Just recently, the Academy Awards nominations for 2017 were announced – predictably, Damien Chazelle’s La La Land being the frontrunner. But the Academy made some pretty impressive choices.
Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight wasn’t far behind La La Land, with 8 nominations to La La Land‘s 14. Hamilton star Lin-Manuel Miranda may become one of the first men of color to be an EGOT – an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony winner back-to-back. Viola Davis officially became the first Black woman to be nominated three times for an Oscar (this year for her role in Fences), and this is the first year that three Black films have been nominated for Best Picture (Moonlight, Fences and Hidden Figures).
Two Black directors are nominated for Best Director – Barry Jenkins and Denzel Washington – and this is the first time a Black person has been nominated for Best Screenplay and Best Director simultaneously.
This is a big year for Black women, as it’s the first time in history a Black woman was nominated for Best Editing (Joi McMillon for Moonlight). Also, three Black women are nominated in the Best Supporting Actress category – Naomie Harris for Moonlight, Viola Davis for Fences, and Octavia Spencer for Hidden Figures – so the win will likely go to a Black woman.
Here, we’re going to discuss who I believe should win each category – but we’re also going to talk about who likely will win, based on buzz and just my general thoughts on the industry.
Best Picture Nominees: Arrival, Fences, Hidden Figures, Manchester by the Sea, Moonlight, La La Land, Hell or High Water, Lion, and Hacksaw Ridge.
Who should win: It was a tough choice between Hidden Figures and Moonlight, but I’m going to have to go with Moonlight. It was such a beautiful film, and it broached topics long ignored by Hollywood cinema (the tale of a Black, poor, gay boy). It was a gorgeous, masterfully crafted film in every regard – acting, directing, cinematography, production design, writing, editing. It deserves the win.
Who will win: It pains me to say this, but I believe La La Land will take home the gold. It’s down to La La Land and Moonlight, and for a reason that is beyond me, people seem to love La La Land (I detested the movie). Knowing Hollywood, it’ll be La La Land.
Best Director Nominees: Damien Chazelle (La La Land), Barry Jenkins (Moonlight), Denis Vilenueve (Arrival), Mel Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge), and Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester By the Sea).
Who should win: Barry Jenkins, hands down. None of the other films had direction, in my opinion, that stood out or felt like anything we hadn’t seen from Hollywood before. Barry Jenkins guided Moonlight brilliantly, and he deserves this.
Who will win: Barry Jenkins, likely. Especially if they give La La Land Best Picture, you can count on Barry winning this category.
Best Actor Nominees: Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea), Denzel Washington (Fences), Ryan Gosling (La La Land), Viggo Morgensten (Captain Fantastic), and Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge).
Who should win: Denzel Washington! He was amazing in Fences. I watched that movie just a few days ago, and Denzel gave one of the best performances of his career. He lived, breathed, and felt like Troy Maxson (Fences‘ main character). This category should really be his; he did a spectacular job.
Who will win: Sadly, Casey Affleck will likely take home the gold, seeing as he won the Golden Globe. This is sad on multiple levels, considering he’s been accused of molestation and assault of a woman. Hollywood still has a lot to learn.
Best Actress Nominees: Ruth Negga (Loving), Emma Stone (La La Land), Natalie Portman (Jackie), Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins), Isabelle Huppert (Elle).
Who should win: It’s between Ruth Negga and Emma Stone for me. I loathed La La Land, but Emma Stone was very good in the movie acting-wise, and I wouldn’t be upset if she won this category. And as for Ruth Negga, I thought Loving was so-so (it didn’t hit hard enough for me, to be perfectly honest), but she was very good as well. And I would love for DC to hire her as Zatanna in the Justice League Dark movie they’re planning. Her having an Oscar would help with that.
Who will win: Likely Emma Stone. She won the Globe, and if there’s anything Hollywood has proven to us it’s that they’re creatures of habit.
Best Supporting Actor Nominees: Mahershala Ali (Moonlight), Dev Patel (Lion), Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water), Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals), and Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea).
