And the award for best course correction goes to … .the Academy Award nominations, which finally have left #OscarsSoWhite and moved on to a more diverse landscape.
The nods announced Tuesday morning also revealed that the voters for Hollywood’s biggest prize are ga ga for “La La Land” and ready to welcome back a former persona non grata, Mel Gibson.
One minor quibble: What was with announcing the nominations on ABC’s “Good Morning America” and not at the usual press conference for all the media? Do we really need to be reminded that the golden guys given out for artistic merit are about TV ratings, too?
Here are nine things about the nominees, snubs and surprises you need to know in preparation for the Oscar ceremony airing Feb. 26 on ABC (ah, now we understand the “GMA” deal!).
1. Thankfully, the Oscars avoided a three-peat of its all-white acting nominations in 2015 and 2016. This time, the nods acknowledged many great performances by actors and actresses of color – and several films that examine America’s struggle to achieve real equality. And with Denzel Washington and Viola Davis (“Fences”), Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris (“Moonlight”), Ruth Negga (“Loving”), and Octavia Spencer (“Hidden Figures”) in the running, the Oscars even managed to set a record by singling out six black actors in one year.
2. That gorgeous millennial spin on movie musicals, “La La Land,” scored the most nods with 14, enough to tie it with “Titanic” and “All About Eve” for the most ever. It’s hard to dispute the all-around excellence of the bittersweet romance with Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone (who are both competing for best acting honors). And if you try, you might wind up being interrogated, like Aziz Ansari was by the “La La Land”-loving cops in a “Saturday Night Live” skit.
3. Filmmakers love a film about filmmaking, as demonstrated by “La La Land” (and 2011' “The Artist,” which nabbed best picture). But if anyone can beat the current front-runner, it’s the moving, beautifully crafted “Moonlight,” which came in second with 8 nominations. Here’s hoping Barry Jenkins takes home an award for either director or adapted screenplay. And fingers crossed that Mahershala Ali wins best supporting actor for his illuminating performance.
4. It’s an especially strong year for women in the lead and supporting acting categories. And it was nice to see Meryl Streep included yet again, this time for playing an off-key opera singer in “Florence Foster Jenkins.” Still, it doesn’t feel like Queen Meryl’s year for the statuette. But after her rousing speech at the Golden Globes, could she just go onstage at some point and talk for five minutes, please?
5. Three cheers for three not-so-expected guys who made it into the male acting contests: best actor nominee Viggo Mortensen for his bracing turn in “Captain Fantastic” and supporting actor contenders Jeff Bridges for “Hell or High Water” and Michael Shannon for “Nocturnal Animals.” Put those three guys in the same movie and you’d have a jump on being a 2018 Oscar contender.
6. In the snubs department, a search is underway for some obvious names that didn’t make the cut. Where are Amy Adams (“Arrival”) and Annette Bening (“20th Century Women”? Tom Hanks (“Sully”)? And Taraji P. Henson (“Hidden Figures”)? But while held out hope that Ryan Reynolds of “Deadpool” would land in the mix, the Merc with a Mouth will have to be content with his box-office victory.
7. Get ready for the Hollywood comeback of Mel Gibson, the controversial actor whose scandals over the past decade had made him an industry outcast. Now he’s a best director nominee for “Hacksaw Ridge,” his World War II saga that also scored best picture and best actor (for Andrew Garfield) attention. Hollywood loves a celebrity redemption story. But with Gibson, only time will tell if he can remain in the industry’s good graces.
8. Questions to discuss amongst yourselves: Is the superb, seven-and-a-half-hour-long “O.J.: Made in America,” nominated for best documentary, more of a movie or a TV series (it was shown in theaters and aired on ESPN)? Why are Dev Patel of “Lion” and Viola Davis of “Fences” in the supporting categories?
9. It’s already a win-win situation for anyone who grew up watching the 1990s version of the Mickey Mouse Club. Former members Ryan Gosling and Justin Timberlake (best song nominee for “Can’t Stop The Feeling” from “Trolls”) could collide on the red carpet, presumably igniting enough camera flashes to be seen from space.