Sunday Reading: The 2021 Oscars

Photograph by Andrew H. Walker / Getty

In another time, the grandees of Hollywood handed out Academy Awards at a ceremony devoid of politics and the suffocating gloom of a national emergency. Blithe days. This weekend’s show comes after a year of COVID-19 and at least half a decade in which voices both within and well beyond Hollywood have been calling for greater diversity on the screen, behind the camera, and, ultimately, in the handing out of the awards themselves. This year’s roster of nominations seems to reflect that change, with the unprecedented (and much belated) nomination of two women directors, as well as nominations for movies dealing with race, gender, and the immigrant experience.

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This week, we’re bringing you a selection of pieces on this year’s nominees. In “Economic Ruthlessness on the Open Road in ‘Nomadland,’ ” Anthony Lane explores Chloé Zhao’s haunting film (nominated for six Oscars) about a woman who travels across the American West after her husband’s death and the loss of her home. Richard Brody reviews Lee Isaac Chung’s immigrant tale, “Minari” (nominated for six awards), and, on The New Yorker Radio Hour, offers his analysis of the best performances of the past year and bestows his annual Brody Awards. Carmen Maria Machado considers the moral complexity of Emerald Fennell’s directorial début, “Promising Young Woman” (nominated for five awards), and examines the lineage of female film protagonists who seek revenge following sexual violence. Finally, in “Shaka King Grapples with Hollywood and History,” Jelani Cobb talks with the director of “Judas and the Black Messiah” (nominated for six awards) about race in the film industry and the life and murder of Fred Hampton, the Black Panther leader and civil-rights activist. See you in front of the screen.

—David Remnick


Illustration by Steffi Walthall

In an almost-true story of older Americans living in their vans, Frances McDormand plays a woman who is both free spirit and labor-market refugee.


A New Yorker critic picks 2020’s best films and performances, according to him.


Photograph by Terrance Purdy, Jr., for The New Yorker

The director of “Judas and the Black Messiah” discusses what he owes to the Black Panther Party, and to the Black filmmakers who came before him.


Photograph courtesy Focus Features

The twisty thriller upends a dark genre’s most familiar tropes, telling the story of a long aftermath and the guilt shared by those in power.


Conventional storytelling obscures fine-grained observations in Lee Isaac Chung’s quasi-autobiographical drama.

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