'Nomadland' Director Chloe Zhao Becomes the Most Awarded Filmmaker in a Single Awards Season

Chloé Zhao has set a new awards season record. The director of awards darling Nomadland has surpassed Alexander Payne (Sideways) as the person to earn the most awards in a single awards season in the modern era, pushing Nomadland to the front of this year’s Oscar race.

Variety has been keeping track of contenders for this year’s Academy Awards, which, like any traditional season, has a few favorites as well as emerging dark horses. But even in a strange awards season like this, with the Oscar ceremony pushed back to April 25 and deadlines to include even more films in a scarce year, there appears to be a clear frontrunner.

Per Variety’s handy chart of awards circuit winners, Chloe Zhao has become the most awarded filmmaker in a single awards season. With 34 awards season trophies for directing, 13 for screenplay, and nine for editing, Chloe Zhao has surpassed the previous record held by Sideways director Alexander Payne, whose 42-win run of directing and screenplay trophies pales in comparisons to Zhao’s current 54 prizes. And this year’s awards season is just getting into the swing of things, with the Golden Globes, the SAG Awards, the Critics Choice Association Awards, the BAFTA Awards, the DGA Awards, the Film Independent Spirit Awards, and the Producers Guild of America Awards still yet to hold their ceremonies.

Still, this deservedly pushes Nomadland to the front of the Oscar pack. It doesn’t totally guarantee a sweep of the coveted Big 5 categories at the Oscars, however — Sideways went on to only win the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. But this a tremendous achievement for Zhao, whose tally doesn’t even include an additional 23 wins so far for Nomadland‘s best picture prizes it has picked up (since Zhao also produced her movie, she should technically be awarded those trophies as well).

I couldn’t think of a better deserving film to be this year’s Oscar darling. A tender and poetic road drama featuring a tour-de-force turn from star Frances McDormandNomadland was my favorite movie of the year and made it onto dozens of other critics’ best-of lists, including /Film’s. It would be nice if a film as unassumingly powerful as Nomadland would go on to win the biggest movie award of the year, though I’ll keep my expectations tempered for now. This is, after all, an awards body that gave Green Book Best Picture.

The 2021 Oscar nominees will be announced on March 15, 2021. Due to the pandemic, the 93rd Academy Awards will be presented on April 25, 2021, rather than its typical window in February.

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