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How can I complain about these Oscar nominations?

"Minari" lead actor Steven Yeun made history with his Oscar nomination for lead actor.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Alcatraz has reopened, so I can now visit another prison besides my own home. The Dodgers are selling single-game tickets, though it feels like my chances of scoring some are about as promising as escaping from Alcatraz back in the day. But we still have the ocean and the dream that maybe someday we could take a walking journey covering all 1,270 miles of California’s coast. Just watch your step when traveling through that nice, quiet little beach community that is Malibu.

And Oscar nominations arrived this week. Did your favorites find some love?

I’m Glenn Whipp, awards columnist for the Los Angeles Times, host of The Envelope’s Friday newsletter. And I’ve had a rough week, so I’d appreciate it if you didn’t play the Eagles right about now. Thanks.

Oscar nominations are in

How can I complain about an Oscar year that gave us, for the first time, two women nominated for director (Chloé Zhao for “Nomadland” and Emerald Fennell for “Promising Young Woman”), two Black actors nominated from the same movie (LaKeith Stanfield and Daniel Kaluuya for “Judas and the Black Messiah”) and an anthem about screaming seagulls and gentle whales nominated for original song?

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Short answer: I can’t. But I can rejoice. Sure, you can look at the eight movies nominated for best picture and wish that the strange, mysterious math the motion picture academy uses to determine the nominees could have somehow included a ninth film, perhaps either “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” or “One Night in Miami ...” — excellent adaptations of plays looking at Black artists fighting for their place in the world.

But voters did deliver the most diverse group of acting nominees ever — including Steven Yeun, the first Asian American actor to land a lead actor nomination, and Riz Ahmed, the first Muslim nominated in a lead category and first performer of Pakistani descent to land in any acting race. They’re both in a category that, for the first time, is not mostly white.

I’m disappointed that “Soul” somehow wasn’t nominated for original screenplay (much less best picture, where it should have landed too), but I can get over that. The movies, performances and craftsmanship celebrated this year reflect a wealth of considered, thoughtful choices and again confirm that this is no asterisk year for the Oscars.

I ran down a list of surprises and omissions (call them “snubs” if you must) on nominations morning. There’s a video conversation accompanying the story with Times film writer Jen Yamato. One of us combed our hair. You’ll have to click on the link to find out who (though I bet you can guess).

‘With great freedom comes great responsibility’

Now that we know the invitees for the 93rd Oscars, all that’s left is the show, which will be held April 25. The ceremony’s producers — Steven Soderbergh, Jesse Collins and Stacey Sher — sent a letter to nominees outlining expectations for the evening, described as “an intimate, in-person event at Union Station in Los Angeles, with additional show elements live from the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.”

Of note: Only nominees and their guests and presenters can attend. There will be no video calls. Dress code is described as a “fusion of Inspirational and Aspirational, which in actual words means formal is totally cool if you want to go there but casual is really not.” Good thing Jason Sudeikis is not nominated, I guess.

Bong Joon Ho holds an Oscar
You know who gave a good Oscar speech? “Parasite” filmmaker Bong Joon Ho.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

There was also a speech about speeches. “It is our belief the show isn’t ‘too long’ because of the speeches. HAVING SAID THAT, we’d like to say THIS: With great freedom comes great responsibility, and if you’re wondering what we mean by that exactly, we mean READ THE ROOM. Tell a STORY.” And, in case you’re wondering, Soderbergh practiced what he preaches when he won the Oscar for “Traffic” 20 years ago.

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What do the Oscars mean in 2021? We asked the best picture producers

It’s a strange year to be thinking about awards. Believe me, I know. So we thought we’d ask a producer from each of the eight movies nominated this year for best picture where their head is at and what they think the future might hold.

Eric Roth, one of the producers of the Oscar-nominated "Mank."
(Gisele Schmidt / Netflix)

“It’s been a year of such solitude and sorrow and grief,” “Mank” producer Eric Roth told me. “I got my second vaccine and I immediately went and hugged my grandchildren for the first time in a year until they said, ‘Stop, Papa!’ [Laughs] The joy of the movie getting nominated doesn’t completely balance anything because there is this kind of 100 years of solitude and all the grief that people have felt.”

Feedback?

I’d love to hear from you. Email me at glenn.whipp@latimes.com.

Can’t get enough about awards season? Follow me at @glennwhipp on Twitter.


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