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Pandemic Won't Stop Oscars, Nominations Announced Monday

NOEL KING, HOST:

The Oscar nominations were announced this morning in Los Angeles. It's a few weeks later than normal because of the pandemic. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has been under pressure for a lack of diversity, both in its ranks and in who it nominates for awards. But it arguably made some progress this year with a couple of firsts. NPR arts reporter Andrew Limbong was watching the announcement. Good morning, Andrew.

ANDREW LIMBONG, BYLINE: Morning, Noel.

KING: Let's talk about the firsts first. What happened this morning?

LIMBONG: Right. Well, so the big first is that two women were nominated this morning for best director. This is a category that's been notoriously all male in, like, recent years. So this year, we have Emerald Fennell, who was nominated for her film, "Promising Young Woman." And Chloe Zhao became the first woman of color to get nominated for directing "Nomadland." That's a movie about - Frances McDormand plays a, like, 60-something-year-old widow who lives in a van. And I think we got a clip.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "NOMADLAND")

DAVID STRATHAIRN: (As Dave) I know you.

FRANCES MCDORMAND: (As Fern) Yeah. Hi. Dave, right? Guess.

STRATHAIRN: (As Dave) Fern.

MCDORMAND: (As Fern) Yes. I have your can opener.

STRATHAIRN: (As Dave) Yeah, yeah, yeah, you do. Are you working here now or...

MCDORMAND: (As Fern) Yeah, first year. So coffee?

STRATHAIRN: (As Dave) Yeah, sure.

LIMBONG: So yeah, that film got six nominations, including an actress nomination for Frances McDormand. She's actually up against Viola Davis, Andra Day, Vanessa Kirby and Carey Mulligan. So we have two Black women also nominated in this category, and, you know, for the academy, I guess that's progress.

KING: OK. And what about actors? I know a lot of people wanted to know whether Chadwick Boseman would be nominated. He, of course, passed away last year - very, very popular actor.

LIMBONG: Yeah. He was nominated for best actor for his role in the August Wilson adaptation "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom," which we've got a clip of here.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "MA RAINEY'S BLACK BOTTOM")

CHADWICK BOSEMAN: (As Levee) I know how to handle white folks. I've been handling them for 32 years. Now you goin' to tell me how to do it? Just because I say yes sir don't mean I spooked up by him. I know what I'm doing. Let me handle him my way.

COLMAN DOMINGO: (As Cutler) Well, go on and handle it, then.

LIMBONG: He'll compete against Anthony Hopkins, Gary Oldman, Steven Yeun and Riz Ahmed. So it's actually also a big day for representation for Asians in that category. And in addition to Steven Yeun for his role in "Minari," that film also garnered a nomination for its director, Lee Isaac Chung, in addition to best supporting actress, original screenplay and best picture.

KING: All right, let's talk about best picture. There were eight nominees this year. Which movies stood out to you?

LIMBONG: So aside from "Minari," there were best picture nominations for "The Father," which is a film about dementia, "Nomadland," as I mentioned, was nominated for best picture, as was "Promising Young Woman." Also up were "Mank," "Sound Of Metal," "Judas And The Black Messiah." "Mank" is a film directed by David Fincher about Herman Mankiewicz. He's the guy that wrote "Citizen Kane." Now, that movie swept the noms this morning with a total of 10 nominations.

KING: And lastly, what's happening with the awards ceremony this year? Is it going to be in person?

LIMBONG: Yeah, it'll be in person. So the awards will be on Sunday, April 25. And this morning at the announcements, they announced that the show will be at both the traditional Dolby Theater, where it usually is, and also at LA's Union Station. That's a - it's an old train station that itself has been in a bunch of movies like "Blade Runner."

KING: Andrew Limbong, NPR arts reporter. Thanks so much for this, Andrew.

LIMBONG: Yeah, no problem. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.