Awards Speculation: #OscarsSoWhite Returns From Hiatus?


Welcome back to the 2017 Awards Speculation series, where we speculate on specific Oscar categories, analyzing big players, potential dark horses and upcoming narratives. For the next few weeks, we will bring you a category every Friday to talk about how it might shake out over the upcoming months. If you have a suggestion, please include it in the comments below. Be sure to check out our companion series, the Awards Profile series, by searching the tag at Awards Profile. This week, we cover the oft-fretted about hashtag in the Academy PR offices: #OscarsSoWhite.

Despite an envelope snafu that acted as the bitter cherry atop a delicious sundae, the AMPAS had a 2016 Oscar season and ceremony of which to be proud. Barry Jenkins was nominated in Best Director. Four of the nine nominees for Best Picture focused on people of color (“POC”). Denzel Washington broke his own record as the most-nominated African American performer. Octavia Spencer became the first woman of color to receive an Oscar nomination after winning. Dev Patel became only the third Indian performer to be nominated. Viola Davis and Mahershala Ali won acting Oscars. Pulitzer Prize winner August Wilson received a posthumous nomination for the screenplay adaptation of his play. Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney won Best Adapted Screenplay, only the third and fourth men of color to do so. And finally, and perhaps most notably, seven of the 20 acting nominees were POC, tying the record set by 2006’s class a decade prior.

Oh, and “Moonlight” won Best Picture.

But with all that progress in including talents from more than just white people, Hollywood hasn’t exactly planned the best looking 2017 for the AMPAS. Let’s take a look.

Emmy nominee Dee Rees (“Bessie,” “Pariah”) came to Sundance with “Mudbound,” a story of “two men who return home from World War II to work on a farm in rural Mississippi where they struggle to deal with racism and adjusting to life after war.” Per IMDb, the cast is strong, touting such names as Mary J. BligeCarey MulliganJonathan BanksJason Clarke and Jason Mitchell. Rees has assembled an impressive POC crew in front of and behind the camera that could gain awards recognition: Dee Rees (Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay); Virgil Williams (Best Adapted Screenplay); Best Supporting Actor (Jason Mitchell), Best Film Editing (Mako Kamitsuna) and Best Picture (Charles D. King).

Mitchell also appears in “Detroit,” from Kathryn Bigelow. Bigelow returns this August from her four-year hibernation with a film focusing on the Detroit riots.  Based on the trailer, it looks like we’re in for showcase performances from John Boyega, Mitchell and Anthony Mackie. Harry Yoon serves as co-editor alongside William Goldenberg.

There’s “Marshall” from Reginald Hudlin (“Django Unchained,” “The Ladies Man”). While Hudlin’s directorial history in feature films is questionable (his TV work is great), the subject matter of a young Thurgood Marshall before his time as a Supreme Court Justice seems very Academy-friendly. Soon-to-be-household-name Chadwick Boseman plays the title attorney, while red-hot Sterling K. Brown, Josh Gad, Keesha Sharp, Dan Stevens, Kate Hudson, James Cromwell and Jussie Smollett round out the juicy supporting cast. Period costumes are by the great (and often snubbed) Ruth E. Carter (“Selma,” “Black Panther”). This one could do something akin to “Hidden Figures” or “Bridge of Spies” – it could be universally liked and beloved.

Netflix’s romance with Joon-ho Bong continues with “Okja,” starring Seo-Hyun Ahn as (per IMDb) “a young girl who risks everything to prevent a powerful, multi-national company from kidnapping her best friend – a massive animal named Okja.” It co-stars Giancarlo Esposito (“Better Call Saul,” “Breaking Bad). From a production standpoint, “Okja” is a diverse project from three Asian producers and nearly a full slate of Asian craftsmen below the line.

Beyond the above films, you have to strain your eyes slightly. There’s “Get Out” from Jordan Peele (which feels like a dark horse for Original Screenplay on a good day, though I’m sure many will work hard for Daniel Kaluuya and Betty Gabriel in acting categories) and “The Fate of the Furious” from F. Gary Gray (“Straight Outta Compton”), but neither truly feel like they’ll make a dent come awards season.

As we start to move away from films “about” POC and into the territory of movies “with” POC, let’s look at big POC actors and actresses who could cash in on some love. Ali Fazal plays the title male character opposite Judi Dench in Stephen Frears‘ royal drama “Victoria and Abdul.” Multi-SAG winner Idris Elba has two films that could land him Lead and Supporting Oscar love: Aaron Sorkin‘s directorial debut starring Jessica Chastain, “Molly’s Game” in Supporting and Lead for “The Mountain Between Us,” from Israeli filmmaker Hany Abu-Assad (“Paradise Now,” “Omar”). Oscar Isaac stars in George Clooney‘s “Suburbicon.” While little is known about Angelina Jolie‘s “First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers,” Sareum Srey Moch could be in play for her performance as the titular daughter. Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Peter and Tahar Rahim plays Judas in “Mary Magdalene,” by “Lion” helmer Garth Davis. Ben Kingsley plays a supporting role in “War Machine.” Guillermo del Toro returns to the big screen, directing Octavia Spencer in “The Shape of Water.” Finally, Tony winner Leslie Odom Jr. looks to stand out among the lily-white cast of “Murder on the Orient Express.”

What do you guys think? Will #OscarsSoWhite return in full force? Will there be enough representation not just in the acting races, but also in directing, writing and the craft races? What about women and their representation outside the 10 actress slots?

Share your thoughts in the comments or on the message forums!

Check out the first official set of
Year-In-Advance Oscar Predictions
and see where these films rank!