Irish-Ethiopian actor Ruth Negga has been nominated for best actress at the 89th Academy Awards.
Ms Negga was honoured for playing Mildred Loving, the African-American woman whose case helped end Virginia’s anti-miscegenation laws, in Jeff Nichols’s powerful, subtle Loving.
Consolata Boyle, the Irish costume designer, was nominated for her work on Florence Foster Jenkins.
There was also a best original screenplay mention for the Irish co-production The Lobster. That film was produced by Dublin-based Element Pictures with the assistance of the Irish Film Board.
John Carney’s Sing Street, which seemed in with a chance of best song, lost out in an unusually competitive year for that category.
Most nominations ever
The international headline news is that Damien Chazelle’s La La Land, an airy Hollywood musical, tied with the record for most ever nominations. It equalled the tally of All About Eve and Titanic with 14 mentions. Having already broken the record for Golden Globe wins, La La Land now looks like an unbeatable favourite for the best picture prize.
Following in La La Land’s wake were Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival, a head-spinning science fiction drama, and Barry Jenkins’s Moonlight, the tale of an African-American adolescence. Both compete in eight races.
Three films picked up six nods: Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea, a hard-edged tale of grief; Garth Davis’s Lion, the moving tale of an adoptee in Australia seeking his Indian roots; and Mel Gibson’s hugely violent, unashamedly sentimental war film Hacksaw Ridge. Gibson’s apparent welcome back into the fold following personal scandals a decade ago is one of the day’s big stories. He is one of the five men nominated for best director.
In truth, there were relatively few shocks among this year’s nominations. Ms Negga’s odds had slipped a little after failing to secure a Bafta nomination, but she always seemed like a contender. Amy Adams will feel disappointed not to have secured a best actress nomination for Arrival.
None of the contenders in that race were, however, from the outer regions of left field. Isabelle Huppert, the admired French actor, finally secured her first Oscar nomination for playing a determined rape survivor in Paul Verhoeven's controversial Elle. Emma Stone is in for La La Land. Meryl Streep breaks her own record as she becomes the first actor to clock up 20 nominations. She is an outsider for her comic turn as a hilariously bad singer in Florence Foster Jenkins.
The Academy will be relieved to have moved on from last year’s controversy surrounding the dearth of acting nominations for people of colour. The experienced Viola Davis, an unbackable favourite for best supporting actress, becomes the first African-American woman to secure three Oscar nominations with her mention for Denzel Washington’s Fences. Mr Washington looks like the only person who could conceivably beat Casey Affleck, nominated for Manchester by the Sea, in the best actor derby.
Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris, black actors from the United States and England respectively, received supporting nominations for their roles in Moonlight. Octavia Spencer, who won an Academy Award for The Help, competes against Davis and Harris, but with odds of 1/12 at meaner bookies, Ms Davis looks to have that comfortably in the bag.
Dev Patel, an English actor of Indian descent, is in the best supporting race for Lion. Seven out of the 20 acting nominations went to people of colour.
Nine films for best picture
The Academy nominated nine films for best picture – it can list between five and 10 – all of which were in most pundits’ starting line-up. Unless Moonlight, the presumed second favourite, can pick up wins at the Producers’ Guild or Directors’ Guild, La La Land will cruise to victory on February 26th.
In Limerick, Ms Negga’s uncle Ger Malone said the family was “bursting here with pride at her nomination. WhatsApp is whopping away now in the family [text message] group, from as far away as Australia.
“The majority of her family are in Limerick – aunts, uncles, and cousins. Her mum is in the UK, and she visits Limerick frequently,” he said.