VVoices: Reactions to 2021 Oscar Nominations

Vague Visages - 2021 Oscar Nominations

VVoices is a free-to-read Vague Visages critics survey.

In the fourth Vague Visages’ VVoices survey, various film critics react to the 2021 Oscar nominations.

Sam Moore (@Sam_Moore1994)

For an institution that tends to feel like it takes one step forward and two steps back, the Academy seem to have actually made an effort to shine a light on films that are at once more diverse and offer up different kinds of stories to be told. One of the Academy’s biggest problems — alongside its often limp commitment to any kind of diversity — is the fact that nominated films often do variations on the same thing (which is why terms like “Oscar bait,” in spite of being an oversimplification, are quite effective). This year’s crop of nominees seems to actually show that there are a wealth of stories out there being told, and that there are a wealth of voices available to tell them.

Fedor Tot (@redrightman)

The most interesting race in the Oscars for me is usually in the Best Foreign Film category (one which, as we all know, is utterly redundant given Parasite’s win last year). Just as Alistair Ryder’s recent “Why Criticism” piece for Vague Visages compares the Oscars to cheering on a sports team, this year I’ll be cheering for something akin to my national team in Quo Vadis, Aida? Though I may not be Bosnian, I am still a Yugoslav, and that presupposes an almost instinctual reaction for supporting my fellow ex-countrymen, be it in sport, films or whatever. Had Serbia’s failed campaign to get the otherwise terrible Dara of Jasenovac shortlisted been successful, I may have even been tempted to support that film too. Go team!

Christopher Smith (@infinitewords14)

I feel that given the tumultuous year we’ve gone through with regards to film, the Oscars nominations for 2021 might follow that same path. And given the rundown, there are spots of contention that I feel solidified that concern. It must be said first that I am glad for Chloe Zhao and Lee Isaac Chung’s director nods, and that Minari is getting acclaim as an example of diverse filmmaking. But one glaring issue to me is the fact that Lakeith Stanfield and Daniel Kaluuya were both nominated for Best Male Supporting Actor for their turns in Judas and the Black Messiah, which raises questions about the identity of the actual lead, along with the Academy’s intentions. Part of me wonders if the Academy wants to spotlight the late Chadwick Boseman for Best Actor. What I hope is that the consternation some feel with these Oscar nods will still compell them to be consistently vocal about what they do appreciate and where they feel the Academy is still lacking.

Edwin Miles (@eaj_miles)

I’m not huge on awards. Parasite was a welcome shake up at the 2020 Oscars; an overdue acknowledgement of world cinema. And with Green Book the year before, there was pressure for the Academy to get that one right. Though I have never been a great follower of award ceremonies, I’d much rather follow the films and find out for myself — avoid the showboating and self appraisal. That said, it is great to see Riz Ahmed finally getting the plaudits that have been coming for a long while. My favourite actor working at the minute, he embodies so much that I believe to be key factors in making great work. It is hard to disassociate the craftsman from the craft with Ahmed, and that I absolutely love and admire. On Variety’s YouTube channel, there is a brilliant discussion between Ahmed and Steven Yeun (another worthy nominee at the Oscars this year) as they talk about their craft, identity, diaspora and returning to their roots, which is worth checking out. There has been no other actor or filmmaker who has managed to capture the zeitgeist of the past year in their work quite as urgently and quite as prolifically as Ahmed. His 2020 album The Long Goodbye captures the agonising division that defines the UK now, a critical look at the rise of nationalism. His follow-up short film of the same name personifies a paranoia in the face of racism and Islamophobia, and he also released a touching spoken word piece, “I Miss You,” in tribute to those lost to COVID-19. Also, Mogul Mowgli, perhaps Ahmed’s British companion piece to Sound of Metal, was one of the best films to come out in 2020 and has been nominated at the BAFTAs. His latest track, “Once Kings,” is one of his best and most personal yet, and Sound of Metal led to him being the first Muslim nominated for Best Actor in Oscar history. Here’s to hoping that Ahmed doesn’t slow down his productivity just yet, and that he tops a creative year with the award. Despite my indifference to these types of ceremonies, it seems only right that Ahmed gets what he fully deserves.

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