Quvenzhané, Denzel and ‘Django': What are their chances on Oscar night?

Opinion

Denzel Washington, Quvenzhané Wallis, Jamie Foxx

Denzel Washington, Quvenzhané Wallis, Jamie Foxx

While movie industry insiders are anxiously awaiting the results of the contentious race for best picture (will the Ben Affleck snub help Argo overpower the Lincoln juggernaut?), most African-Americans tuning to the Academy Awards this Sunday will be hoping to see some black history being made.

For instance, if Denzel Washington, who is nominated for his fourth best actor award, were to pull off an unlikely win for his fantastic performance as an alcohol and drug addicted pilot in Flight, he would cement his status as the most honored black actor in Hollywood history.

However, the emphasis should be on the word unlikely, because if there is a category that is totally sewn up, it’s this one.

Daniel Day-Lewis has taken virtually every precursor honor for his remarkable recreation of Abraham Lincoln, and there is no doubt he will take home an unprecedented third best actor trophy on Oscar night.

Still, for Washington, who was arguably overlooked for his stellar role in American Gangster in 2007, this nomination marks a welcome return to the Academy’s fold after an absence of more than a decade.

The more likely potential winner of color may just be the youngest best actress nominee ever, Beasts of the Southern Wild star Quvenzhané Wallis.

The adorable 9-year-old has certainly charmed the Hollywood establishment and although her nomination was initially viewed as a reward unto itself, prognosticators have not ruled out a potential upset of frontrunners Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook) and Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty).

Then again, Wallis must compete with another sentimental favorite, Amour‘s Emmanuelle Riva, who happens to be the oldest best actress nominee ever at age 88.

Wallis’ nomination also has received some backlash from critics who believe her performance (which was captured when she was only 6 years old) really is a triumph of directing, and not a true reflection of her talents.

“Acting requires some intentionality on the part of the actor, some conscious effort to adopt a persona other than his or her own. Even adult actors who get criticized for ‘playing themselves’ are engaged in a series of more or less conscious decisions about how best to be themselves onscreen. A young child, meanwhile, likely isn’t thinking at all about how to be herself, let alone a character. She’s a kid, and she just ‘is,'” wrote The Atlantic‘s Scott MacDonald back in December before she was nominated.

“She’s hugely magnetic, and she commands the screen to an extent most adult performers could only dream of. But what she does in Beasts is not acting. What she’s doing is being a great camera subject,” he added.