As the Black Reel Awards continue to evolve, one of the elements that has become apparent is that there are so many worthy contenders for our top prizes. In a very competitive year there are bound to be films or performances that either for one reason or another, get passed over by voters. There were a plethora of those this year, let’s take a look at some of the notable ones.
Outstanding Motion Picture: The Birth of a Nation, Hidden Figures, Queen of Katwe
Despite getting three nominations for Actor, Director, and Screenplay, The Birth of A Nation failed to garner an Outstanding Picture nomination. Prior to the media implosion in mid-August, Nate Parker’s Nat Turner-drama was tracking as a serious awards contender. Another casualty was Hidden Figures, which generated serious audience buzz but in a crowded field, failed to crack the Top Five. The same goes for the under-respected Disney drama, Queen of Katwe, which featured winning supporting performances from both Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo.
Outstanding Actor, Motion Picture: Will Smith (Collateral Beauty), Keegan-Michael Key (Don’t Think Twice), Devon Terrell (Barry)
Poor Smith, one year ago middling reviews of his sports drama, Collateral found him at the center of the bubbling #OscarSoWhite controversy. On the heels of mixed reviews and featured with an A-List cast, Collateral Beauty fell flat for voters. On the opposite of the spectrum is Terrell’s performance in a film that not many saw. Then there is Key, whose performance in Don’t Think Twice was nuanced, funny and deserving.
Outstanding Actress, Motion Picture: Tika Sumpter (Southside With You)
It has been said that it is difficult to portray famous living people because there is inevitably the comparison between the real and the performance. As early as the Sundance Film Festival, there were people who chafed at Sumpter’s turn as future FLOTUS Michelle Obama in Southside With You. Voter ultimately went with THREE first-timers in Royalty Hightower, Madina Nwalanga, and Sasha Lane over Sumpter, which in our estimation was an undeserved slight.
Outstanding Supporting Actor, Motion Picture: Craig Robinson (Morris From America), Mykelti Williamson (Fences), David Oyelowo (Queen of Katwe)
The two giants in the race, Moonlight and Fences, dominated this category, much to the chagrin of some truly deserving candidates that will have to wait another year. Robinson, arguably, gave the best film performance of his career as a father rearing his son in a foreign country. Williamson was solid as the mentally incapacitated brother to Denzel Washington in Fences and let’s not forget Oyelowo’s quiet, yet effective turn in Queen of Katwe.
Outstanding Supporting Actress, Motion Picture: Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures), Emayatzy Corinealdi (Miles Ahead!), Aja Naomi King (The Birth of a Nation)
This was another example of too many qualified performances and not enough space for EVERYONE. An argument can be made that double-category nominee Janelle Monae could have sacrificed a spot for ONE of these ladies, but which one? Spencer for her turn as future programming genius in Hidden Figures? Corinealdi as the early love interest of jazz great Miles Davis, or the equally brilliant King in the vast-underrated The Birth of A Nation?
Outstanding Documentary: Maya Angelou and Still I Rise, Trapped, Mavis!
As stated previously, each of these documentaries can make a case for inclusion, but at whose expense? 13th and I Am Not Your Negro are two of the year’s bests. O.J.: Made in America and Life, Animated are possible Oscar contenders and voters paid respect to the recently-deceased music great, Sharon Jones. Unfortunately for both the late Angelou and soulful titan Mavis Staples, but there’s not enough room at the inn!
Outstanding Breakthrough Performance, Male: Keegan-Michael Key (Don’t Think Twice), Parker Sawyers (Southside With You), Jharrel Jerome (Moonlight)
While Sawyers didn’t get acknowledged in this category, he is comforted by the fact that he will fighting it out in the Outstanding Actor field. Despite nominations from nearly EVERYONE in Moonlight, Jerome’s work was passed over. Key once again comes up short and for the reasons stated above may fare better in future years once voters are familiar with his work.
Outstanding Breakthrough Performance, Female: Madina Nwalanga (Queen of Katwe)
Ironically, the category we predicted she would be recognized would be this one but she surprised us by getting an Outstanding Actress nomination, knocking out one of the other candidates. It appears that this snub is Black Reel Awards-karma at work.
Outstanding Original Song: “I See Victory” (Hidden Figures), “War” (The Birth of a Nation), “You’re Welcome” (Moana)
Brilliant beat-maker and composer, Pharrell will have to be content with one nomination in this category when he easily could have been a double nominee. Clearly, here was another ultra-competitive category that either songs from Moana or The Birth of A Nation couldn’t crack.
Outstanding Actor, TV Movie or Limited Series: Adrian Lester (Undercover), Regé-Jean Page (“Roots”),
Both Lester and Jean Page were solid, but with one nominee from Roots, Malachi Kirby, already in the category and two others, Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Courtney Vance, from The People v. O.J. Simpson, it was always going to be an uphill battle for either of our two snubbed performers.
Outstanding Supporting Actor, TV Movie or Limited Series: Forest Whitaker (“Roots”), Trevor Jackson (“American Crime”)
The big surprise in this category was the inclusion of actor/rapper Tip “T.I.” Harris who took the spot that we predicted would go to his co-star Whitaker. Outside of that choice by the voters, it’s hard to make a case for either Whitaker or Jackson that either should be included over their celebrated counterparts but as we have seen this year and some year’s past, anything can happen . . . and usually does!
Outstanding Supporting Actress, TV Movie or Limited Series: Adina Porter (“American Horror Story: Roanoke”), Erica Tazel (“Roots”), Jennifer Hudson (Hairspray)
Angela Bassett, Emayatzy Corinealdi, Regina King, Anika Noni Rose, and Keesha Sharp are as close to a “Murderer’s Row” that exists in nearly any category this year. With the exception of Sharp, voters could have found room for one of these talented actresses but as we’ve stated previously, which one? Porter has been noteworthy this season on AHS:R, as was Tazel and most recently Hudson.