Nominations to the 93rd Academy Awards on Monday will look — in more ways than one — unlike they ever have before.
After a pandemic year that shuttered most movie theaters, the expected best-picture nominees will have hardly any box office to speak of. It will be an Oscars not just without blockbusters but with many movies that have barely played on the big screen. Streaming services are set to dominate Hollywood's biggest and most sought-after awards.
If the pictures — to paraphrase Norma Desmond — literally got smaller in a movie year ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic, they also were more diverse. Monday's nominations are poised to bring history in the directing category, and unveil an acting field with potentially a record number of people of color nominated.
Nominations will be announced beginning at 8:19 a.m. EDT by Nick Jonas and Priyanka Chopra Jonas in a two-part presentation streamed live on Oscar.com, Oscars.org, and the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences' digital social platforms.
The film academy and ABC, which will telecast the Oscars on April 25 (delayed two months due to the pandemic), will hope that the nominees can drum up more excitement than they have elsewhere. Interest in little golden statuettes has nosedived during the pandemic. Ratings for a largely virtual Golden Globes, with acceptance speeches by Zoom, plunged to 6.9 million viewers — a 64% drop from 2020 — last month.
The most likely lead nominee Monday could be a traditional kind of Oscar movie: one about Hollywood. David Fincher's "Mank," a black-and-white ode to a bygone Hollywood penned by the director's late father about "Citizen Kane" co-writer Herman Mankiewicz, seems assured of double-digit nominations, thanks to its performers (Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried) and its lavish craft.
"Mank" will lead an Oscar storm for Netflix that could see the streamer pick up at least three best-picture nominees, including Aaron Sorkin's courtroom drama "The Trial of the Chicago 7" — a film jettisoned by Paramount Pictures in the midst of the pandemic — and the August Wilson adaptation "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom." Chadwick Boseman, the best-actor frontrunner, is set to be posthumously nominated half a year after his death in August at the age of 43.
Amazon is also in the mix with "Sound of Metal," "Borat Subsequent Moviefilm" and "One Night in Miami." Other likely nominees were most widely seen on streaming platforms, including "Judas and the Black Messiah" (on HBO Max), "Soul" (on Disney+) and "Wolfwalkers" (on Apple TV+). Because of the pandemic, the academy suspended its rule requiring theatrical release.
But the best-picture favorite may be Searchlight Pictures' "Nomadland," Chloe Zhao's elegiac road movie about a woman (Frances McDormand) living out of her van. Zhao is likely to become the first woman of color ever to win for best director and only the sixth woman ever nominated. Zhao could be joined by Lee Isaac Chung ("Minari"), Emerald Fennell ("Promising Young Woman"), Regina King ("One Night in Miami") or Spike Lee ("Da 5 Bloods") in a category that has overwhelmingly belonged to white men through Oscar history.
Acting nominees are also likely to be diverse. Viola Davis ("Ma Rainey") could become the most nominated Black actress in Oscar history with four. (She won for 2016's "Fences.") Other nominees may include Riz Ahmed ("Sound of Metal"), Steven Yeun ("Minari"), Yuh-Jung Youn ("Minari"), Leslie Odom Jr. ("One Night in Miami") and Daniel Kaluuya ("Judas and the Black Messiah").
With the notable exception of fueling streaming subscriber growth, the pandemic has been punishing for the movie industry. Production slowed to a crawl, blockbusters were postponed or detoured to streaming and thousands have been laid off or furloughed.
But the outlook for Hollywood has recently brightened as coronavirus cases have slid and vaccines have ramped up. Movie theaters are reopening in the U.S.'s two largest markets, New York and Los Angeles. And several larger movies — including the Walt Disney Co.'s "Black Widow" (May 7) — are scheduled for May and beyond.
Producers of this year's Oscars — Jesse Collins, Stacey Sher and Steven Soderbergh — have yet to announce any details of the April 25 show but Deadline Hollywood recently reported they're eyeing moving the telecast from the Dolby Theatre to Los Angeles' railway hub, Union Station. Wherever it takes place, expect the broadcast to do its best to pitch viewers on going back to the movies.