Oscar nominations 2021: Peter Travers on the snubs and surprises

The Oscar nominations are in and looking ahead to the awards, which will be seen on ABC on April 25, people are applauding and squawking.

So before I praise the Academy for all the things it did right with its nominations for the best in movies in this tumultuous pandemic year, let me vent my anger against its shameful snub of Spike Lee’s “Da 5 Bloods” and its stellar cast, led by Delroy Lindo and the late Chadwick Boseman.

Let me also ask in shock what happened to Regina King’s “One Night in Miami” as best picture and best director? Here are two films that cut to the heart of civil rights and the Black Lives Matter movement. And while we’re on that topic, what happened to “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” in those two categories?

The Oscars wasn’t as bad as the Golden Globes, which omitted all Black-themed films from its best picture nominations.

Among its eight nominees for best picture, the Academy did cite “Judas and the Black Messiah” — the stirring tale of Black Panther party chairman Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya) and the FBI informer (Lakeith Stanfield) who helped assassinate him — as best picture and five other categories, including two supporting actor nods for surprise nominee Stanfield and probable winner Kaluuya.

PHOTO: Director Shaka King works with actor Lakeith Stanfield on the set of "Judas and the Black Messiah."

Otherwise the big category of best picture is familiarly white, led by “Mank,” the behind-the-scenes drama about the making of “Citizen Kane,” which scored 10 nominations, including nods for best picture, stars Gary Oldman and Amanda Seyfried and director David Fincher.

It did not earn a screenplay salute for Jack Fincher, the director’s late father.

PHOTO: In this image released by Netflix, Amanda Seyfried appears in a scene from "Mank."

Many of us hoped to see a historic three women nominated as best director — King (“One Night in Miami”), “Emerald Fennell (“Promising Young Woman”) and Chloe Zhao (“Nomadland”).

As reported, King did not make the cut. But the deserving Zhao and Fennell, whose dark comic satire of toxic masculinity is the #TimesUp movie of the year, triumphantly did.

There are few sure things in the Oscar sweeps, but I’d bet on the Beijing-born Zhao becoming only the second woman in the Academy’s 93 years of sexist history to take home the directing Oscar.

PHOTO: Director Chloe Zhao poses for a portrait to promote her film "Nomadland" during the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah on Jan. 22, 2018.

The directing snubs for Lee (“Da 5 Bloods”), two Kings — Regina (“One Night in Miami”) and Shaka (“Judas and the Black Panther”) — and the heavily favorited Aaron Sorkin (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”) seem even more bizarre in the light of the left-field nod to Thomas Vinterbeg, the Danish director of “Another Round.”

PHOTO: This image released by Samuel Goldwyn Films shows Mads Mikkelsen, left, with director Thomas Vinterberg on the set of "Another Round."

That means not one of the Black-themed films that helped lift the movie year to glory have a directing nomination.

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People of color scored way better in the acting categories. Leslie Odom, Jr. (“One Night in Miami”) joined Kaluuya and Stanfield in the supporting actor field.

Viola Davis (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”) and Golden Globe winner Andra Day (“The United States V. Billie Holiday”) are vying for Best Actress.

PHOTO: Andra Day stars in a scene from the 2021 film, "The United States vs. Billie Holiday."

And Chadwick Boseman (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”) who died tragically of colon cancer last year at 43, looks likely to join the record books as only the third performer and first Black actor to win posthumously, following Peter Finch (“Network”) and Heath Ledger (“The Dark Knight”).

Riz Ahmed, the British-Pakistani acting nominee for “Sound of Metal,” is now the first Muslin contender.

PHOTO: This image released by Amazon Studios shows Riz Ahmed in a scene from "Sound of Metal."

And South Korea’s Steven Yeun (“Minari), now the first Asian-American best actor nominee.

PHOTO: Yeri Han and Steven Yeun in "Minari."

With nine actors of color earning nominations, including Youn Yuh-jung, the feisty grandma in “Minari,” the Academy deserves praise for finally waking up to what diversity looks like in the real world.

Even “Soul,” the Disney/Pixar nominee for Best Animated Film, takes on that subject through the prism of jazz.

“I am a revolutionary,” said Kaluuya as Chairman Fred Hampton in “Judas and the Black Messiah.” And it looks like a good portion of the 8,469 Oscar voters decided to make a revolution themselves. It’s about time.

Going into the awards, which will be seen on ABC on April 25, “Nomadland” is definitely the movie to beat for best picture.

Check out the full list of nominations for the 93rd Academy Awards here.

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