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Chloé Zhao and Yuh-Jung Youn Make History at the Academy Awards

By Jana Monji, AsAmNews Arts & Culture Writer

Chloé Zhao and Youn Yuh-Jung made history last night at the 93rd Academy Awards held at Union Station and Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. Zhao was the first woman of color, the first Asian woman and the second woman to win best director. Youn was the first South Korean woman to win an Oscar.

Although the black-and-white film Mank about a rascally alcoholic writer creating the Academy Award-winning Citizen Kane had the most nominations (10), Nomadland ended the night with the most wins. The film was adapted for a non-fiction book by Jessica Bruder about a different class of migrant worker. The film centered on a widow who must learn about van life and living on the road after the town factory closes down. Out of six nominations, Nomadland received three awards: Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actress (Frances McDormand).

“This is for anyone who has the faith and the courage to hold on to the goodness in themselves and hold on to the goodness in each other no matter how difficult it is to do that,” Zhao said in her acceptance speech. She also wrote the screenplay for which she received a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay, but that award went to Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller for The Father, which was based on Zeller’s own play. A total of seven women have been nominated for best director, including two this year. Kathryn Bigelow was the first female director winner for the 2009 The Hurt Locker

Youn won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role as the feisty grandmother in Minari. Youn appeared stunned, saying, “I cannot believe I’m here.” She did manage to thank one of the executive producers by saying, “Mr. Brad Pitt, finally! Nice to meet you. Where were you when we were filming, in person?”

The first Asian woman to win an Oscar was the Japanese actress Miyoshi Umeki (梅木 美代志) in 1957 for her supporting role in the Korean War drama, Sayonara which starred Marlon Brando. At 73, Youn isn’t the oldest Best Supporting Actress winner; Peggy Ashcroft was 77 when she won for her role in the 1984 British Raj drama A Passage to India.

Isaac Lee Chung’s Minari had also been nominated for six Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Steven Yeun), Best Original Screenplay and Best Original Score. But Youn was its only win on Oscar night.

Pakistani Brit Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal) and Korean American Yeun lost Best Actor to Anthony Hopkins (The Father). Hopkins is the oldest Best Actor Oscar winner at 83. This was Hopkins sixth Oscar nomination, fourth for Best Actor and his second win. He won his first Oscar in 1992 for his turn as Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs.  Ahmed received some positive kudos on Twitter for his red carpet attentiveness to his wife, California-born Indian American Fatima Farheen Mirza.

Iranian American Ramin Bahrani was nominated (Best Adapted Screenplay) for his tale about young Asian Indian’s rise out of poverty, The White Tiger, but lost to Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller who won for The Father.

Oscars and Diversity

Looking at 12 categories (directing, best picture, best actor and actress, best supporting actor and actress, adapted screenplay, original screenplay, animated feature, documentary feature, original music score and original song), there was diversity, even if there were people on Twitter complaining #OscarsSoWhite. The complaints seemed to focus on Hopkins win over the late Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom). In all, nine actors of color were nominated with two winning.

In a short video posted Monday morning, Hopkins accepted his Oscar from his home in Wales, saying, “At 83 years of age, I did not expect to get this award, I really didn’t. I’m very grateful to the Academy.” He also added, “I want to pay tribute to Chadwick Boseman, who was taken from us far too early,” he continued. “I really did not expect this, so I feel very privileged and honored.”

Yet a female director won, the Best Picture had a older woman as the central character, Emerald Fennel won for Best Original Screenplay (“Promising Young Woman”) and two women (H.E.R and Tiara Thomas with D’Mile) wrote the Best Original Song Fight for You. That’s about 50 percent representation.  In categories where gender wasn’t an issue, more women were nominated than ever before.

The two acting awards for women went to women over 50. Frances McDormand is 63 and Youn is 73. McDormand has been nominated for acting Oscars six times and Nomadland is her third win after her 1997 win for Fargo, and her more recent 2018 win for Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri. All were for Best Actress. The only actress who has won more Oscars for Best Actress is Katharine Hepburn (12 nominations and four wins). Meryl Streep has been nominated 17 times, but only won twice.

Black people were represented in four of the 12 categories (33 percent) while Latino/Hispanic people were only represented in one of the 12 (8 percent). Asians were represented in three of the 12 categories (25 percent). Besides Zhao and Youn, H.E.R. who with D’Mile and Tiara Thomas won Best Original Song for Fight for You, is Filipina and Black. Even if we limited our statistics to the acting categories only, which is what the original #OscarsSoWhite was about, the statistics (1 in four or 25 percent with Daniel Kaluuya’s Best Supporting Actor win for Judas and the Black Messiah) would still be above the representation within the national population (13 percent). 

