Oscars 2017
Photo: Courtesy

The 2017 Oscar nominations are out, and there’s a lot to be excited about. Our new government may be hellbent on driving the nation back to a time when white men ruled the world, but at least pop culture is moving in the right direction. Thirty-five percent of this year’s acting nominees (seven of 20) are people of color, a record-breaking number and stark improvement over last year’s all-white lineup. And that’s not the only progressive record that was set today. Here are 12 of the most significant surprises, snubs and new records set by the 2017 Oscar nominations.

1) Viola Davis became the first black actress to be nominated three times.

Davis is nominated in the Best Supporting Actress field for her wrenching work in Denzel Washington’s Fences—her third Academy Award nomination, following Doubt in 2009 and The Help in 2011—and this could very well end up being her first win. No black actress has ever earned three Oscar nominations before.

Davis, Naomie Harris and Octavia Spencer were also the first trio of black actresses ever nominated in a single category—Harris and Spencer earned nods for Moonlight and Hidden Figures, respectively.

2) Six black actors were nominated across the four performance categories.

The #OscarsSoWhite backlash arose in response to the fact that in 2015 and 2016, every single acting nominee was white. This year, a record-breaking six black actors were nominated, with all four acting categories recognizing at least one performer of color. Denzel Washington was nominated in Best Actor for Fences (his seventh Oscar nomination), while his co-star Davis was nominated alongside Harris and Spencer in the Supporting Actress category. Ruth Negga was nominated in the Best Actress category for Loving, and Moonlight‘s Mahershala Ali was represented in the Best Supporting Actor field.

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3) Dev Patel became the third Indian actor ever nominated for an Oscar.

You read that correctly. In the history of the Academy Awards, only three Indian actors have ever been nominated in any category: Ben Kingsley (who is technically half-Indian) has been nominated four times, winning once for Gandhi in 1983, and Merle Oberon, who was nominated way back in 1936 for The Dark Angel.

Patel wasn’t nominated for Slumdog Millionaire in 2009, although the film scooped a bunch of awards including Best Picture. His Best Actor nomination for Lion, in which he plays a young man in search of his long-lost family, also makes him the thirteenth Asian actor ever nominated for an Oscar.

4) Martin Scorsese was shut out of the Director field.

Scorsese’s 25-year passion project Silence—an undeniably grueling viewing experience—hasn’t resonated with awards voters in the way many had predicted, but given the Academy’s historical love for Scorsese, which allowed them to overlook the controversy around The Wolf of Wall Street three years back, this snub is a surprise. (As if to add insult to injury, the dumpster fire of a movie that was Passengers ended up with more nominations than Silence. If that doesn’t make you question your faith as profoundly as Andrew Garfield’s anguished priest in Silence, nothing will.)

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La La Land
Photo: La La Land

5) La La Land almost broke the record for the most nominations in history.

Titanic and All About Eve hold the joint record for most-nominated movie of all time, with 14 nominations apiece. Today, La La Land equaled that record, with nominations in every major category including Best Picture, Director, Lead Actor, Lead Actress, Original Screenplay, Film Editing, and two entries in the Best Original Song category for “City of Stars” and “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)”.

This isn’t a huge surprise—if you sent a team of researchers into a lab to engineer a scientifically failsafe Oscar contender, it would probably look a lot like La La Land. If the film had had more significant supporting roles, it could have probably pulled off a tie-break.

6) For the first time, three black writers were nominated.

Two out of the five Best Adapted Screenplay contenders were by black writers—Moonlight‘s Barry Jenkins and Tarell McCraney, and Fences‘s August Wilson, who adapted the script from his own 1983 play before his death. Four of the five Adapted Screenplay nominees were also stories about people of color, including NASA biopic Hidden Figures and India-set character drama Lion.

7) Hollywood has officially forgiven Mel Gibson.

