Mulan (Yifei Liu) in a scene from the live-action ‘Mulan,’ which premiered on Disney+ during the pandemic. (Film Frame/Disney/TNS)
One of the most topsy-turvy Oscar seasons in history took another step forward on Tuesday, as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the shortlists of potential nominees in nine categories, including international feature, song, visual effects and documentary.
With this year’s awards derby upended by the coronavirus pandemic, the shortlists — determined either by the specific branches involved or by special awards committees — further narrow a field that had already been winnowed by circumstances after studios bumped some of the year’s most promising awards hopefuls from the release calendar to avoid certain box office doom.
Out of a record 238 films originally submitted in the documentary feature category, 15 will advance to the final round of voting, including such critical successes as “76 Days,” which takes viewers inside Wuhan hospitals in the early stages of the pandemic, the Netflix disability-rights doc “Crip Camp” and the highly topical “All In: The Fight for Democracy,” chronicling Stacey Abrams’ battle against voter suppression.
Over the years, the documentary category has produced its share of controversial snubs, such as the Roger Ebert documentary “Life Itself” and the Jane Goodall doc “Jane” being passed over, but this year, the branch appears to have avoided any striking omissions on its way to the final five nominees, though some widely seen docs such as “Mucho Mucho Amor,” “The Social Dilemma” and “Beastie Boys Story” failed to make the cut, as did acclaimed director Frederick Wiseman’s four-plus hour look inside Boston’s municipal government, “City Hall.”
Out of 93 films that had been considered in the international feature category, 15 films made the shortlist, including “Better Days” (Hong Kong), “Collective” (Romania), “La Llorona” (Guatemala) and “Two of Us” (France).
While two international films made the leap to the best picture race in recent years — Alfonso Cuarn’s autobiographical drama “Roma” and Bong Joon Ho’s genre-scrambling “Parasite,” which won took home academy’s top prize last year — none of this year’s crop is expected to make that sort of breakthrough.
Members of the academy’s music branch advanced 15 songs to the final round of voting out of 105 that were eligible in the category, including “Loyal Brave True” from Disney’s live-action “Mulan,” “Wuhan Flu” from Sacha Baron Cohen’s button-pushing mockumentary “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” and “Fight For You” from “Judas and the Black Messiah.”
In the visual effects race, the voting committee advanced ten films, including the DC spinoff “Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn,” George Clooney’s end-of-the-world sci-fi epic “Midnight Sky,” Christopher Nolan’s latest brain-tickling thriller “Tenet” and Pixar’s “Soul.” One notable absence from the list: the Warner Bros. sequel “Wonder Woman 1984,” which debuted simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max in December and became the year’s most-watched straight-to-streaming title.
Nominations voting begins March 5 and ends March 10. Nominations will then be announced on March 15.
The 93rd Academy Awards will be held on Sunday, April 25.