By Frederick H. Lowe
“Fences,” “Hidden Figures” and “Moonlight,” three films in which blacks play leading roles, not background characters who are seen but not heard, have been nominated for best picture, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which hands out the coveted Oscar, announced today.
“Fences” is based on August Wilson’s play of the same title in which Denzel Washington character plays a Pittsburgh garbage collector who has given up on his dream of becoming a Major League Baseball player. In his home’s backyard is a baseball tied to rope that he hits hard from time to time with a bat.
“Hidden Figures” follows the true, but untold story of black women mathematicians who wrote calculations for NASA to launch white male astronauts into space and to safely bring them back to Earth. It was the No. 1 movie in America for three consecutive weeks.
“Moonlight,” which has been called this year’s best movie by a number of film critics, is a coming of age story about a black boy growing up with a crack-addicted mother who in a strange twist of fate finds fatherly love and kindness from his mother’s drug dealer and the dealer’s girlfriend.
Washington was nominated for best actor for his role in “Fences.” He also was nominated for best picture for his role in the production of “Fences.”
Ruth Negga was nominated for the best actress in a leading role for “Loving,” a film about a U.S. Supreme Court decision that overturned laws that prohibited blacks from legally marrying whites.
Three black women were nominated for best supporting actress.They are Viola Davis for Fences, Naomie Harris for “Moonlight” and Octavia Spencer for “Hidden Figures.”
Mahershala Ali was nominated for best supporting actor for his portrayal of Juan, a drug dealer, in “Moonlight.”
Overall, black actors and actresses received a record six nominations.
Barry Jenkins was nominated for best director for “Moonlight” and he also was nominated for best screenplay for “Moonlight.”
August Wilson, who died in 2005, received a postumus nomination for adapted screenplay for “Fences.” Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi also were nominated for the best adapted screenplay for “Hidden Figures.” Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney were nominated for best screenplay, and James Laxton was nominated for best cinematography for “Moonlight.”
“O.J.: Made in America” by Ezra Edelman and Caroline Waterlow and “13th” by Ava DuVernay, Spencer Averick and Howard Barish, were nominated for best documentary feature. The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution abolished slavery except as punishment for a crime.
Nat Sanders and Joi McMillon were nominated for best film editing for “Moonlight.” Nicholas Britell was nominated for original musical score for “Moonlight.” Black filmmaker Bradford Young received an Oscar nomination in cinematography for the “Arrival.”
Most if not all of the nominees will face stiff competition from the musical “La La Land,” which received 14 nominations the most since “Titantic” and “All About Eve.” In addition, many of the black actresses are competing against each other.
The 89th Academy Awards will be held Sunday, Feb. 26th in Hollywood. Films released in 2016 will be honored. ABC will broadcast live the awards ceremony, and comedian Jimmy Kimmel is on tap to host the event.