Da'Vine Joy Randolph wins Oscar for best supporting actress
Culture & Entertainment

The 96th Academy Awards: Big Wins, Big Losses For Black Culture

This year’s Oscars presented so much potential when it came to Black cinema, from the talented casts featured in the hottest films of the season to the brilliant minds behind the scenes. While some notable wins like The Holdovers star Da’Vine Joy Randolph taking home "Best Actress in a Supporting Role" and American Fiction writer Cord Jefferson’s win for “Best Adapted Screenplay” took place—there were also some potentially history-making moments that didn’t come to fruition as one would have hoped.

Colman Domingo, recently dubbed “The First Black Gay Movie Star” by Out Magazine, was up for “Best Actor in a Leading Role.” Many may not have realized but Colman taking home the golden trophy would have meant him becoming the first openly gay Black man to win “Best Actor in a Leading Role” in The Academy’s nearly 100-year history. Actually, Colman is only the second openly gay man to earn an Oscar nomination for playing a gay character. With the first happening 25 years ago, when Ian McKellen was nominated in 1999 for his leading role in Gods and Monsters.

Domingo took on not one but two roles in films garnering huge Oscar buzz this season— portraying Mister in The Color Purple remake and the depiction of Martin Luther King Jr. advisor Bayard Rustin, the biopic that earned his first nomination. Only five Black men have taken home the “Best Actor in a Leading Role” prize to date, having a 15-year gap between Will Smith's 2022 win and Forest Whitaker's 2007 victory. While we would have loved to see first-time nominee Colman Domingo make history at The 96th Academy Awards, his captivating on-screen presence is sure to earn another nomination one day in the near future.

Colman Domingo at 96th OscarsColman DomingoCourtesy of The Academy

American Fiction costars Jeffrey Wright and Sterling K. Brown were also the first Black actors from the same film to be simultaneously nominated in the lead and supporting actor categories. Wright's portrayal of frustrated novelist Monk in the movie adapted from the 2001 book Erasure and Brown's portrayal of his younger surgeon brother, who is freshly divorced after coming out as gay, were two modern characters, unlike anything we've seen on screen before. Not to mention, the film Sterling described as “expanding the collective consciousness and imagination of what Black life on screen can be” was also nominated for "Best Picture." Jeffrey once said, “We lack a fluency in how we discuss race and history… and identity," and it can't be denied that American Fiction is truly a step in the right direction.

Danielle Brooks' nomination for "Best Actress in a Supporting Role" can't go without mention. Her show-stopping reincarnation of the character Oprah Winfrey made famous, Harpo's wife Sofia, can't be overlooked. In the 1985 version of The Color Purple, Whoopi Goldberg, Margaret Avery, and Oprah Winfrey were all nominated for their film debuts; however, none of them won. In fact, in spite of eleven nominations, the original film won none of the Oscars that year. Brooks had a chance to change things for the undeniable cult classic film, but ultimately, Da’Vine Joy Randolph took it home.

Danielle Brooks at 96th OscarsDanielle BrooksCourtesy of The Academy

Randolph tearfully accepted her trophy, stating, “For so long, I’ve always wanted to be different." She continued, “And now I realize I just need to be myself, and I thank you. I thank you for seeing me.” Da’Vine basically swept awards season, also winning a Critics Choice Award, Golden Globe, BAFTA, and SAG Award for her performance as Mary Lamb in The Holdovers.

Other winners of color included The Last Repair Shop director Kris Bowers, who took home "Best Documentary Short" alongside two-time Oscar-winner Ben Proudfoot, and American Fiction writer Cord Jefferson, who won “Best Adapted Screenplay.” Cord's acceptance speech included what might have been the most important moment during the night: a plea for cheaper films and more opportunities for those trying to follow in his footsteps. “It’s a plea to acknowledge and recognize that there are so many people out there who want the opportunity that I was given." He continued, "I want other people to experience that joy. The next Martin Scorsese is out there. The next Greta [Gerwig] is out there. The next Christopher Nolan is out there. They just want a shot. And we can give them one.” Well said, Cord, Well said!

Cord Jefferson wins Oscar for American FictionCord JeffersonCourtesy of The Academy

Kris Bowers wins an OscarKris Bowers (R)Courtesy of The Academy

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Feature image courtesy of The Academy




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