The Academy has recognized Daniel Kaluuya, Denzel Washington, Mary J. Blige and Octavia Spencer with Oscar nominations in the acting categories and Guillermo del Toro and Jordan Peele in the original screenplay and director slots. Now the big question is how much could the #OscarsSoWhite scenario still potentially create controversy when the final awards are handed out if few winners of color are selected for the major categories.
Two years ago, #OscarsSoWhite drew attention to the all-white nominees in the major acting categories, the second year in a row that it had happened. Since then, the progress for representation and inclusion has moved in fits and starts. Last year saw a record number of nominees from diverse backgrounds, including acting nominees Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Viola Davis, Washington, Spencer, Ruth Negga and Dev Patel.
With Tuesday’s nominations, Kaluuya and Washington were nominated for best actor in “Get Out” and “Roman J. Israel, Esq.,” respectively, while Spencer was recognized for “The Shape of Water” and Mary J. Blige for “Mudbound” in the supporting actress category, though “Mudbound” director Dee Rees left off the best director nominees list. Blige was also recognized for best song for “Mighty River” from “Mudbound.”
“I think all the diversity is not a step forward but a step in to a present and that its great that different perspectives are being rewarded,” Kaluuya told Variety after the nominations were announced.
Peele was nominated for both director and original screenplay for the groundbreaking horror pic “Get Out,” which scored three nominations total. Kumail Nanjiani was nominated in the original screenplay category for “The Big Sick,” which he co-wrote with his wife Emily V. Gordon.
“Get Out” star Kaluuya also earned a Golden Globes nomination for best actor in a musical or comedy. In the best actor category, Gary Oldman has emerged as a favorite for his turn as Winston Churchill in “Darkest Hour,” and he took the SAG award for outstanding performance by a male actor in a leading role on Sunday.
Washington scored his eighth nomination, and like Kaluuya, also landed Golden Globe and SAG nominations for best actor. Washington has won two Academy Awards – one in 2002 for best actor in “Training Day” and best supporting actor in 1990 for “Glory.”
Meanwhile, women of color were shut out of nominations in the leading actress category. Salma Hayek, who earned praise for her subtle, yet powerful performance in last summer’s “Beatriz at Dinner” has escaped notice this awards season entirely. Hayek was a 2003 nominee for leading actress in the biopic, “Frida.”
Hayek’s absence also highlights the historical lack of Latino nominees in the Academy’s history, which some activists in Hollywood plan to protest this year, calling for more meaningful roles for Latino actors.
Two women of color scored nominations for supporting actress: Blige for “Mudbound,” and Spencer for “The Shape of Water.” Hong Chao for “Downsizing” was considered a contender but didn’t score a nomination. The frontrunner in the category is Allison Janney, nominated for “I, Tonya,” for which she won the Golden Globe and SAG awards for supporting actress.
Mexican director del Toro is emerging as a lead contender for director with his “The Shape of Water” earning dozens of nominations and notching the Golden Globe for directing.
Disney-Pixar’s “Coco” is also the frontrunner to win best animated feature this year. The picture about the Mexican cultural celebration of the Day of the Dead featured an all-Latino voice cast, as well as a co-director of Mexican-American heritage, Adrian Molina.