by Peter Callaghan
Given the lack of diversity in last year’s Oscar shortlist, which gave rise to the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite, it is heartening to note that for the first time in the 89-year history of the Academy Awards a black woman (Joi McMillon) has been nominated for editing and a black actor features in each of the four performance categories.
With Ruth Negga up for Best Actress; Viola Davis, Naomie Harris and Octavia Spencer battling it out for Best Supporting Actress; the two-time winner Denzel Washington nominated for an eighth time for Best Actor and Best Picture; and Mahershala Ali up for Best Supporting Actor for his performance as the drug dealer Juan in the gay coming-of-age drama Moonlight.
Out of the six nominees, put your bottom, top and middle dollar on Viola Davis who after being shortlisted for Doubt and The Help is hoping for third time lucky with her big screen reprisal of the stage role for which she won a Tony Award: Rose in August Wilson’s adaptation of his own award-winning play Fences.
La La Land tops the Most Nominated list with 14; followed by Arrival and Moonlight on 8; Hacksaw Ridge, Lion and Manchester By The Sea on 6; Fences and Hell Or High Water on a distant but respectable 4; and Hidden Figures and Jackie being the only other films to receive 3 or more nominations. The latter of which, in my opinion, is the least impressive on the shortlist.
As for which of the nominees will walk away red-faced or gold-fingered, my track record is as accurate as election pollsters who in chronological order failed to predict a Conservative majority government, Brexit and The Donald. However, if I had a casting vote, La La Land would win Best Picture; Manchester By The Sea, Best Original Screenplay; and Moonlight, Best Adapted Screenplay.
As for the performance categories: even though she’s a 60/1 outsider, I thought Meryl Streep was at her brilliant best as the titular Florence Foster Jenkins; Viola Davis is a shoe-in; I haven’t seen Viggo Mortensen in Captain Fantastic yet, but from the others on the Best Actor shortlist Casey Affleck more than merits his first Oscar after his performance as the Coward Robert Ford in The Assassination of Jesse James was pipped at the posthumous post by Heath Ledger’s Joker; and it’s a toss up between Jeff Bridges and Michael Shannon for Best Supporting Actor.
And if Damien Chazelle picks up Best Director, which I hope he does, for the triumph that is La La Land, then at the age of 32 years and 38 days he will go down in history as the youngest recipient of the award, beating the previous winner Norman Taurog by three little ducks aka 222 days. Though speaking of history, spare a thought for the first African-American recipient of an Academy Award, Hattie McDaniel, who was separated from her fellow Gone With The Wind actors because the Ambassador Hotel which housed the famed Cocoanut Grove venue operated a no-blacks policy. As Bob Dylan once sung: The times they are a-changin’. And here’s hoping the glacial pace of change melts faster than Usain Bolt with the runs and that, for once, it won’t be All White On The Night!