Oscars make history by nominating two women for best director in the same year

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Chloe Zhao [Courtesy photo]

“Nomadland’s” Chloe Zhao and “Promising Young Woman’s”  Emerald Fennell are now part of Academy Awards history.

For the first time, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has nominated two women in the directing category, with Zhao and Fennell picking up nods in the coveted category.

Zhao and Fennell will compete against “Minari’s” Lee Isaac Chung, “Mank’s” David Fincher and “Another Round’s” Thomas Vinterberg.

As she already has been the most-awarded filmmaker in a single awards season, according to Variety, Zhao is likely the frontrunner in the category. She has at least a share of four of “Nomadland’s” six nominations: Zhao is also nominated for best adapted screenplay, best editing and best picture, along with fellow producers Frances McDormand (who is also nominated for best actress), Peter Spears, Mollye Asher and Dan Janvey.

Zhao, who is Chinese, also is the first woman of color ever nominated for best director.

Emerald Fennell [Courtesy photo]

A first-time director Fennell also is nominated for best original screenplay as well as best picture alongside fellow producers Ben Browning, Ashley Fox and Josey McNamara. “Promising Young Woman” earned five nominations, including a best actress nod for Carey Mulligan.

Prior to this year, only five women had been nominated for best director: Lina Wertmüller, in 1976 for “Seven Beauties”; Jane Campion, in 1993 for “The Piano”; Sofia Coppola, in 2003 for “Lost in Translation”; Kathryn Bigelow, in 2009 for “The Hurt Locker”; and Greta Gerwig, in 2017 for “Lady Bird.”

Bigelow is the only woman to win best director in the history of the Oscars.

As The Hollywood Reporter noted, the 93rd Academy Awards broke several other records with a diverse slate of nominees.

Performers of color make up the majority of nominees in both the best actor category – which includes nods for Riz Ahmed (“Sound of Metal”), Steven Yeun (“Minari”) and the late Chadwick Boseman (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”) – and in the best supporting actor category – which includes Leslie Odom Jr. (“One Night in Miami”) and Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield (both for “Judas and the Black Messiah”).

Ahmed is the fourth Muslim actor (after Omar Sharif, Shohreh Aghdashloo and Mahershala Ali) to receive an Oscar nomination, and the first in the best actor category.

Yeun is the first Asian American nominee for best actor, while his “Minari” co-star Youn Yuh-jung is the first the first South Korean nominated for best supporting actress. Writer-director Lee Isaac Chung, who is nominated for best original screenplay as well as best helmer, becomes the second Asian American (after “The Sixth Sense’s” M. Night Shyamalan)to garner a best director nod. Also, “Minari” producer Christina Oh becomes the first Asian American woman to receive a nomination for best picture.

Also in best picture, “Judas and the Black Messiah” also made history with the nod for its all-Black producing trio: Shaka King, Charles D. King and Ryan Coogler. With its additional nominations for H.E.R., Tiara Thomas and D’Mile for best original song and Will Berson, Shaka King, Kenneth Lucas and Keith Lucas for original screenplay allowed the fact-based drama to break “The Color Purple’s” record for most Black nominees from a single film, with 10.

Viola Davis stars in the title role of “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” [Netflix photo]

With her fourth nomination, Viola Davis, who earned a nod for best actress for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” is now the most nominated Black actress in Oscar history, plus the only one with two lead acting nods. She’ll compete this year against Andra Day, who also portrayed an iconic Black singer in “The United States vs. Billie Holliday.”

In addition, Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson are the first Black nominees in the makeup and hairstyling category for their work on “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.”

Pushed back due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the 93rd Academy Awards will take place April 25 and air live on ABC.




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