Oscar 2021: Shortlists

Academy Reveals 10 Shortlist Categories


Billie Eilish: The World’s A Little

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) announced shortlists of 15 finalists in 10 Oscar categories: documentary feature, documentary short, international feature, makeup-hairstyling, original score, original song, animated short, live action short, sound and visual effects.

They offer some clues about how the organization’s 10,000 members will vote between January 27 and February 1.

Each of these shortlists was chosen by members of different branches, whereas all branches ultimately get to weigh in on the best picture race.

Many of these shortlists tend to highlight larger-scale films over smaller-scale ones. But it is still striking that the Bond film, No Time to Die, showed up on all five lists in which it was eligible, and Dune did so on four, whereas Licorice Pizza and C’mon C’mon were totally MIA.

It was expected that the Danish film Flee registered on both the documentary feature and international feature lists — the powerful portrait of an Afghan refugee’s journey might well become the first film ever to land nomination in those two categories and animated feature (for which there is no shortlist).

International Feature Contest

This year’s Cannes Film Fest winner, Titane (France), didn’t make the final 15. It is a divisive horror film, but most thought it would advance at least one more round, even without executive committee “saves” this year.

Two-time Oscar winner Asghar Farhadi‘s A Hero (Iran) and Juho Kuosmanen‘s Compartment No. 6 (Finland), both made the shortlist. That’s disappointing news for Neon, but welcome news for Amazon and Sony Classics, the films’ respective U.S. distributors.

Their competition will include Drive My Car (Japan), the Janus release which was the best picture choice of both the New York Film Critics Circle and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association; The Hand of God (Italy), which Netflix is pushing hard; Norway’s The Worst Person in the World; and three vehicles for actors well-known in Hollywood, Oscar winner Javier Bardem (Spain’s The Good Boss, which was controversially entered over Pedro Almodovar‘s Parallel Mothers, starring Bardem’s wife Penélope Cruz), Downton Abbey alum Dan Stevens (Germany’s I’m Your Man) and Prometheus leading lady Noomi Rapace (Iceland’s Lamb).

Original Song

This year’s original song shortlist is the most star-studded in history, with tunes by BillieEilish and Finneas (No Time to Die‘s “No Time to Die”), Beyoncé (King Richard‘s “BeAlive”), Jay-Z (The Harder They Fall‘s “Guns Go Bang”), U2 (Sing 2‘s “Your Song Saved My Life”), Carole King and Jennifer Hudson (“Here I Am (Singing My Way Home)” from Respect), Ariana Grande (“Just Look Up” from Don’t Look Up), Lin-Manuel Miranda (“Dos Oruguitas” from Encanto), Brian Wilson (“Right Where I Belong” from Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road), Van Morrison (“Down to Joy” from Belfast), H.E.R. (“Automatic Woman” from Bruised), Pasek & Paul and Amandla Stenberg (“The Anonymous Ones” from Dear Evan Hansen) and Kid Cudi (a writer on two aforementioned songs, “Guns Go Bang” and “Just Look Up”) among those vying for just five spots.

Inevitably, the list also brings bad news for several other notable artists, including Camila Cabello (“Million to One,” a tune from Cinderella which was widely expected to make the cut, was bounced by another which wasn’t, Idina Menzel and Laura Veltz‘s “Dream Girl”), Anderson .Paak and Bruno Mars (“Fire in the Sky” from Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings), Jon Batiste (“Breathe” from The First Wave), Eddie Vedder (“My Father’s Daughter” from Flag Day), Florence + The Machine (“Call Me Cruella” from Cruella) and The National (who had several songs in the running for the musical Cyrano).

Two long-shots are also advancing: Sian Heder, the writer-director of CODA, who also wrote an original song for the film’s end credits — having never previously written a song in her life — only because she had run out of money and could no longer afford the rights to an existing song, resulting in “Beyond the Shore.”

Diane Warren: Oscar’s Biggest Loser

The legendary Diane Warren, who has lost all 12 times she has been Oscar-nominated across five decades, but never gives up. Her inspirational “Somehow You Do,” from the low-profile Four Good Days, is moving on.

Best Score

As for scores, most of the usual suspects got good news, including and especially Jonny Greenwood, with both The Power of the Dog and Spencer, as well as Hans Zimmer (Dune), Alexandre Desplat (The French Dispatch), Alberto Iglesias (Parallel Mothers) and Carter Burwell (The Tragedy of Macbeth). And there was a nice showing, too, by rising stars, such as Nicholas Britell (Don’t Look Up), Kris Bowers (King Richard) and Jeymes Samuel (The Harder They Fall).

Left outside looking in, though, were Marco Beltrami (A Quiet Place Part II), Steven Price (Last Night in Soho), Nathan Johnson (Nightmare Alley), Dickon Hinchliffe (The Lost Daughter) and the aforementioned The National (C’mon C’mon).

Ultra-competitive documentary feature race

The competitive documentary feature race, for which 138 titles were eligible, ended up largely as expected, with powerful films covering Syrian refugees (Megan Mylan‘s Simple as Water) to the pandemic (Matthew Heineman‘s The First Wave) to Zimbabwe elections (Camilla Nielsson‘s President). One-fifth of those advancing center on music: RJ Cutler‘s Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little BlurryTodd Haynes‘ The Velvet Underground and Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson‘s prohibitive frontrunner Summer of Soul (which could even become the first documentary ever to crack into the best picture category).

The most notable documentary feature omissions were Oscar winner Morgan Neville‘s Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain, a commercially successful doc which became controversial within the branch after it was revealed that it had manipulated its subject’s voice.

Francesco, for which Oscar nominee Evgeny Afineevsky was granted unprecedented access to Pope Francis;

Emily Kunstler and Sarah Kunstler‘s Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America;

Oscar nominee Liz Garbus‘ Becoming Cousteau;

Two portraits of ailing actors, Val (actor Val Kilmer) and Introducing, Selma Blair (actress Selma Blair).

Titles that struck me as MIA from the makeup/hairstyling list were Spencer, Power of the DogBeing the Ricardos and Last Night in Soho.


Missing from the sound list were The Last DuelNightmare Alley and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings; and from the VFX list were Swan SongDon’t Look UpThe Suicide SquadThe Tomorrow War and Jungle Cruise.


The inclusion of the Shaquille O’Neal-supported doc short The Queen of Basketball; the live action short When the Sun Sets, a deeply personal Chapman University MFA thesis film of Phumi Morare, for which the South African was previously recognized with a Student Academy Award; and the Pixar animated short Us Again, which played in theaters ahead of Raya and the Last Dragon.

Surprisingly, given the heavy presence of Disney and Pixar employees in the short films and feature animation branch, Disney’s Far from the Tree, which played in theaters ahead of Encanto, and Pixar’s Twenty Something and Nona, which are on Disney+, all missed.