Oscar 2017: Supporting Actress Award–Forget about #Oscarsowhite!

Forget about #Oscarsowhite!

Three of the five excellent performers nominated today by the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) for the Best Supporting Actress Award are African-American: Viola Davis for Fences, Naomie Harris for Moonlight and Octavia Spencer for Hidden Figures.oscars_2016_2

There are several interesting things about these nominations.  First and foremost, it is the first time that a SAG category is dominated by women of color.

Second, for the first time, the SAG nominations match up exactly the Golden Globes nominations in this category by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFA), of which I am a voting member.

If the Actors Branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) repeats this pattern on January 24, when nominations in all categories are announced, it will be the first time that an acting category (and there are four) is comprised of so many ethnic minority actors.

In 1972, a (one-time) record was established when two of the five Best Actress nominees were black: Cicley Tyson in Sounder and Diana Ross in Lady Sings the Blues. (The winner was Liza Minnelli for the much-admired musical, Cabaret).

I don’t wish to start the argument of lead versus supporting roles, but I do think that Viola Davis plays a major role in Fences and thus belongs in the Best Actress category (The studio, Paramount, claims that it was her personal choice, upon seeing the finished picture for the first time).  Compare Davis’s role in Fences to her previous nomination in this category, in the 2008 Doubt, in which she had virtually only one scene, albeit extremely well played (with Meryl Streep).


Viola Davis and Denzel Washington as husband and wife in Fences

Davis has also been nominated in the lead league, in 2010 for The Help, the winner was Meryl Streep for The Iron LadyFences will be Davis’ third nomination, and if my reading is valid, she is sure to win.

Octavia Spencer is a previous Oscar winner, Best Supporting Actress in the same film, The Help, for which Davis had garnered the Best Actress nod. Of the three protagonists in the tale, Spencer has the least flashy part, albeit one helped by some sharp and witty lines.

hidden_figures_3_henson_spencer_monae_melfiOctavia Spencer (at the center) in Hidden Figures

If the terrifically diverse UK-born actress Naomie Harris (still best known for the Bond flicks) gets a nomination—and she should—it would be her first nod. Incidentally, she is the only performer in Moonlight, this year’s most acclaimed picture, who appears in all of the tale’s three chapters. Reportedly, her half a dozen scenes were shot over the course of three or four days.

moonlight_12Naomie Harris as the drug-addict mother in Moonlight

Yes, it’s time to eradicate the #Oscarssowhite slogan– hopefully forever.