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Oscars 2021: Netflix leads studios with 35 nominations in streaming’s big year

Amanda Seyfried stands atop a pile of sticks as Gary Oldman walks away in the movie 'Mank.'
Amanda Seyfried and Gary Oldman in “Mank.”
(Netflix)

Welcome to the Living Room Oscars.

Netflix cleaned up in nominations for the 93rd Academy Awards, reflecting what a pivotal year it was for the movie business in the age of the couch-bound filmgoer.

The Los Gatos, Calif., company scored 35 nominations for its movies Monday morning, the most of any studio. Netflix’s total was led by David Fincher’s “Mank,” which earned 10 nods, making it the most decorated film. The black-and-white ode to Old Hollywood is up for trophies including best picture, lead actor (Gary Oldman) and director.

Netflix also earned six nominations for Aaron Sorkin’s historical drama “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” also up for best picture, and five for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” The late Chadwick Boseman was honored with a lead actor nomination for his role in “Ma Rainey,” and his costar Viola Davis earned a spot in the lead actress category, although the film did not get a best picture nod in a notable snub. Boseman died of cancer last year at 43.

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Streaming rival Amazon Studios also was a big contender, scoring 12 nominations overall, including for such films as best picture contender “Sound of Metal,” starring Riz Ahmed as a heavy metal drummer who loses his hearing. Amazon’s “One Night in Miami...” and “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” also got multiple kudos.

This marks the biggest haul for Amazon since “Manchester by the Sea” led the company to its first best picture nomination in 2017.

“For the last few years, we’ve made sure we’re putting our focus on opening the doors to diverse talent and emerging voices,” said Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke. “To see this diverse group of films be honored in this way is really gratifying.”

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Streaming services Apple TV+ and Disney+ both earned their first Oscar nominations. Apple was represented by the animated feature “Wolfwalkers” and the war film “Greyhound” (up for sound). The Disney+ original release “The One and Only Ivan” got a nomination for visual effects. The nominations mark milestones for the services, both of which launched just 16 months ago.

The bundle of streaming nominations comes after an atypical year for the academy and the film industry, when most big commercial movies were delayed by theater shutdowns. Cinemas in the biggest U.S. markets — Los Angeles and New York — are only just beginning to reopen after 12 months of closures because of the coronavirus, turning 2020 into a lost year for traditional moviegoing.

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VIDEO | 09:32
Los Angeles Times reporters discuss the snubs and surprises of Oscar nominations

Entertainment columnist Glenn Whipp and film reporter Jen Yamato talk about the 2021 Oscar nominations.

The ongoing pandemic means that the vast majority of people will see the nominated films from the comfort of their homes, rather than in multiplexes. Even the films that were intended for the big screen, such as “Judas and the Black Messiah” and “Nomadland,” were primarily viewed in the home. To reflect the situation, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences changed this year’s eligibility rules to allow films to qualify for Oscar consideration without a theatrical release.

Because of the postponement of big movies, many of the likely winners are little known by the general public. It’s often the case that awards favorites skew toward the obscure, but usually there’s a “Mad Max: Fury Road” or “Joker” to bring in the masses. Lacking any blockbusters this year, ratings are likely to decline steeply if viewership for the Golden Globes is any indication.

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Last year, Netflix outpaced the studios with 24 nominations for films including “The Irishman,” “Marriage Story” and “The Two Popes.” However, the company ended up winning only two statuettes: supporting actress for Laura Dern in “Marriage Story” and documentary feature for “American Factory.”

“Mank,” which follows the travails of witty “Citizen Kane” scribe Herman Mankiewicz, will try to avoid the fate of Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman,” which also earned 10 nominations but was shut out at the actual ceremony.

Although overshadowed by the streamers, the traditional distributors made their presence known, even though most of their movies weren’t released in the usual way — in theaters for weeks before they hit streaming services and VOD sites.

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Chloé Zhao’s “Nomadland,” the current favorite to win best picture, was distributed by Walt Disney Co.'s Searchlight Pictures (formerly Fox Searchlight) but had a hybrid release, debuting on Disney-owned Hulu at the same time as its theatrical premiere. “Nomadland,” a bleak but gripping exploration of American economic hardship, has six nominations, including for Zhao (director) and Frances McDormand (lead actress).

The Disney empire also got nominations for Pixar’s “Soul” (released directly to Disney+ in December), “Onward” and Hulu’s “The United States vs. Billie Holiday,” with Andra Day nominated for lead actress. In total, Burbank-based Disney and its various subsidiaries came away with 15 nominations.

Comcast Corp.'s Focus Features nabbed seven nominations, including five for Emerald Fennell’s “Promising Young Woman,” starring Carey Mulligan, and two for “Emma.” Universal Pictures’ western “News of the World” earned four, bringing Comcast’s total to 11.

Warner Bros. is up for eight awards — six for “Judas and the Black Messiah,” which debuted on HBO Max and in theaters simultaneously; and two for Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet.” “Judas” left HBO Max on Sunday, so it could get a boost at theaters in the coming weeks.

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Sony Pictures Classics had six nominations for “The Father,” starring Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman. A24’s “Minari,” Lee Isaac Chung’s tale of a Korean American immigrant family that moves to a rural farm in the 1980s, also earned six.

“Minari’s” nominations are particularly historic in a year of multiple firsts. Star Steven Yeun made history as the first Asian American to be nominated in the lead actor category. In the directing category, the academy nominated the first Asian woman (Zhao for “Nomadland”).


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