In the unlikely event that the best-actor Oscar goes to someone else, there’s still plenty of history to be made. Anthony Hopkins (“The Father”) would become the oldest man to prevail in this category, and at 83, he’s already the oldest best-actor nominee ever. The “Sound of Metal” star Riz Ahmed is the first Muslim to be nominated for best actor, and the “Minari” patriarch Steven Yeun is the first Asian-American; if either wins, that would make their cultural breakthroughs even more resonant.
The inclusion of Viola Davis and Andra Day (“The United States vs. Billie Holiday”) in the best-actress race represents only the second time in Oscar history that the category has featured more than one Black contender; the last time was 1973, when Cicely Tyson was nominated for “Sounder” and Diana Ross for “Lady Sings the Blues” (and like Day, Ross was also playing Billie Holiday). If Davis wins this year, she would become the second Black actress after Halle Berry to prevail in this category.
Dual wins for Davis and Boseman would also make “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” the eighth movie to take both lead-acting Oscars — a feat not managed since 1997’s “As Good as It Gets” — and the first to ever do it without a best-picture nomination. That snub feels especially egregious now since the film is well-positioned for two other wins, both of which would also make history: Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson may become the first Black women to win the Oscar for makeup and hairstyling, while the 89-year-old costume designer Ann Roth is poised to become the oldest woman to ever win an Oscar.
Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress
The supporting-actor race has never before featured three Black nominees in the same year, nor two Black nominees from the same film (Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield from “Judas and the Black Messiah”). The other Black nominee, the “One Night in Miami” star Leslie Odom Jr., was also nominated in the best-song category, a once-rare double dip that has now happened each of the last four years, with Cynthia Erivo for “Harriet,” Lady Gaga for “A Star Is Born” and Mary J. Blige for “Mudbound” rounding out the list.
Speaking of Oscar two-timers, Olivia Colman won best actress just two years ago for “The Favourite,” and if she gets a statue for “The Father” (she’s up for supporting actress) she’ll become one of the speediest actresses to nab two Oscars: Only Katharine Hepburn and Luise Rainer have done it faster, with back-to-back wins. If the supporting-actress Oscar instead goes to Yuh-Jung Youn, she’d be the first Korean actor to ever win an Academy Award.
And then there’s Glenn Close, nominated for supporting actress for “Hillbilly Elegy.” Close is already the only actress to earn seven nominations with no win, and if she loses again this year, she will tie Peter O’Toole’s record of eight winless nominations for acting. (O’Toole was at least given a noncompetitive, honorary Oscar in 2002, when he was younger than the 74-year-old Close is now.)
The closest Close has come to winning was probably two years ago for “The Wife,” when she lost the best-actress Oscar to … well, Olivia Colman. And Close was nearly forced into a face-off with another ghost from Oscars past this year, when Jodie Foster won the supporting-actress Golden Globe for “The Mauritanian” and very nearly made the Oscar lineup, too: Back in 1989, it was Foster’s performance in “The Accused” that prevailed over Close’s in “Dangerous Liaisons.”