Oscars: Record Six Black Actors Nominated, Diversity Improves After Controversy

Fences
Courtesy of Paramount

After last year’s nominations spawned #OscarsSoWhite, all eyes were on the Academy Award nominations Tuesday – and in stark contrast to 2016, this year proved to be a much stronger year for diversity, both in front of and behind the camera.

While no actors of color were nominated the last two years, this year saw every acting category recognizing a person of color. A record-tying (with 2007) seven minority actors were recognized, including a record six black actors.

In best actor, Denzel Washington landed his seventh nomination for “Fences,” extending his record as the most nominated black actor. His co-star Viola Davis was nominated in supporting actress, which also saw Davis’ “The Help” co-star Octavia Spencer nominated for “Hidden Figures” and Naomie Harris for “Moonlight.” With three nods, Davis is now the most nominated black actress.

In the lead actress category, Ruth Negga was nominated for her work in “Loving.” And in supporting actor, Mahershala Ali landed a nom for “Moonlight.” Also recognized in supporting actor was Dev Patel, a British actor of Indian descent, for “Lion.”

However, these films were already in production last year, and it could take several years to radically change course in response to last year’s controversy.

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But it didn’t just stop with the acting; many prominent categories also recognized people of color. With “Manchester by the Sea” nominated for best picture, Kimberly Steward is only the second black female to be nominated for producing — the first was none other than Oprah Winfrey for “Selma.” Variety profiled the up-and-coming producer in April.

As writer-director of “Moonlight,” Barry Jenkins found himself the fourth black best director nominee, after John Singleton, Lee Daniels, and Steve McQueen. His writing nomination, shared with playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney, made them the seventh and eighth black men nominated for screenplay. And Jenkins is only the second black writer-director to find himself nominated for both categories, after Singleton. Also notable in the writing category is the late August Wilson, the prominent black playwright whose adaptation of “Fences” made the cut.

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The documentary feature category was made up almost entirely of people of color – Ava DuVernay (“13th”), Raoul Peck (“I Am Not Your Negro”), Ezra Edelman (“O.J.: Made in America”), and Roger Ross Williams (“Life, Animated”). Previously, there have only been three black directors nominated in the category, and DuVernay marks the first black woman.

Other notable noms include: Bradford Young for his cinematography of “Arrival,” only the second black nominee ever after Remi Adefarasin for “Elizabeth.” And with her editing nomination for “Moonlight,” Joi McMillon became the first black female nominee in the category, and second black nominee after Hugh A. Robertson for “Midnight Cowboy.” In the same category is “La La Land” editor Tom Cross, who is half-Asian; two years ago, Cross won in the category for “Whiplash.”  And Lin-Manuel Miranda, the American-born artist who is primarily of Puerto Rican descent, could find himself EGOT-ing this year with his best song nomination for “Moana.”

The nominations earned praise from the African American Film Critics Association; AAFCA President Gil Robertson IV stated, “The African American Film Critics Association is totally thrilled with the record-breaking number of nominations earned this year by actors and other creative artists of color. AAFCA applauds the Academy’s efforts and we hope that their progress continues to reflect America’s rich diversity.”

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While the nominations brought good news for African Americans, there are still strides to be made when it comes to other minorities.

Rashad Robinson, executive director of the online racial injustice organization Color Of Change, applauded the nominations, but called for greater representation overall. “Achieving this diversity is not the responsibility of the Academy alone,” Robinson wrote in a statement. That responsibility also lies with casting directors, studio executives, and financial backers who have a moral responsibility to support projects that tell authentic, compassionate stories that reflect the diversity of our country and to offer opportunities on screen and behind the scenes to Black film professionals, as well as Latino, Asian American, and Native American film professionals, who also remain severely under-recognized and underrepresented in Hollywood.”

“Without question, the multi-dimensional portrayals of our community are what audiences want and film studios fell short again this past year in meeting that need with greater opportunity for talent of all races and ethnicities,” echoed Alex Nogales, president and CEO of the National Hispanic Media Coalition. “Latinos are outraged, our actors are not getting the opportunities to work in front of camera, and with few exceptions, in back of camera as well.”

Strides also have to be made for female nominees. Once again, women were shut out of the best director category and of the 10 nominated screenplays, “Hidden Figures” co-writer Allison Schroeder was the only woman nominated. And after all these years, a woman has yet to be nominated in the cinematography category.

Producers fared better; in addition to Steward, female producers who saw their films up for best picture include Carla Hacken and Julie Yorn (“Hell or High Water”), Adele Romanski and Dede Gardner (“Moonlight”), Donna Gigliotti and Jenno Topping (“Hidden Figures”), and Angie Fielder (“Lion”).

The Academy Awards will air Feb. 26 on ABC.

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  1. jeb says:

    so were they nominated for their work, or their color? We’ll never know now, will we?

    • Sal U. Lloyd says:

      Good question. But I’ll tell you this, David Oyelowo received a major snub when he wasn’t nominated for SELMA. His was an excellent performance–better than Washington or Davis or Negga. Had he AT LEAST been nominated, mmmaybe Jada Picket-Smith would have shut her mouth. It seems so contrived and dishonest to go from zero noms to six in one year to remedy a social problem.

    • Diversity, at least representation of Black nominees – is not a problem. Since 2000, Black actors have won well over 13% of the awards, which is consistent with their share of the population. The real ‘diversity’ problem is the total absence if Asian actors, and Latino actors (American ones, because there’s tons of Spanish and Latin American winners). Asians and Latinos make up 5% and nearly 20% of the USA respectively and it’s like they don’t even count.

