You pretty much know that everyone with a Twitter account had their #OscarSoWhite hashtags written already waiting to press post as soon as another black actor was shut out. Thankfully though, there was a record number of diverse actors nominated for the #89thAcademyAwards which is all the more unprecedented since Moonlight is not only one of the best movies of the year, but in the last decade.
This year’s Oscar nominees are, however, not without their controversies whether in their personal lives like #MelGibson and #CaseyAffleck or complete shutouts in the likes of Amy Adams for Arrival and Suicide Squad’s surprise nomination.
While we all feel safe in assuming that La La Land will sweep up its slew of Academy Awards come Oscar night (sharing the most nominations with Ben-Hur and Titanic at 14), it was definitely a great year for indie genres and character-based studies with movies like Captain Fantastic and Fences getting their much deserved recognition. Here’s a look at the directors and actors nominated:
Damien Chazelle — La La Land (Will Win)
At 32 #DamienChazelle could join Norman Taurog in 1931 for being the youngest Best Director winner. It would be a great feat since La La Land is a fantastically directed creative force. Both visuals and in style, Chazelle re-treads the same material of Old Hollywood and revitalizes it into contemporary Hollywood.
Mel Gibson — Hacksaw Ridge (Lucky to Be Nominated)
We can argue about this for years but I will always says that no career is as interesting and unpredictable as that of #MelGibson’s. So much so that I would not be the least bit surprised if some other scandal were to erupt the night before the Oscar ceremony. Admittedly, he is somewhat unfairly targeted with his Oscar nomination since Hacksaw Ridge, while not the masterpiece that many are proclaiming to be, rests primarily on the talented shoulders of Mel Gibson who, at the same time, is both oddly reserved and brutally honest in his depictions of violence.
Barry Jenkins — Moonlight (Could Win)
It’s gonna be hard for #BarryJenkins to follow up on this one. To receive a nomination for your directing debut is an award in itself, so it only helps that Moonlight is a somberly vicious masterpiece that delves into the issues of race and sexual identity without shoving any of its ideologies down the throats of its viewers— and most of that can be attested to Jenkins’ brilliant direction and writing who is the fourth African-American nominated for Best Director.
Kenneth Lonergan — Manchester by the Sea (Surprise Win)
For a man mostly known for his writing talents, it’s great to see him get recognized for his directing in Manchester by the Sea, a film that has been receiving no shortage of critical praise since it first debuted more than a year ago— which is saying a lot. It is a simple premise, but one that still feels fresh and unique in its approach.
Denis Villeneuve — Arrival (Lucky to Be Nominated)
Science fiction doesn’t normally get any attention outside of its usual technical nominations, so it is a nice change of pace that Arrival is getting much more than that. Beyond its science fiction premise, Arrival is still a smart and sincere drama and a lot of that is based on the creativity of #DenisVilleneuve, who has been slowly building a brilliant filmography of single-worded film classics.
Best Supporting Actress
Viola Davis — Fences (Will Win)
The moment that #ViolaDavis was moved from Leading Actress to Supporting, we all knew it was over from there. While #DenzelWashington’s character does all the talking, Viola Davis provides a sufficiently brutal portrayal ready to detonate at anyone who threatens to destroy her household— even if it is those who live inside of it.
Naomie Harris — Moonlight (Could Win)
It is a shame that Davis was moved since it would have been #NaomieHarris’ win at that point. She is the only character in Moonlight to appear in all three acts and in each one of them she provides a small detail of difference which is all the more proof of how devoted she was to the part.
Nicole Kidman — Lion (Lucky to Be Nominated)
#NicoleKidman has a career of characters that have ranged from a variety of backgrounds and issues, her performance as Saoora’s adopted mother is no different as she provides her character with both nurturing sincerity and loving support to equate to a brilliant performance.
Octavia Spencer — Hidden Figures (Lucky to Be Nominated)
Hidden Figures is a film that has been getting a lot of critical and commercial attention in the last few weeks and I look forward to seeing it. The film follows three African-American women who worked with NASA in launching John Glenn into orbit. It was eventually covered up by history until recently.
Michelle Williams — Manchester by the Sea (Surprise Win)
#MichelleWilliams may be in the film for a mere few minutes, but she makes every single one of her minutes count in Manchester by the Sea. As a heartbroken mother Williams’ scene towards the end of the film (which is likely to be the clip that will be played on Oscar night) is one of both regret and trauma.
