Moonlight topped off its amazing awards-season run by earning the Best Picture Oscar at the 89th Academy Awards. Moonlight director/writer/producer Barry Jenkins accepted the award at the end of the night after a shocking turn of events where La La Land was mistakenly called to stage to receive the Academy’s highest honor. Jenkins also won with co-writer Tarell Alvin McCraney for Best Adapted Screenplay, and Mahershala Ali became the first Muslim actor in Oscar history to win the Best Supporting Actor Award.
The star-studded evening also saw an energizing opening performance of “Can’t Stop The Feeling” by Original Song nominee Justin Timberlake, a medley of two songs from “La La Land” by its co-star John Legend (“City of Stars” went on to win the Original Song award) and a standing ovation for Best Feature Documentary presenter, Presidential Medal of Freedom honoree and NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, who was introduced by “Hidden Figures” stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae (and wheeled out on stage by current NASA astronaut Yvonne Cagle).
There were also Oscar presentations from Samuel L. Jackson, Halle Berry and Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs, but one of the biggest highlights of the evening was the speech delivered by three-time nominee and Best Supporting Actress winner Viola Davis:
People ask me all the time, what kind of stories do you want to tell, Viola? And I say, exhume those bodies, exhume those stories, the stories of the people who dreamed. I became an artist, and thank God I did, because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life. So here’s to August Wilson, who exhumed and exalted the ordinary people.
Davis went on to thank her co-stars and Best Director/Best Actor nominee Denzel Washington, her family and her parents.
The Hollywood Reporter, one of entertainment media’s flagship outlets, announced that NBA legend, actor, activist, cultural commentator and New York Times bestselling author Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has joined the publication as contributing editor. In his role, Abdul-Jabbar will pen a regular column and conduct select celebrity interviews. Abdul-Jabbar’s first column on race and romance in La La Land will run in the Feb. 24 print issue and online at THR.com.
“With decades of experience in the media spotlight and a keen eye on the pop culture landscape, Kareem will bring a unique perspective to The Hollywood Reporter’s readers on critical issues like race, gender and the role of media in society,” said Matthew Belloni, editorial director of The Hollywood Reporter. “His voice will be an especially important one as The Hollywood Reporter continues to expand its coverage and grow its global audience.”
On his new role, Abdul-Jabbar said, “I’m excited to join The Hollywood Reporter because it allows me to continue to write about the intersection of politics and pop culture, which is where our values and beliefs are forged.”
Abdul-Jabbar has contributed a number of guest columns to The Hollywood Reporter in recent months. In November, he conducted a wide-ranging interview with Denzel Washington and Viola Davis, who appeared together in the film adaptation of August Wilson’s classic 1983 play, Fences. Abdul-Jabbar also recently penned columns focusing on the issues of the day, calling on black celebrities to be “fearless” in standing up to the current president, intoning on the social and psychological effects of reality-romance series The Bachelor and comparing Trump’s refugee ban to a “bad horror movie.”
In addition to The Hollywood Reporter, Abdul-Jabbar has contributed to publications like The Washington Post, The New York Times, Time, Esquire and TheHuffington Post.
If you’ve ever seen or read an August Wilson play, you know that writing is how the late playwright processed the world around him – a magnificently black world filled with funk and nuance in which language plays a central role. For Wilson, though, learning how to work with that language as a writer didn’t happen overnight. “For the longest time I couldn’t make my characters talk,” Wilson told me several years ago before his death in 2005. “I thought in order to incorporate the black vernacular into literature, the language had to be changed or altered in some way to sound more clear … until I realized that it’s no less romantic and meaningful to say, ‘It’s cold outside.’” As a play, Wilson’s Fences, which tells the story of a working-class black man – who was denied a baseball career in the major leagues – trying to raise his family in mid-century Pittsburgh, gives us that blunt romance and powerful meaning. As a movie, it gives us Denzel Washington and Viola Davis. Enough said.
Fences is on nationwide release now
I don’t go in for horror films at all – not even horror film parodies – but I also can’t think of a brighter, more innovative voice in film right now than Jordan Peele, one half of the masterful sketch comedy series Key and Peele, which he co-created with Keegan-Michael Key. And while the potentially great Keanu, co-written by Peele and Alex Rubin, was a disappointing failure, Get Out, which Peele both wrote and directed, looks legitimately genius. The premise is a pretty straightforward Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner setup – rich white girlfriend brings her smart, learned black boyfriend upstate for a weekend to meet the parents – what could go wrong? It’ll be awkward, parents will remark more than once on how articulate the black boyfriend is, lecture them both on how hard it will be to maintain an interracial relationship in this day and age, and then finally concede that love is all that matters. Or will it?
Get Out will be in theaters February 24
In America, when it comes to the mainstream celebration of black historical figures, we primarily see the spotlight shined on our athletes, entertainers and a handful of activists who generally get depoliticized posthumously. Seldom do we hear about engineers, innovators and mathematicians, much less our black women in those positions. It’s thrilling and really quite long overdue for a film like Hidden Figures, which tells the story of “colored computers” Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, who worked at NASA in the early 1960s and played a vital role in getting John Glenn and the Friendship 7 into space. As Katherine Johnson, Taraji P. Henson is on career-best form – pushing her glasses up on her nose, hustling to the coloreds bathroom carrying a stack of data research, doing mathematical equations on a chalkboard – creating a truly revelatory performance. Octavia Spencer as Dorothy and Janelle Monáe as Mary are icing on the cake. An added bonus comes in the form of Pharrell Williams, who is a producer on the film and wrote original songs for the soundtrack that give the movie a beautiful sense of joy.
