Reel Dad: Oscar nominations pose questions on film industry trends

"Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" is available to stream on Netflix.

"Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" is available to stream on Netflix.

Netflix / Contributed photo

Every year, the announcement of the Academy Award nominations tells the story of the movie year. With all the change that we will remember from 2020, we can ask, “will the lessons from Oscar continue as we move forward?”

Let’s take a look.

Will smaller movies continue to get attention?

With movie theaters closed most of the year, filmmakers looked online for opportunities for their shows to be seen. This year, the eight nominees for Best Picture are films that focus on character over scope, relationships rather than spectacle. Missing are the big-screen epics that traditionally find their way into the competition. Will they return in 2021?

Will progress continue?

In recent years, the Academy has been criticized for a lack of diversity in the nominations. This year, Viola Davis (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”) becomes the most nominated Black actress in Academy history and, for the second time, two Black women compete for an Oscar, with Davis and Andra Day (“The United States vs. Billie Holiday”) in contention for Best Actress. And, for the first time, three Black men compete for an Oscar, with Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield (“Judas and the Black Messiah”) and Leslie Odom, Jr. (“One Night in Miami”) nominated for Best Supporting Actor.

Will the focus on Asian films continue?

Last year, the South Korean movie “Parasite” became the first foreign-language film to be named Best Picture. This year, “Minari” - the touching story of a Korean family’s adjustment to life in the United States - is a nominee for Best Picture and Director and Steven Yuen, who plays the father, becomes the first Asian-American actor to be nominated for Best Actor.

Will women directors continue to be honored?

This year, for the first time in Oscar history, two female filmmakers will compete for Best Director, Chloé Zhao for “Nomadland” and Emerald Fennell for “Promising Young Woman.” Since the Oscars began almost 100 years ago, only five women have been nominated for this award, with only Kathryn Bigelow (“The Hurt Locker”) winning the Oscar. Zhao is, as well, the first woman of Asian descent to be nominated in this category.

Will history lessons continue?

This year, films recreating key moments from the past are major nominees, including “Judas and the Black Messiah” and “The Trial of the Chicago 7” for Best Picture. Since 2000, six winners of this top award have been based on actual events.

Will Glenn Close continue to be nominated without winning?

In 2019, she was considered “a sure thing” to win the Best Actress award for “The Wife,” only to be surprised by the victory of Olivia Colman for “The Favourite.” This year, Close is a nominee for the eighth time, this time for her supporting role in “Hillbilly Elegy” and the other nominees again include Olivia Colman, this time for “The Father.”

Will posthumous honors continue?

In 1967, Spencer Tracy was the favorite to be named Best Actor for his final film performance in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.” When he didn’t win, some wondered if it might be because he died shortly after the film was made. This year, if the late Chadwick Boseman is named Best Actor for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”, he will be the third actor to win posthumously, after Peter Finch (“Network”) and Heath Ledger (“The Dark Knight”). Over the years, seven deceased actors have been Oscar nominated.

Now, we wait for the predictors to ponder, and the Academy voters to make their final selections. The Oscars will be presented April 25.