Who should win: How is this even a question? If you’ve seen Moonlight, you’ll know Mahershala Ali was fabulous in the movie – he had a small part, but he did amazing things with it. The man is the next Denzel, I swear. He’s an amazing actor, and it’s about time he won an Oscar. Plus, this would be another feather in Moonlight’s cap – a film that desperately needs as many feathers as it can get.
Who will win: Mahershala Ali stands a good chance to win, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Michael Shannon takes the Oscar after Aaron-Taylor Johnson beat Mahershala at the Globes. It wouldn’t shock me if Dev Patel won, either – his performance has a lot of buzz.
Best Supporting Actress Nominees: Viola Davis (Fences), Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures), Nicole Kidman (Lion), Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea), and Naomie Harris (Moonlight).
Who should win: I would be equally happy with any of the Black women nominated here taking home the gold – they were all fantastic. For me, it’s between Viola Davis and Naomie Harris. And as much as I loved Naomie Harris’s performance in Moonlight – her character was one of the highlights of the film to me – there’s something iconic about Viola’s character in Fences. She inspired yet another ‘boy, bye’ moment for Black women, so for that alone I’ve got to give her this one. (As far as Octavia Spencer, she already has an Oscar; I’d have preferred that Taraji P Henson or Janelle Monae be nominated for Hidden Figures.)
Who will win: Viola Davis will likely win, and it’s about time she won an Oscar. She’s been kicking ass in Hollywood for years.
Best Original Screenplay Nominees: Taylor Sheridan (Hell or High Water), Damien Chazelle (La La Land), Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea), Mike Mills (20th Century Women), Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster).
Who should win: Frankly, the best film in this category – and it’s a very low bar – is Hell or High Water. I thoroughly enjoyed that movie, so I’d love to see Taylor Sheridan take home the award here.
Who will win: Come on. This is La La Land‘s category, hands down.
Best Adapted Screenplay Nominees: Barry Jenkins (Moonlight), August Wilson (Fences), Alison Schroeder (Hidden Figures), Luke Davies (Lion), Eric Heisserer (Arrival).
Who should win: It’s a close race for me between Hidden Figures and Moonlight. Viola Davis will likely win Best Supporting, so Fences will already be an Oscar-winning film – I felt the dialogue in Fences was a bit on-the-nose. Hidden Figures did a great job of educating the audience without being too preachy, and Moonlight’s dialogue often felt like the characters were having a real conversation – so I’d be equally happy with either of them winning.
Who will win: I’m going to guess that Arrival wins this one. It doesn’t make me happy, but neither do a lot of Hollywood’s decisions. But if Arrival doesn’t win, I think it’ll likely be Moonlight.
Best Cinematography Nominees: Arrival, Moonlight, La La Land, Silence and Lion.
Who should win: Moonlight. Period. Just the beach scene alone should be enough to garner a win for the film.
Who will win: Sadly, La La Land or Arrival will likely take this.
Best Original Score Nominees: Mica Levi (Jackie), Nicholas Britell (Moonlight), Justin Hurwitz (La La Land), Thomas Newman (Passengers), Dustin O’Hoffman (Lion).
Who should win: Moonlight’s score was haunting and beautiful. Moonlight.
Who will win: La La Land.
I’m not going to go into too much detail about any of the other categories, except to say that it’s obvious Zootopia is going to win Best Animated Feature (of course), Trevante Rhodes and Andre Holland should’ve been considered for Best Actor for Moonlight, I can’t believe Suicide Squad is nominated for a frickin’ Oscar (and it’s deserving of the win, too, in the category it’s nominated for), and Rogue One should have more nominations (though I do understand why it doesn’t).
Finally: it seems this will be a pretty good year for Black talent in Hollywood. If things go as I’ve predicted them, Black people will have won nearly half the awards. But I want to take a moment to make it clear that the fight against #OscarsSoWhite isn’t over. Not only does talent of color have to keep making outstanding content, we have to remind Hollywood that we are still severely underrepresented in the amount of awards we’ve won. Also, this is a win for Black talent, but Asian and Latino talent are still struggling. Maybe next year we can get even more diversity on the board!
I’m excited to see how the Oscars turns out. (And ready to bang my head into the wall if La La Land wins in every category like it did at the Golden Globes.)