The announcement of the 2021 Academy Awards nominations this morning I was not without your share of disappointing surprises and slights, but there are still some exciting firsts worth noting (although, as is often the case with award firsts, the sense of “why did this take so long?” is predictably hard to ignore). For starters, Steven Yeun is now the first Asian-American person to receive a Best Actor nomination (for his work on Minari), while Riz Ahmed is the first Muslim person to receive a Best Actor nomination (for Sound of metal), making this the first time that two actors of Asian descent have been in that category at the same time. Yeun’s Minari her co-star, Yuh-jung Youn, is also the first South Korean person to be nominated for Best Supporting Actress. Ahmed, in a statement to Term, offered a humble opinion on his nomination:
Whether they see me as the first British Pakistani or the first Wembley boy, you know, there are many ways to look at it. But as long as it feels like an opportunity for more people than ever before to really connect and feel included in this moment, it’s a blessing.
On the other hand, Viola Davis picking up a Best Actress nomination for Ma Rainey’s black ass makes her the first black woman to get more than one Best Actress nomination, and the first comes from Aid in 2011. She is also now the most nominated black actress in Academy Awards history, having been nominated four times (Doubt, Aid, Y Fences being the other three).
This year is also the first time in the nearly century-long history of the Academy Awards that more than one woman has been nominated for Best Director, with NomadlandChloé Zhao and Promising young womanEsmeralda Fennell, both nodding. Zhao is also the first woman of color to be nominated in that category and the first woman in Oscar history to garner four nominations in a single year (she is also ready to write, produce and edit).
We will see how these nominations are shaken when the 93rd Academy Awards air on ABC on Sunday, April 25 at 8 pm ET / 5 pm PT.