According to my information no Latina/Hispanic actress has won a Best Actress Oscar. One Latino actor, José Ferrer, won Best Actor (1950). Two Latinos, Anthony Quinn (twice) and Benicio del Toro won Best Supporting. Two Latina women have won Best Supporting Actress Oscars: Rita Moreno (1961) and Lupita Nyong’o (2013).

For Asian Americans, Best Actor Oscars have been won by Yul Brynner (born in an Asian part of Russia and he was reportedly part Mongolian) for the 1956 The King and I, and F. Murray Abraham (who is part Syrian) for the 1984 Amadeus. No East Asian American has won.

Best Actress (Black Swan) has been won by Natalie Portman who was born in Israel. Haing S. Ngor won a Best Supporting Actor for the 1984 The Killing Fields. Directing Oscars were won by Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain in 2005 and Life of Pi in 2012) and Bong Joon-ho for Parasite.

Of the 12 categories, eight or 66 percent represented diversity. Outside of those 12 categories, Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) became the first Black women to win an Oscar for makeup and hairstyle.

Netflix backed seven winners out of 36 nominations. The Walt Disney Company received a total of five Academy Awards which includes Nomadland.

The complete list of winners:

Best Actor in a Leading Role

Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal)

Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom)

Anthony Hopkins (The Father) (WINNER)

Gary Oldman (Mank)

Steven Yeun (Minari)

Best Actress in a Leading Role

Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom)

Andra Day (The United States v. Billie Holiday)

Vanessa Kirby (Pieces of a Woman)

Frances McDormand (Nomadland) (WINNER)

Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman)

Best Picture

The Father (David Parfitt, Jean-Louis Livi and Philippe Carcassonne, producers)

Judas and the Black Messiah (Shaka King, Charles D. King and Ryan Coogler, producers)

Mank (Ceán Chaffin, Eric Roth and Douglas Urbanski, producers)

Minari (Christina Oh, producer)

Nomadland (Frances McDormand, Peter Spears, Mollye Asher, Dan Janvey and Chloé Zhao, producers) (WINNER) 

Promising Young Woman (Ben Browning, Ashley Fox, Emerald Fennell and Josey McNamara, producers)

Sound of Metal (Bert Hamelinck and Sacha Ben Harroche, producers)

The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Marc Platt and Stuart Besser, producers)

Best Original Song

Fight for You, (“Judas and the Black Messiah”). Music by H.E.R. and Dernst Emile II; Lyric by H.E.R. and Tiara Thomas (WINNER)

Hear My Voice, (The Trial of the Chicago 7). Music by Daniel Pemberton; Lyric by Daniel Pemberton and Celeste Waite 

Húsavík, (Eurovision Song Contest). Music and Lyric by Savan Kotecha, Fat Max Gsus and Rickard Göransson

io Si (Seen), (The Life Ahead). Music by Diane Warren; Lyric by Diane Warren and Laura Pausini

Speak Now, (One Night in Miami). Music and Lyric by Leslie Odom, Jr. and Sam Ashworth

Best Original Score

Da 5 Bloods, Terence Blanchard

Mank, Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross

Minari, Emile Mosseri

News of the World, James Newton Howard

Soul, Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, Jon Batiste (WINNER)

Best Film Editing

The Father, Yorgos Lamprinos

Nomadland, Chloé Zhao

Promising Young Woman, Frédéric Thoraval

Sound of Metal, Mikkel E.G. Nielsen (WINNER)

The Trial of the Chicago 7, Alan Baumgarten

Best Cinematography

Judas and the Black Messiah, Sean Bobbitt

Mank, Erik Messerschmidt (WINNER)

News of the World, Dariusz Wolski

Nomadland, Joshua James Richards

The Trial of the Chicago 7, Phedon Papamichael

Best Production Design

The Father. Production Design: Peter Francis; Set Decoration: Cathy Featherstone

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Production Design: Mark Ricker; Set Decoration: Karen O’Hara and Diana Stoughton

Mank. Production Design: Donald Graham Burt; Set Decoration: Jan Pascale (WINNER)

News of the World. Production Design: David Crank; Set Decoration: Elizabeth Keenan

Tenet. Production Design: Nathan Crowley; Set Decoration: Kathy Lucas

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Maria Bakalova (Borat Subsequent Moviefilm)

Glenn Close (Hillbilly Elegy)

Olivia Colman (The Father)

Amanda Seyfried (Mank)

Yuh-Jung Youn (Minari) (WINNER)

