Chicago-based films fare well in Oscar noms

(Clockwise: Nomadland, Ma Rainey, Chicago 7, Judas)

Actor-producer Priyanka Chopra Jonas and singer, songwriter and actor Nick Jonas announced the 93rd Oscars nominations today (March 15), live from London, via a global live stream on, the Academy’s digital platforms, an international satellite feed and broadcast media.

Films that are either based in Chicago, or featured Chicago talent, fared very well when the nominations settled.

In this very odd movie year, Nomadland scored six nominations,  Judas and the Black Messiah , Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom  and Trial of the Chicago 7 each received five nominations.


Of course Nomadland is about Fern (McDormand) who in her sixties lost everything in the Great Recession and then embarks on a journey through the American West, living as a van-dwelling modern-day nomad.

So why is that on the list? We will be rooting for Gibson City Illinois’ Frances McDormand who is not only nominated in the Best Actress category, but as a Producer, too.

This is McDormand’s third nomination in the acting category and her seventh overall. She won Oscars for her leading roles in Fargo (1996) and Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017). Her other nominations were for supporting roles in Mississippi Burning (1988), Almost Famous (2000) and North Country (2005).

This is the first Best Picture nomination for McDormand, giving her the notoreity of being only the third woman (after Barbra Streisand and Oprah Winfrey) and the twentieth person to have both an acting and a Best Picture nomination, not necessarily for the same film.

The Trial of the Chicago 7

Aaron Sorkin’s film about the infamous 1969 trial of seven defendants charged by the federal government with conspiracy, arising from the countercultural protests in Chicago at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, managed five nominations.

The film is nominated for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor, Sacha Baron Cohen, Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography and Best Editing.

This is Sorkin’s fourth nomination. He won an Oscar for his adapted screenplay for The Social Network (2010) and was nominated in the same category for Moneyball (2011) and Molly’s Game (2017)

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Just give the Oscar to Chadwick Boseman already. Set in Chicago in 1927, tensions rise when trailblazing blues singer Ma Rainey and her band gather at a recording studio in Chicago in 1927.

Boseman, who died of cancer on August 28, 2020, is the seventh performer to receive a posthumous nomination. The others were James Dean (Actor, East of Eden, 1955, and Actor, Giant, 1956); Spencer Tracy (Actor, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, 1967); Peter Finch, the first posthumous acting winner (Actor in a Leading Role, Network, 1976); Ralph Richardson
(Actor in a Supporting Role, Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes, 1984); Massimo Troisi (Actor in a Leading Role, The Postman (Il Postino), 1995) and Heath Ledger, who was also a winner (Actor in a Supporting Role, The Dark Knight, 2008).

Of course we all know which city doubled for Gotham.

Viola Davis (“Ma Rainey” in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) is also nominated for Best Actress, her fourth overall and second in this category. David won an Oscar for her supporting role in Fences (2016), and was nominated for her supporting role in Doubt (2008) and her leading role in
The Help (2011).

The film is also nominated for Best Production Design, Best Costumes and Best Makeup and Hairstyling.

Judas and the Black Messiah

The American biographical drama film about the betrayal of Fred Hampton (played by Daniel Kaluuya), chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party in late-1960s Chicago, at the hands of William O’Neal (played by Lakeith Stanfield), an FBI informant.

The Chicago-set film is nominated for five Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor for Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield.

The film is also nominated for Best Original Screenplay. This is the first nomination for Will Berson, Shaka King, Kenny Lucas and Keith Lucas.

The 93rd Oscars will be held on Sunday, April 25, 2021, at Union Station Los Angeles and the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center in Hollywood, and will be televised live on ABC at 7 p.m. CST/5 p.m. PT.

The Oscars also will be televised live in more than 225 countries and territories worldwide.

Go Chicago!

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Colin Costello is the West Coast Editor of Reel 360. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @colinthewriter1