, "Borat"'s bad-taste country song "Wuhan Flu" was also ignored. Perhaps we've all just had too much of COVID in the past year.

The 93rd Academy Awards will be presented live on Sunday, April 25.

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