Best Visual Effects

Love and Monsters,Matt Sloan, Genevieve Camilleri, Matt Everitt and Brian Cox

The Midnight Sky, Matthew Kasmir, Christopher Lawrence, Max Solomon and David Watkins

Mulan,Sean Faden, Anders Langlands, Seth Maury and Steve Ingram

The One and Only Ivan, Nick Davis, Greg Fisher, Ben Jones and Santiago Colomo Martinez

Tenet, Andrew Jackson, David Lee, Andrew Lockley and Scott Fisher (WINNER)

Best Documentary Feature

Collective, Alexander Nanau and Bianca Oana

Crip Camp,Nicole Newnham, Jim LeBrecht and Sara Bolder

The Mole Agent, Maite Alberdi and Marcela Santibáñez

My Octopus Teacher, Pippa Ehrlich, James Reed and Craig Foster (WINNER)

Time, Garrett Bradley, Lauren Domino and Kellen Quinn

Best Documentary Short Subject

Colette, Anthony Giacchino and Alice Doyard (WINNER)

A Concerto Is a Conversation, Ben Proudfoot and Kris Bowers

Do Not Split, Anders Hammer and Charlotte Cook

Hunger Ward, Skye Fitzgerald and Michael Scheuerman

A Love Song for Latasha, Sophia Nahli Allison and Janice Duncan

Best Animated Feature Film

Onward (Pixar)

Over the Moon (Netflix)

A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon(Netflix)

Soul (Pixar) (WINNER)

Wolfwalkers(Apple TV Plus/GKIDS)

Best Animated Short Film

Burrow (Disney Plus/Pixar)

Genius Loci (Kazak Productions)

If Anything Happens I Love You (Netflix) (WINNER)

Opera (Beasts and Natives Alike)

Yes-People (CAOZ hf. Hólamói)

Best Live-Action Short Film

Feeling Through

The Letter Room

The Present

Two Distant Strangers(WINNER)

White Eye

Best Sound

Greyhound, Warren Shaw, Michael Minkler, Beau Borders and David Wyman

Mank, Ren Klyce, Jeremy Molod, David Parker, Nathan Nance and Drew Kunin

News of the World, Oliver Tarney, Mike Prestwood Smith, William Miller and John Pritchett

Soul, Ren Klyce, Coya Elliott and David Parker

Sound of Metal, Nicolas Becker, Jaime Baksht, Michelle Couttolenc, Carlos Cortés and Phillip Bladh (WINNER)

Best Director

Thomas Vinterberg (Another Round)

David Fincher (Mank)

Lee Isaac Chung (Minari)

Chloé Zhao (Nomadland) (WINNER)

Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman)

Best Costume Design

Emma, Alexandra Byrne

Mank,Trish Summerville

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Ann Roth (WINNER)

Mulan, Bina Daigeler

Pinocchio,Massimo Cantini Parrini

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Emma, Marese Langan, Laura Allen, Claudia Stolze

Hillbilly Elegy, Eryn Krueger Mekash, Patricia Dehaney, Matthew Mungle

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Sergio Lopez-Rivera, Mia Neal, Jamika Wilson (WINNER)

Mank, Kimberley Spiteri, Gigi Williams, Colleen LaBaff

Pinocchio,Mark Coulier, Dalia Colli, Francesco Pegoretti

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Sacha Baron Cohen (The Trial of the Chicago 7)

Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah) (WINNER)

Leslie Odom Jr. (One Night in Miami)

Paul Raci (Sound of Metal)

Lakeith Stanfield (Judas and the Black Messiah)

Best International Feature Film

Another Round (Denmark) (WINNER)

Better Days (Hong Kong)

Collective (Romania)

The Man Who Sold His Skin (Tunisia)

Quo Vadis, Aida? (Bosnia and Herzegovina)

Best Adapted Screenplay

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm. Screenplay by Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Dan Swimer, Peter Baynham, Erica Rivinoja, Dan Mazer, Jena Friedman, Lee Kern; Story by Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Dan Swimer, Nina Pedrad

The Father, Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller (WINNER)

Nomadland, Chloé Zhao

One Night in Miami,”Kemp Powers

The White Tiger, Ramin Bahrani

Best Original Screenplay

Judas and the Black Messiah. Screenplay by Will Berson, Shaka King; Story by Will Berson, Shaka King, Kenny Lucas, Keith Lucas

Minari, Lee Isaac Chung

Promising Young Woman, Emerald Fennell (WINNER)

Sound of Metal. Screenplay by Darius Marder, Abraham Marder; Story by Darius Marder, Derek Cianfrance

The Trial of the Chicago 7, Aaron Sorkin

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