The Oscar nominations for 2017 were announced this Tuesday and they showed a dramatically different set of nominees compared to previous years when the Oscars were “so white.” However this no longer applies, at least for this year. Goodbye #OscarsSoWhite.
I was not surprised by the fact that the Academy decided to change up their nominations this year. It was expected after all that backlash and protest they received, but there is no denying the progressively dominant presence of movies about African-Americans.
Six African-American actors were nominated this year. Mahershala Ali was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his role in “Moonlight.” Denzel Washington was nominated for Best Actor his performance in “Fences” and Ruth Negga was nominated for Best Actress for her role in “Loving.” Also for the first time in Oscar history, three African-American actresses are nominated for Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis (“Fences”), Naomie Harris (“Moonlight”), and Octavia Spencer (“Hidden Figures”).
Dev Patel (“Lion”) is only the third Indian actor to be nominated for an Oscar. The last actor of Indian descent to be nominated was Ben Kingsley for his work in “House of Sand and Fog.” The short list of Indian actors with Oscar nominations displays the Academy’s lack of Asian representation, but Patel’s nomination is definitely a stepping stone to a more diversified Academy.
In addition to this great set of actor nominations are the best picture nominations: Barry Jenkins’ “Moonlight,” a story centered around a black man’s passage from at-risk pre-adolescence to delinquent adulthood, and “Fences”, an adaptation of August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning stage drama, directed by and starring Denzel Washington. They are some of the best movies of 2016, and definitely worthy of their Oscar nominations.
All these nominations of non-white, predominantly African-American-directed movies and actors are a sign of growth for the Academy. I was expecting there to be at most two non-white nominees this year, given Hollywood’s racism and the Academy’s lack of diversity. However, I was pleasantly surprised. The nominations were all deserving, and received the recognition they deserved.
The Academy still has a long way to go, though. Latinos, Asians, and Native-Americans continue to be underrepresented in the industry. Yes, two Latino men, Alfonso Cuarón won Best Director and Film Editing for his film “Gravity” and Alejandro G. Iñarritu won for Best Picture, screenplay, and director for his films “Birdman” and “The Revenant.” This happened in two consecutive years, but that does not change that fact that the majority of the nominees are white. The Academy needs to widen their view of what “people of color” means, which is not only African Americans.
As for some notable Oscar snubs, “Finding Dory” was surprisingly not nominated for an award this year. I assumed they decided to nominate more original films rather than a sequel. “Sully” was also not nominated, which is weird since it received praise from multiple sources such as Rotten Tomatoes, Wall Street Journal, etc. It was praised for being a compelling, focused, and sharp film with Oscar-worthy performances from Tom Hanks and Aaron Eckhart, not to mention that director Clint Eastwood has had plenty of Oscar love in the past. I assume the Academy wanted something a bit more original and not so old-fashioned than a tale about a heroic older man.
As for other nominations, such as Best Actress, the Academy needs to give someone else a chance and stop nominating Meryl Streep every year. Amy Adams delivered amazing performances in “Nocturnal Animals” and “Arrival.” Taraji P. Henson’s stunning performance in “Hidden Figures” was not given a nomination. It is safe to say that the Academy is a bit biased toward Meryl Streep.
Nonetheless, the Oscars seem to be headed toward a much more diverse future, and I am certainly looking forward to watching them next month.