Reactions are steadily pouring in from this year’s Oscar nominations, which were announced via live stream on Tuesday.
Though some people and projects were notably missing from the list (*cough, looking at you Passing, Respect and The Harder They Fall*), the ones that did receive the coveted nominations are extending their thanks.
King Richard’s Victory
One such nominee is Will Smith, who’s currently up for Best Performance by an Actor in a Lead Role for his role as Richard Williams, in King Richard. In a recent interview with LA Times, the former Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reflected on this new nomination and the irony of both him and Denzel Washington being up for the same award 20 years after they went head-to-head for Best Lead Actor at the 2002 Academy Awards. (Smith for Ali and Washington for his memorable role in Training Day.) Washington would ultimately prevail and take home the Oscar, making history in the process—much like he is right now, but we’ll get into that a little later.
Speaking to the outlet, Smith explained: “I’ve had films that have had box office success and I’ve been nominated twice before, but this is like a lovefest for the film, the entire cast, the crew. That’s definitely a little bit of a new world.”
He later added, of Washington, “You know it’s funny, I don’t think I’ve ever talked about this. So those two times I was nominated before, I’ve only ever lost to Black actors. I lost once to Denzel and the next was Forest Whitaker. So it’s funny, [my wife] Jada [Pinkett Smith] and I were talking about the inclusion and all that (the issue of the lack of diversity among Oscar nominees over the years) and I was like, ‘I’ve only ever lost to Black actors!’”
Serena Williams, who executive produced the film, also took to Instagram to share her excitement, writing:
I woke up to this. Our film is really nominated for an OSCAR!!!!!!! This is CRAZY!!!!!!! From Compton to Wimbledon to Academy awards. Everyone can dream. And your dream can come true. Ok I am definitely crying this morning. Congrats to the entire film and crew.
Additionally, musical icon and all-around legend, Beyoncé, has joined the prestigious ranks, as she secured her first-ever Oscar nomination for her song, “Be Alive,” in King Richard, as well.
Summer of Soul’s Oscar-nominated Revolution
Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, whose debut documentary, Summer of Soul (...Or When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised), earned recognition for Best Documentary Feature, is also celebrating this week. The critically-acclaimed feature centers around the history of the little-known Harlem Cultural Festival taking place over the course of six weeks during the summer of 1969.
“It is a huge honor to receive this nomination,” Thompson explained in a statement provided to The Root. “The Harlem Cultural Festival was both a testament to Black genius and Black joy at a formative time in our country’s history, and a cautionary tale about the way that history, especially Black history, can be erased. Being entrusted with the responsibility of keeping that past visible has been one of the great honors of my life. I am beyond gratified to be nominated alongside these four other incredible filmmakers. Congratulations to the entire filmmaking team and everyone at Searchlight, Onyx, and Hulu.”
Added Tara Duncan, President of Freeform and Onyx Collective: “Thank you to the Academy for recognizing Ahmir’s singular directorial debut and the tireless work of the filmmaking team to bring the Harlem Cultural Festival out of the shadows and to the forefront. It is incredibly gratifying for Summer of Soul and The Harlem Cultural Festival to not only be known, but to be recognized and celebrated. For Onyx Collective, this is the film that we wanted to define our brand. We’re overjoyed and humbled that our mission to curate culturally specific stories has already brought so much joy and pride to audiences around the world.”
West Side Sweetheart
In addition to Questlove and Beyonce nabbing their first-ever Academy Award nominations, West Side Story’s Ariana DeBose was also recognized for her role as Anita in the musical film. DeBose, a decorated, Tony-winning Afro-Latina actress who is also openly LGBTQ, could potentially make history should she win come March 27th. As the LA Times notes, “she and Rita Moreno, who won the Oscar for playing the same role (Anita) in the 1961 version of West Side Story, are now among the rare pairs of actors to be nominated for playing the same character. They have a chance to become only the third pair to both win.”
In a post to Instagram, DeBose further expressed:
“To be recognized alongside such incredible women for their inspiring performances is surreal enough, but to share this celebration with Steven, Kristie, and the entire team that made our beautiful movie is a dream come true. I’m so thankful to the Academy for this acknowledgement and am beyond grateful to Steven, Kristie, Kevin and everyone at Amblin and Disney. What a moment.”
The Serendipity of Denzel Washington
As previously stated, Washington’s nomination for Best Lead Actor at this year’s Academy Awards is surprisingly the first time in 20 years that both he and Will Smith are up for the same category. But, in addition to securing serendipity on that front, the legendary actor is also marking an additional monumental moment on another. As it stands, this nomination makes it the 10th time that he’s been recognized, securing his spot as the most nominated Black actor in the history of the Oscars.
Though this feat is fitting for someone of Washington’s caliber, I can’t help but still be taken aback at the fact that he’s the most nominated and has only walked away with two awards. You know what they say though: Third time’s a charm. I’ll be interested to see if he takes home the victory this time around.
The 94th annual Academy Awards, airing live from the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland, premieres Sunday, March 27 at 8 p.m. ET only on ABC. For the full list of nominees, head on over to oscars.org.