      ‘Black lives matter’ is rubbish in Entertainment – they are very well represented. ‘Asian and Latino lives matter’ – would be something we need, for those who care about those things.

  2. kat0711 says:

    I haven’t seen any of the movies I just hope they weren’t nominated to fill Jada’s quota and really are Oscar worthy performances. How many Asians were nominated or even got token roles?

  3. Don’t have a racists bone in my body, but I’m sick, tired and disgusted with being assaulted at every level with blackness being shoved down my Asian throat.

  4. JohnnyMann says:

    so they weren’t good enough to win before, but because social justice crybabies threaten and shame everything until they are met with total submission (and hollywood LOVES virtue signalling to these people) we have affirmative action in yet another area.

    diversity isn’t bad, but when you hand someone a position or an award because you had an inclusivity quota, you aren’t doing them a favor.

  5. Abby says:

    Not basing anything on diversity myself, but Denzel Washington’s performance in “Fences” was off the charts great.

  6. Iván el Conquistador says:

    Enough with diversity! Weren’t these awards supposed to be an acknowledge of creativity and innovation? All of this because Jada complained because his husband was not nominated last year.

    Then the Academy will complain when Michael Bay or Marvel obliterate the Best Picture nominees in the box office and DVD sales.

    • Sal U. Lloyd says:

      If David Oyelowo had been nominated for SELMA, which he truly deserved, but was snubbed to make room for some idiot, maybe Jaded would have kept he big mouth shut.

  7. chung2music says:

    This colour controversy is idiotic tbh Last season, there was no exemplary performance by an actor of colour that’s why they didn’t get nominated. This season Moonlight, Fences & Hidden Figures were among the most acclaimed films, that’s why it got nominated. Regardless of that, if you nominate people based on colour regardless of merit then that’s racist in itself. You are basically skipping over some people just because they are of a particular colour. Oscar So White controversy had NO legs to stand on. There was WIll Smith, but other than him there were no exemplary performances by any black actor last year which deserved nominations over the ones that got the nods. Plus Oscar So White was ran by Smith’s own wife, flushing their credibility down the toilet. Plus Academy has given many awards to Black actor in just the last 10 years. Look at the Supporting Actress category, 4 out of the 10 winners in the last 10 years have been Black women. I don’t see anyone pointing that out.

  8. a9erfaithful says:

    Pathetic… Congratulations! You’re not better, just darker.

  9. Blue Silver says:

    I really hate it when the term “diversity” refers to African-Americans and NOT everyone. Why is Jada Pinkett NOT bitching about the lack of Latinos, Asians, etc. being nominated?????

    • chung2music says:

      Oscar so white controversy was a joke. It was basically the Smith family getting pissed over Papa Smith not getting an Oscar nomination and riling people up with “racist’ propaganda.

  10. EK says:

    It’s the movies stupid! Make good ones with diverse casts and the votes will come. Don’t and they won’t.

    • chung2music says:

      Great movies always gets the votes. But there’s a fact that most Oscar nominated and winning movies just don’t do well at the Box Office. Look at Paul Thomas Anderson, who’s arguably the greatest filmmaker of the 2000s produced one brilliant movie after another and almost all of them failed to get much love at the box office. It’s not the studio’s fault that average movie goer would rather watch CGI-laden superhero movie with subpar acting and writing.

    • cadavra says:

      Except that they do and people don’t. SELMA, RACE, GET ON UP, TOP FIVE, DRAFT DAY and FREE STATE OF JONES were all quality films that tanked. 42 only got by on the strength of Harrison Ford in a key supporting role, and a Best Picture Oscar couldn’t get 12 YEARS A SLAVE further than $56 million. So don’t blame the studios for not making more films in a (for lack of a better term) genre that loses money; blame the audiences who run off to CGI-laden fantasies and cheap horror films instead.

      • cadavra says:

        Catholic-bashing = Film based on events that actually happened. Would you prefer that the priests continued molesting children? Because it certainly sounds like that’s what your saying.

      • timgray2013 says:

        I often agree with your comments, but not here. “Spotlight” WAS Catholic-bashing. Yes, events were true, but the filmmakers conveniently left out details about many other religions and professions that have an equally high rate of molestation. The others destroyed their records, but Catholics, following centuries-old traditions, kept their records. That’s why they’ve been singled out. If you watch “Spotlight,” you conclude that every child molester is a priest and every priest is a molester. Not one moment acknowledged the good work done by priests around the world. And the crawl at the end of the movie declined to acknowledge that the Church is working to make amends. And finally, by calling the film Catholic-bashing, it’s a HUGE leap of faith to conclude that the speaker wants to encourage more molestations.

      • Sal U. Lloyd says:

        CADAVER, well at least 12 YEARS A SLAVE made $12 million more then last year’s OScar best pix, the Catholic-bashing SPITLITE with its all white cast.

        So your point again???

      • complete appeasement. Not every great film wins. get over yourselves. There are all cultures that sometimes do not get recognised, shall we all get upset. I pity those who are brainwashed by others and cannot stand up and say this.

  11. That was as predictable as the sunrise.

  12. Chris says:

    So win because of skin color instead of performance?? sounds like Obamas old world!

  13. Ethan says:

    We they nominated because of the kerfuffle or is it because they were well acted good movies… hmmm the world will never know and that tarnishes the award.

  14. Sal U. Lloyd says:

    It’s not about race, it’s about whatever is out there.

    If David Oyelowo would have been nominated for SELMA, which he deserved, we wouldn’t be going through this and drama queen Jada Pinkette-Smith would have NEVER tweeted.

  15. Turn Page says:

    OK 6 Black,now…
    How many White?
    How many Asian?
    How many Hispanic?
    How many Native American?

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