Just over two decades ago, Gibson won the Best Director Oscar for Braveheart. Just over a decade ago, Gibson was caught on tape making a series of anti-Semitic and misogynistic remarks while under arrest for DUI, and has been rightfully shunned by the industry ever since. Gibson’s self-pitying recent comments, in which he called his persona-non-grata status “really unfair”, looked set to scupper his chances at a comeback with war drama Hacksaw Ridge—but as it turns out, Hollywood is ready to forgive and forget.

As Ben Affleck learned four years ago, it’s entirely possible for the Academy to crown a movie Best Picture while leaving its director out in the cold, so the fact that Gibson himself earned a nomination for Best Director speaks volumes.

Mel Gibson
Photo: Getty

8) Amazon broke major new ground for the streaming video industry.

Amazon Studios made one of the biggest deals in Sundance history last year when it bought the U.S. rights to Kenneth Lonergan’s heartfelt drama Manchester By The Sea, and it paid off with a Best Picture nomination. This is the first time a streaming service has made it into the Best Picture category. Netflix has earned several nominations in the Documentary field over the years—and got another this year for 13th—but is yet to break into the feature categories.

9) For the first time, the documentary category is dominated by black filmmakers.

Three out of the five documentaries nominated were made by black directors and center on the subject of race in America: Ava DuVernay’s 13th, Raoul Peck’s I Am Not Your Negro and Ezra Edelman’s 7.5-hour O.J.: Made in America. The latter is also significant because it shows just how blurry the line between films and television has become—there’s been controversy throughout awards season about whether the 7.5 hour O.J.: Made In America was a miniseries or a movie, and the debate rages on. Either way, it’s a movie for the Academy’s purposes, and stands a very strong chance of winning on the night.

10) The Academy still does not recognize superhero movies.

Following Deadpool’s PGA Award nomination (generally considered the best predictor of Oscar success thanks to the voter overlap), a Best Picture nod was being widely, if incredulously, predicted. But Ryan Reynolds’ salty-mouthed superhero did not make the cut in even the minor technical categories.

It’s hard to feel too cut up about this Best Picture “snub”—while a very good version of the thing that it set out to be, Deadpool was emphatically not one of the ten best movies of the year. If The Dark Knight couldn’t crack the superhero glass ceiling back in 2009, then Deadpool was unlikely to get the job done. Still, it’s surprising for that much guild love to translate into zero nominations.

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Ruth Negga
Photo: Getty

11) Ruth Negga is this year’s breakout star to watch.

Loving, Jeff Nichols’ quiet historical drama about an interracial couple whose fight for marriage rights ended up in the U.S. Supreme Court, has largely been shut out of this awards season. Negga’s understated performance was considered to be an outside shot, and yet there she is in the Best Actress field. (Awkwardly, the official Oscars website originally had Amy Adams listed in Negga’s place, but the error has now been amended.)

If you’re unfamiliar with Negga, she’s outstanding on AMC’s delightfully batsh*t supernatural series Preacher, giving a performance that couldn’t be farther removed from her work in Loving. Binge it.

12) Sully and Tom Hanks were entirely shut out.

Remember Captain Philips? The movie in which Tom Hanks gave maybe the best performance of his career as the captain of a cargo ship hijacked by pirates? He seemed like a lock for nominations, and maybe even a win… until he wasn’t. In Clint Eastwood’s Sully, Hanks plays a similarly heroic real figure—the pilot who infamously landed a passenger jet on the Hudson River—and today he was shut out again. Eastwood’s political views may have alienated him so much from Hollywood that Sully never had a shot, but Hanks is so beloved that it’s a surprise to see him passed over again.

13) Meryl Streep broke her own record.

Streep’s nomination for Florence Foster Jenkins marks her twentieth overall—and prior to this she was already the most-nominated performer in Oscar history. Meryl Streep award nominations are one of the few certainties in life, right up there with death and taxes, but if it means we keep getting speeches like the one she gave at the Golden Globes, it’s hard to see a downside.

From: Harper’s BAZAAR US