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Critics Choice Awards 2021: Highlighting untold stories

A big night for the “Nomadland,” “Minari” and “The Crown”

Similar to the 78th Golden Globes, this year’s 26th Critics Choice Awards  presented March 7 was a bizarre virtual show with actor Taye Diggs hosting from the confines of an oddly-rendered, unused “Tron” set, occasionally interrupted by painfully awkward video presenters who forcefully injected humor into the broadcast. The award recipients virtually accepted their awards from the comfort of their homes.

As expected, the film “Nomadland” and the on-going television series “The Crown” dominated their respective groups. 

“Nomadland” –– an understated masterpiece and ode to America’s underbelly roaming the countryside free of modern life constraints –– swept the categories for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Cinematography. Yet again, it was a repeat of the 78th Golden Globes and another Best Actress loss for Frances McDormand whose quiet yet potent presence gives the film an indescribable sense of gravitas. Director Chloé Zhao continues to pioneer female and Asian representation after her historic win at the 78th Golden Globes as the first Asian woman to win the coveted award. She dedicated her award to the late production sound mixer Michael Wolf Snyder. “Nomadland” further cements its status as the primary front-runner for Oscar glory.

The hit Netflix series “The Crown,” based on the turbulent, gilded lives of the British royal family, continues its golden reign by winning the elusive award for Best Drama Series, finally breaking its three-peat losing streak. The immensely talented Josh O’Connor won Best Actor in a Drama Series after delivering arguably the most nuanced performance of the entire cast while performing the herculean task of transforming the easily unlikable Prince Charles into a complex human being. Up-and-coming star Emma Corrin won Best Actress in a Drama Series for her vivid portrayal of the cultural icon Princess Diana. Meanwhile, veteran actress Gillian Anderson, most well-known for her role in “The X-Files,” won Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for her transformative rendition of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Another Netflix production, the film “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” scooped up Best Costume Design and Best Hair and Makeup for its period-accurate Roaring Twenties-inspired looks. The posthumous acceptance of Best Actor for Chadwick Boseman by his widow Taylor Simone Ledward brought a sobering moment to the awards show.

Still, the competing service Apple TV+ scored some major wins with their breakthrough absurdist comedy show “Ted Lasso”–– where a clueless football coach becomes a professional coach for an English soccer team –– spearheaded by the actor Jason Sudeikis. The show went on to win Best Comedy Series, Best Actor in a Comedy Series for Sudeikis and Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for Hannah Waddingham.

There were also some wins for HBO, most notably the win for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series by actor Michael K. Williams for “Lovecraft Country.” This win is a triumphant return to form by Williams, whose collaboration with HBO extends to other work in shows such as “The Wire,” “Boardwalk Empire” and “The Sopranos.”

The two other major film actors of the night were Carey Mulligan, who won Best Actress for “Promising Young Woman,” a career-best for Mulligan, and Daniel Kaluuya who won Best Supporting Actor for “Judas and the Black Messiah.” The two films tackle themes of oppression, where Mulligan explores the disturbing realities of date rape, and Kaluuya’s work sheds light on the life of Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton. In both of those categories, Mulligan and Kaluuya were uncontested, but the situation was different for the Best Young Actor/Actress category. This year there were some truly incredible performances by young artists, such as that of German actress Helena Zengel in “News of the World.” But in the end, actor Alan Kim won for the film “Minari” and received his award with equal amounts of tears and joy. 

It is important to mention the film “Minari” which won for Best Foreign Language Film and was nominated in multiple categories, including but not limited to Best Picture, Best Director for Lee Isaac Chung, Best Actor for Steven Yeun, and Yuh-Jung Youn for Best Supporting Actress. The film’s tale of a Korean American family chasing the American Dream on a rural Arkansas farm coupled with the success of director Chloé Zhao behind the camera, both serve a stark contrast to the current situations of many Asians and Asian Americans in the United States. The recent surge in anti-Asian hate crimes has risen to disturbingly high levels during the pandemic, primarily because of the erroneous perception of some people to blame people of Asian descent for the spread of COVID-19 across the world. The presence of “Minari” and Chloé Zhao is now more than ever an urgent affirmation of the importance and validity of Asian contributions to American culture.

In many ways, the 26th annual Critics Choice Awards was an important platform for historically marginalized stories. “Nomadland'' showcased the forgotten side of the American West where people live off the grid. “The Crown'' highlighted the painful truths of life in royal families, in which its members must hide behind their titles and suppress their human nature. “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” told the real-life struggles of Black blues singers and musicians fighting for the privilege to have their music heard. “Lovecraft Country” detailed the plight of a young man searching for his missing father in the terrifying landscape of Jim Crow. “Promising Young Woman” told the harrowing tale of a woman who exposes the prevalence and subtelties of rape culture. “Judas and the Black Messiah'' brought back to light an attempt to permanently silence black thought and activism. And “Minari” placed the camera on a small isolated farm and allowed the characters of South Korean descent to tell their own story. The success of those films and TV shows uplifted untold stories and those who society silences.