Hidden Figures is in nationwide release now
I Am Not Your Negro
The thing about James Baldwin, beyond his utter brilliance and undeniable prescience as a writer and public intellectual, is that he was like the blackest man who ever lived. And he wore it like a badge of honor. In the newly Oscar-nominated documentary I Am Not Your Negro, Haitian-born film-maker Raoul Peck mines Baldwin’s unpublished writing about the assassinations of Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X to create an intellectual and visual mosaic that somehow captures Baldwin’s own very personal and stubborn sense of blackness. It hits hard, and the film will make you long for the leadership and integrity of Evers, King and Malcolm in these increasingly divisive times. But it will also, if only temporarily, let you sit in the glory that is James Baldwin’s company.
Reversing course from last year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences honored “Moonlight,” “Fences,” “Hidden Figures” and other people of color-centered works with Oscar nominations today (January 24).
The three films, each of which features a predominantly Black cast, compete in the “Best Picture” and “Writing (Adapted Screenplay)” categories. Actresses Viola Davis (“Fences”), Naomie Harris (“Moonlight”) and Octavia Spencer (“Hidden Figures”) also square off for best “Actress in a Supporting Role.”
“Moonlight”‘s eight nominations are the most of any film this year besides the musical “La La Land.” They include “Best Director” and “Writing (Adapted Screenplay)” for Barry Jenkins, and “Actor in a Supporting Role” for Mahershala Ali.
“Fences” star and director Denzel Washington received a best “Actor in a Leading Role” nomination. Playwright August Wilson‘s script, based on his original 1983 play, earned him a posthumous “Writing (Adapted Screenplay)” nod.
Other acting nominees of color include Ruth Negga (“Loving”) for “Actress in a Leading Role” and Dev Patel (“Lion”) for “Actor in a Supporting Role.” Patel is the first performer of South Asian descent to receive an acting Oscar nomination since Ben Kingsley for 2000’s “Sexy Beast.”
Ava DuVernay‘s “13th,” Raoul Peck‘s “I Am Not Your Negro” and Ezra Edelman‘s “O.J.: Made in America” each received Documentary (Feature) nominations. The category also includes another Black director’s work: Roger Ross Williams‘ “Life, Animated,” and Joi McMillon became the first black female to be nominated in the Editing category for “Moonlight.”
This year’s nominations are far more diverse overall than last year’s, and NBC News reports that this year’s acting nominee pool is the most diverse in Oscar history.
On Sunday’s 74th Golden Globe Awards, the most shocking-but-deserved win of the night was Barry Jenkins’ “Moonlight” taking the honor of Best Motion Picture, Drama over “Hacksaw Ridge”, “Hell or High Water”, “Lion” and “Manchester by the Sea.”
Viola Davis won Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture for her powerhouse performance in the Denzel Washington-directed “Fences,” while on the television side, “Black-ish” lead Tracee Ellis Ross became the first African-American woman since Debbie Allen in 1983 to win Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy.
Donald Glover and his lauded FX cable creation “Atlanta” went two-for-two by winning both awards he was nominated for: Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy and Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy.
It seems as if last year’s #OscarsSoWhite backlash has had a marked effect on this year’s pool of projects and talent considered and honored as the 2017 awards season gets underway.
The 2017 Golden Globe nominations were announced this morning, and nominees of color were found in the majority of film and television categories. Indie film sensation “Moonlight”not only garnered a nod for Best Motion Picture, Drama, but also for directing and screenwriting by Barry Jenkins, in the Best Actress category for Naomie Harris, and Mahershala Ali was recognized in the supporting actor category.
Denzel Washington and Viola Davis were honored for their performances in “Fences”, Ruth Negga was nominated for her leading role in “Loving,” and Oscar winner Octavia Spencer grabbed a nomination for her supporting role in the upcoming space race drama “Hidden Figures.” Additionally, Pharrell Williams is in the running for Best Original Score — Motion Picture, for his work on the music for “Hidden Figures.”
On the television side, Donald Glover‘s “Atlanta” received nods in two categories; Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy and Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy. Anthony Anderson provides some competition for Glover in the acting category, and “Black-ish” is nominated for Best Comedy Television Series as well. Tracee Ellis Ross gained a nod in the Lead Comedy Actress category, as did “Insecure” star Issa Rae.
In limited series, actress Thandie Newton was nominated for Westworld, and Kerry Washington‘s portrayal of Anita Hill in “Confirmation” was also acknowledged. Emmy winner Courtney B. Vance gained a nod for his work as Johnny Cochran in “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story”and the series was nominated in the Best Television Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television category alongside Academy Award-winning writer John Ridley’s “American Crime.”
Denzel Washington has been selected to receive the Maltin Modern Master Award at the 32nd annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival on Feb. 2, 2017 at the Arlington Theatre.
Washington will be honored for his longstanding contributions to the film industry, culminating with Paramount’s upcoming movie “Fences,” which he directs, produces, and stars in.
The award is named for film critic Leonard Maltin, who will return for his 26th year to moderate the evening. Roger Durling, the festival’s executive director, said, “Denzel Washington directing, producing and acting in ‘Fences’ defines the Modern Master for the 21st Century.”
Washington portrays a mid-century Pittsburgh sanitation worker who once dreamed of a baseball career, but was too old when the major leagues began admitting black players. He tries to be a good husband and father, but his lost dream of glory eats at him, and causes him to make a decision that threatens to tear his family apart.
The screenplay is written August Wilson, adapted from Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play. The film also stars Viola Davis, Jovan Adepo, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Russell Hornsby, Mykelti Williamson and Saniyya Sidney. Paramount opens “Fences” on Dec. 25.