Oscar Watch: The Nominees Are . . .

La La Land ties a record for nominations and the Academy Awards celebrates its most diverse slate of acting nominees in a decade, as well as many performances inspired by true stories.
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La La Land ties a record for nominations and the Academy Awards celebrates its most diverse slate of acting nominees in a decade, as well as many performances inspired by true stories.

#OscarsSoWhite? Not this year, as the controversy that erupted over representation at last year’s Academy Awards was answered with far greater diversity this year. Six black actors were honored at this morning’s nominations presentation, a record, and the most since the 79th Academy Awards ceremony in 2007, when Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland) and Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls) won. 

Two of this year’s nominees, Denzel Washington (Fences) and Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures), are past winners. Viola Davis, who plays Washington’s long-suffering wife in Fences, received her third nomination for the film, a record for a black actress. Debut nominees are Ruth Negga, for Loving, and two co-stars of Moonlight, Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris

Denzel Washington and Viola Davis in Fences

Academy Award winners Denzel Washington and Viola Davis were both nominated again for their roles in Fences. 

Octavia Spencer in Hidden Figures

Octavia Spencer was nominated for Actress in a Supporting Role for her portrayal of NASA mathematician Dorothy Vaughan in Hidden Figures. 

Moonlight, the impressionistic story of a gay youth’s coming of age in the mean streets of Miami, earned three nominations (Best Director, Best Picture, and Best Adapted Screenplay) for Barry Jenkins, another record for a black filmmaker. Jenkins’ competition in the adapted screenplay category includes the deceased playwright August Wilson, whose play Fences won a Tony Award and a Pulitzer Prize in 1987. The fourth black man to be nominated for Best Director, Jenkins will make Oscar history if he wins. 

Alex Hibbert and Mahershala Ali in Moonlight

Alex Hibbert and Mahershala Ali in Moonlight. Ali was Oscar nominated for Actor in a Supporting Role. 

Also standing to make some history this year: Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, who will achieve EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) status should his song “How Far I’ll Go,” from Disney’s Moana, win. He’d be the 13th person, and the youngest, to “EGOT.” Standing in his way, however, is the jazz-infused musical La La Land, which hit a high note, tying All About Eve (1950) and Titanic (1997) with 14 nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director (Damien Chazelle), Best Actor (Ryan Gosling), Best Actress (Emma Stone) and Best Original Song (two, “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” and “City of Stars,” music by Justin Hurwitz, lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul).

Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga in Loving

Ruth Negga is Oscar nominated for her portrayal of Mildred Loving in the biopic Loving. 

The eight other Best Picture nominees run the gamut, from science fiction (Arrival) to contemporary drama (Manchester by the Sea and Hell or High Water). Real life is represented by Hidden Figures, the story of three math-minded “computers,” all black women, who made invaluable contributions to the U.S. space program in its infancy; Hacksaw Ridge, which stars Oscar nominee Andrew Garfield as army medic Desmond Doss, whose conscientious objector status didn’t prevent him from rescuing his injured fellow soldiers during the battle of Okinawa in 1945; and Lion, the true story of Saroo Brierley (Oscar nominee Dev Patel), who, separated from his family in India as a boy, used Google Earth to find them as an adult. Negga’s portrayal of Mildred Loving, of the Supreme Court case that legalized interracial marriage in the U.S., adds to the mosaic of black life found at this year’s Oscars, which includes nominated documentaries about O.J. Simpson (O.J.: Made in America) and James Baldwin (I Am Not Your Negro).  

Natalie Portman in Jackie

Natalie Portman received a lead actress Oscar nod for playing First Lady Jackie Kennedy in Jackie. 

Former Best Actress winners Natalie Portman (Jackie) and Meryl Streep (celebrating her 20th nomination, a performer record, for her portrayal of talent-challenged diva Florence Foster Jenkins) also went real-to-reel this year, which saw the controversial Mel Gibson rehabilitated with multiple Hacksaw Ridge nominations (including his own, for Best Director, which he won for Braveheart in 1996) and rumored sure things Denzel Washington (for directing Fences) and Arrival star Amy Adams snubbed. See who wins, loses, and critique what they’re wearing when ABC telecasts the Oscars live on ABC on February 26. 

A partial list of nominees:

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

ISABELLE HUPPERT

Elle

RUTH NEGGA

Loving

NATALIE PORTMAN

Jackie

EMMA STONE

La La Land

MERYL STREEP

Florence Foster Jenkins

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

VIOLA DAVIS

Fences

NAOMIE HARRIS

Moonlight

NICOLE KIDMAN

Lion

OCTAVIA SPENCER

Hidden Figures

MICHELLE WILLIAMS

Manchester by the Sea

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

CASEY AFFLECK 

Manchester by the Sea

ANDREW GARFIELD

Hacksaw Ridge

RYAN GOSLING

La La Land

VIGGO MORTENSEN

Captain Fantastic

DENZEL WASHINGTON

Fences

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

MAHERSHALA ALI

Moonlight

JEFF BRIDGES

Hell or High Water

LUCAS HEDGES

Manchester by the Sea

DEV PATEL

Lion

MICHAEL SHANNON

Nocturnal Animals

DIRECTING

ARRIVAL

Denis Villeneuve

HACKSAW RIDGE

Mel Gibson

LA LA LAND

Damien Chazelle

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA

Kenneth Lonergan

MOONLIGHT

Barry Jenkins

BEST PICTURE

ARRIVAL

Shawn Levy, Dan Levine, Aaron Ryder and David Linde, Producers

FENCES

Scott Rudin, Denzel Washington and Todd Black, Producers

HACKSAW RIDGE

Bill Mechanic and David Permut, Producers

HELL OR HIGH WATER

Carla Hacken and Julie Yorn, Producers

HIDDEN FIGURES

Donna Gigliotti, Peter Chernin, Jenno Topping, Pharrell Williams and Theodore Melfi, Producers

LA LA LAND

Fred Berger, Jordan Horowitz and Marc Platt, Producers

LION

Emile Sherman, Iain Canning and Angie Fielder, Producers

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA

Matt Damon, Kimberly Steward, Chris Moore, Lauren Beck and Kevin J. Walsh, Producers

MOONLIGHT

Adele Romanski, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner, Producers

For a complete list of Academy Award nominees, go to the Oscars official website