I wrote a story back in September about the dozen or so potential black nominees coming to the Oscars. After the debacle of last Oscar season, things are going to be quite different when we get to February 2017.
Now that I’ve seen Denzel Washington’s extraordinary adaptation of August Wilson’s “Fences,” I can tell you that this movie is going to bring a juggernaut. Denzel, Viola Davis, Mykelti Williamson, Stephen Henderson are all strong potential nominees. Well actually, Viola Davis is going to win whatever she wants. So far she wants Best Supporting Actress. But really her performance as Rose–for which she won the Tony Award on Broadway– is a lead slot. This would upset the apple cart for Annette, Emma, Natalie, and Meryl, but even they will be blown away when they see this turn.
The crazy thing about Viola Davis is that now most people know her from “How to Get Away with Murder” on TV. It’s a totally silly show. Without her, it would be cancelled. It’s as if Meryl Streep or Cate Blanchett were featured on “General Hospital.” When her TV fans see her in “Fences,” Davis’s following is going to go crazy. No kidding. At our screening this afternoon– which was packed, and included Spike Lee and his wife Tonya Lee–you could hear the audience breathing along with Viola. Denzel is just as stunning.
Elsewhere we have Barry Jenkins’ “Moonlight” with supporting Oscar performances from Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris. They are in, no kidding. With “Hidden Figures,” we’ll have the possibilities of Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Jonelle Monae (who’s also so good in “Moonlight”). I also wouldn’t count out Aja Naomi King from “The Birth of a Nation.” If only there hadn’t been the attendant scandal, that movie would be very much in the mix.
And that doesn’t include the directors, writers, musicians, and all the below the line credits. Let’s not forget that the magnificent look of “Arrival” comes from Bradford Young, the black cinematographer who took off like a rocket last year with “Selma.”
At this rate, the joke will be there aren’t enough white nominees! (Just kidding!) What a wonderful and significant sea change. (PS Look for Zoe Saldana in Ben Affleck’s “Live by Night.“)