A few days ago I was able to see Jeff Nichols' film Loving. The biopic follows the legal struggles of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple living in Virginia during the 1960s who appeal the statute that outlaws their marriage in the state. Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga star in the title roles. Earlier this year, it was widely regarded that Negga would challenge not only for an Oscar nomination, but possibly even a win. Following last year's #OscarsSoWhite debacle, this season's slate of films in contention for awards recognition thankfully includes a more diverse group of actors. One has to imagine that Academy members are anxious to show their willingness to be more inclusive in their voting choices.
As it turns out, Negga is the only black woman who stands a chance at a nom in the Lead Actress category, following the announcement that Viola Davis will be campaigned in supporting for Fences. Even so, the chances for Negga at this point seem quite smaller following the SAG nominations announcement that excluded her. She did get a Golden Globe nod for Actress in a Drama, however. But is she for sure out? I don't think so.
Knowing that Negga's "buzz" has somewhat fizzled over the past few months, I was expecting to be rather underwhelmed by both her performance and the film itself. While I agree with some reviewers that her performance is subdued and the film bit slow, I thought it was absolutely a role that could garner great attention. It's not flashy and lacks a big "Oscar scene," but she left me completely empathizing with her and the plight of her family. Racial injustice stories often make me angry when I watch them and Negga's portrayal of a sort of dutiful, unassuming, yet persistent character added to my reaction of exasperation for her troubles.
Few have Negga cracking the top five, but if anyone squeezes out Meryl, I have lingering feeling it may be Negga instead of Annette Bening (20th Century Women). Less likely would be that both Negga and Bening get in over Streep and maybe Isabelle Huppert (Elle).