Oscars 2021: Chloe Zhao, Steven Yeun, Riz Ahmed Nominations Break Barriers

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Oscars 2021: Chloe Zhao, Steven Yeun, Riz Ahmed Nominations Break Barriers

It didn’t take the winners being announced for the 2021 Oscars to right some historical wrongs thanks to some exceptionally talented members of the film industry.

With today’s announcement of the 2021 Oscar nominations, Minari’s Steven Yeun became the first Asian-American Best Actor nominee in the awards’ history, while Sound of Metal’s Riz Ahmed became the first Muslim nominated for Best Actor and the first person of Pakistani descent to be nominated for any acting category. Ahmed recently broke similar ground at the Emmys. Yeun’s Minari co-star, Yuh-Jung Youn—who gave one of our breakout performances of the year—became the first Korean person ever nominated for acting.

Viola Davis’ nomination for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom made her the most-nominated Black actress of all time, and the only Black actress to land two Best Actress nominations. For the same film, the late Chadwick Boseman earned the first posthumous Oscar nomination ever given to a non-white actor. The pair carried the Netflix film, which was a stunning piece of actorly achievement—even if its sum total was a bit more stagey than need be (something reflected by the Academy snubbing the film for Best Picture).

Needless to say, it’s a diverse acting lineup that’s signaling a new movement for an Academy that’s weathered criticism about its historically white picks. But that push wasn’t limited to the acting categories, mostly thanks to Nomadland writer/director/editor Chloé Zhao. Zhao became the first woman of color to ever earn a Best Director nod and—with nominations for Adapted Screenplay, Direction, Editing and Best Picture—the first woman ever to land four nominations at the same Oscars.

Doubling down on the “Oh lord, I can’t believe this hasn’t happened yet” of it all, Zhao’s nomination for Best Director alongside Promising Young Woman’s Emerald Fennell marks the first time the category has ever had more than one woman represented. Yikes.

Other landmark achievements in the nominations include the first nods ever given to Romania and Tunisia, as Collective (Best Documentary, Best International Feature) and The Man Who Sold His Skin (Best International Feature) respectively represent their countries.

The 2021 Oscars will air on April 25.

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