Best Supporting Actor
Mahershala Ali — Moonlight (Will Win)
Any other year, Moonlight could have won all sorts of Academy Awards, but it will likely have to settle with a Best Supporting Actor one. Like with Michelle Williams, #MahershalaAli's time is limited, only appearing in the first act, but provides the film with a sincere presence that remains long after he’s left.
Jeff Bridges — Hell or High Water (Could Win)
Sure, it imitates the tropes and cliches of every single Texas sheriff who’s seen it all before, but on the shoulders of #JeffBridges, there is something quite special about his rendition.
Lucas Hedges — Manchester by the Sea (Lucky to Be Nominated)
With #CaseyAffleck doing his own thing in the film, it is hard for any other performer to hold their own, but #LucasHedges has been getting a lot of awards recognition for his equally mournful character stuck with his new guardian after the death of his father.
Dev Patel — Lion (Surprise Win)
While Lion treads a lot of the same plot elements of Slumdog Millionaire, the film is on its own merits and balances a perfect transition from technology driven-story to a nice character study. While some might find it weird that #DevPatel is nominated for Best Supporting Actor even though his character is the lead, his performance does not really kick in until much later in the film.
Michael Shannon — Nocturnal Animals (Lucky to Be Nominated)
How many Texas sheriffs who’ve seen it all does this category really need? While most were betting on Aaron Taylor-Johnson to take this one, the Academy Awards opted for his co-star. Nocturnal Animals is a highly underrated film and we’re happy to see it get a nomination.
Isabelle Huppert — Elle (Could Win)
There’s really no clear favorite in this category, but I’m rooting for Isabelle Huppert who gives the best performance of the year and has been doing so for decades in the business. She is in just about every scene in the film and steals every single one of them.
Ruth Negga — Loving (Lucky to Be Nominated)
It feels weird to nominate Negga and not Joel Edgerton, her on screen husband, since the film is a dual act between the two of them. However, her performance is the much showier one and, while the film has been falling out of favor unfortunately in the last couple of weeks, Loving will just have to settle with this one lucky one nomination.
Natalie Portman — Jackie (Could Win)
It’s hard to pass up a biographical performance, which might help in #NataliePortman’s second win here. While the film was too short and could have explored much more than what was eventually unfolded in the film, Portman embodies the persona of the former First Lady (not so sure about the dialect though).
Emma Stone — La La Land (Could Win)
It comes down to a three-way between #Huppert, #Portman, and #EmmaStone, but it is hard to pass up a performance like this, the best one that Emma Stone has ever delivered and will be the most remembered part of La La Land.
Meryl Streep — Florence Foster Jenkins (Lucky to Be Nominated)
How many nominations does one person need? We may never know the answer to this, but Meryl Streep does what Meryl Streep does best and breaks the record of most nominations for a single actor formerly held by none other than #MerylStreep. Haven’t seen Florence Foster Jenkins, but from what we have heard, she steals the show as the worst singer of all-time.
Casey Affleck — Manchester by the Sea (Will Win)
While his personal scandals are likely to be brought up in the coming weeks, we still have time to praise his subtle, but profoundly moving work as a troubling ill-advised new guardian. Working the mechanics of one’s new life never looked so entertaining and sad at the same time and will likely result in a win for the other Affleck.
Andrew Garfield — Hacksaw Ridge (Lucky to Be Nominated)
One may find it weird that Vince Vaughn is the only American in a film about American troops in the Battle of Okinawa (the rest are British and Australian actors and actresses), but you are likely to forget it all with #AndrewGarfield’s complex performance.
Ryan Gosling — La La Land (Surprise Win)
If La La Land takes up all the awards come Oscar night, we can’t be entirely surprised if Gosling steals it. He sings and dances, but all that plays second fiddle to his humbly dramatic performance.
Viggo Mortensen — Captain Fantastic (Lucky to Be Nominated)
One of my favorite performances of the year, it was nice to see a quirky and peculiar movie get the attention it deserves and #ViggoMortensen is all the more astonishing— making his unconventional parenting skills seem passionate and realistic.
Denzel Washington — Fences (Could Win)
A lot of this comes down to either #CaseyAffleck vs. #DenzelWashington, but Washington creates an overpowering aroma of dread and sternness, something he uses to the story’s advantage. While he may have the most dialogue of any of the nominees this year, his performance is also the most dramatic.
The 89th Academy Awards is February 26th.