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2017 Oscar nominations prove this year’s awards are the opposite of #OscarsSoWhite

Six categories to watch as ‘Moonlight’ holds it down for the culture

The nominations for the 89th Academy Awards are in — and unlike last year when a number of black actors and films were left out of nominations, this year, Moonlight, a film by and about black people, is nominated in eight categories. The acclaimed film is a coming-of-age story about a young African-American man navigating life on the streets of Miami.

La La Land tops the nominations with 14 nods, tied with 1950’s All About Eve and 1997’s Titanic for the most nominations for a single film in Oscars history. The film will go head-to-head with Moonlight in a number of categories, including best original score, best film editing and best cinematography, among others. Moonlight director Barry Jenkins will also face off with La La Land director Damien Chazelle.

2015 and 2016 were noted as the whitest Oscars ever, as all 20 of the leading and supporting acting nominees were white. The last time this occurred before 2015 was in 1998. The overwhelmingly white roster prompted activist/writer April Reign to create the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. It went viral across social media platforms and sparked an outpouring of criticism of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith, Spike Lee and Michael Moore elected to boycott the event, while a number of attendees called for more representation. Before the class of 2016, the Academy was 92 percent white, but people of color made up 41 percent of new invitees. Now, four out of the 19 Academy Committee members are African-American. Tuesday’s nominations are not only continuing acknowledgement of the brilliance of African-American creativity, but also a strong indicator of the power of Black Twitter.

Here’s a list of categories to watch as we await the Academy Awards on Feb. 26.

Best picture

The black film trifecta in full effect

Fences, Hidden Figures, Moonlight


Good news — the three best films of the year were given credit where credit was due. Fences, Hidden Figures and Moonlight all made the cut for the best picture nomination. Despite surviving a few snubs at the Golden Globes and a reporter mangling/merging the titles of two of the movies, the Oscars got this one right. While Hidden Figures and Fences are solid choices — both tugged at our heartstrings and told relatable and important stories about the black experience — this category will certainly come down to a battle between two heavyweights: Moonlight vs. La La Land.

Best actor

Denzel is timeless, seriously.

Denzel Washington, Fences


Denzel Washington

David Lee/Paramount Pictures Corporation

Denzel Washington is one of the favorites in this category. His nuanced portrayal of Troy, a garbage collector whose dream of becoming a famous baseball player was blocked by racism during the 1950s, was simply one of the best performances of the year. Regardless of your race, a story about a lost dream and complex family relationships is one anyone can relate to. Washington is holding it down for us as our one soldier in this category. He’s up against the very popular Ryan Gosling and Casey Affleck, but something about Washington’s timeless performance, his history as an Oscar winner and nominee, and his career as a whole, makes his odds pretty good.

Best actress

Loving on this nomination

Ruth Negga, Loving

Ruth Negga

Ruth Negga

Ben Rothstein/Focus Features

Ethiopian-born Irish actress Ruth Negga is the one to watch. Her performance as Mildred Loving makes her a strong contender, even against Emma Stone for her performance in La La Land, and the powerhouse Meryl Streep for her role in Florence Foster Jenkins. Sidenote: In an accidental flub, the Oscar website listed Amy Adams instead of Negga in the best actress category after the finalists were announced. After a quick fix, Negga’s name appeared in place of Adams’ name and she was back in play as one of the five contenders.

Best supporting actress

Triple threat

Viola Davis, Fences; Naomie Harris, Moonlight; Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures

From left to right: Octavia Spencer, Viola Davis and Naomi Harris

David Lee/Paramount;Hopper Stone/20th Century Fox;Theo Wargo/Getty Images

Viola Davis joins Washington with the acting accolades for Fences. She plays Washington’s wife, Rose, and one of the most critically acclaimed moments of the film is Rose’s powerful and emotional monologue in reaction to Troy’s (Washington) selfishness. Naomie Harris plays Paula, a crack-addict mother in Moonlight — a role she nearly turned down. But as she told The New York Times, “What I felt in doing it and reading it was that she had a complete arc.” Octavia Spencer is nominated for her portrayal of Dorothy Vaughan, a mathematician in Hidden Figures. Spencer won an Oscar in 2011 for her portrayal of Minny Jackson in The Help.

Best supporting actor

A deep, dark connection

Mahershala Ali, Moonlight



David Bornfriend/A24

Mahershala Ali garnered widespread recognition for his role as Remy Danton in the Netflix original House of Cards — he was nominated for Screen Actors Guild, Critics’ Choice and Emmy awards. He has also appeared in the Netflix original series, Luke Cage, and films such as The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1 and Part 2 and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. In Moonlight, Ali plays Juan, a local drug dealer, who assumes the role of pseudo-father to a boy named Chiron (Alex R. Hibbert), or “Little” as he’s called in the first chapter of the film. Juan’s relationship with Chiron is complicated as Chiron’s mother (Harris) is Juan’s best customer. Ali won the award for best supporting actor for his portrayal of Juan at the Critics’ Choice Awards, and received a nomination for the role at the recent Golden Globes.

Best documentary feature

A truthful, difficult, glimpse into reality

I Am Not Your Negro, 13th, O.J.: Made In America

Three of the five nominated documentaries feature black ensembles. I Am Not Your Negro looks at what might have been the end of James Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript, as imagined by the film’s director, Raoul Peck. Ava DuVernay’s 13th, a film named after the amendment abolishing slavery in America, is an acute criticism of today’s mass incarceration. Last is Ezra Edelman’s O.J.: Made in America, ESPN Films’ 30 for 30 marathon look at the rise and fall of O.J. Simpson. The film eventually weaves its way into “The Trial of the Century” all while examining race in America, specifically as it relates to the black community in Southern California and the Los Angeles Police Department.

Gertrude “Trudy” Joseph is a senior at UMass Amherst and intern with The Undefeated. She will probably be either the youngest “Gertrude” you will ever meet or the only “Gertrude” you will ever meet. From the birthplace of basketball (shout to the entire 413), Trudy believes the “Kobe System” is the single most important commercial of our time.

Callan Mathis is an intern at The Undefeated and a journalism graduate student at Georgetown University. She runs eight miles a day, is an unapologetic Knicks fan, and a really good cook. So, she also goes by Forrest Gump, Spike Lee and Ayesha Curry.