If for no other reason than managing to make blood, sweat, and tears no match for snot, the conspicuously overdue Viola Davis has this award locked down, and would in just about any year, even one when #AllLivesMatter emerged as the most virulent “alternative fact.” So we could easily cut this prognosticating short and give this race the Heath Ledger treatment and call it a day, which would be apropos given that Davis also emerged with her dignity intact playing opposite Ledger’s spiritual opposite in David Ayer’s Suicide Squad. (Then again, anyone who had to endure the gift of a dead piglet from Jared Leto would’ve come out smelling like roses, at least in the good old days when chief executives didn’t regularly and metaphorically douse significant portions of their electorate in pig’s blood.)
But let’s honor Davis’s impending win for what it is: a moment of truth, clarity, and justice. This race marks the first time black nominees have made the majority of an acting category. With this nomination, Davis also becomes the first black actress to earn three Oscar nominations. And anyone arguing that the quality of the work is the only thing that matters—in other words, anyone tone deaf enough to seriously play the “I’m colorblind” card—would have to be turning a blind eye indeed to what Davis accomplishes with the character of Rose Maxson. “I gave 18 years of my life to stand in the same spot as you,” shouts the woman, explaining in very clear terms what a pound of her flesh costs, even when the rest of Rose’s world, our world, would still demand to see a receipt. When the Rhodes scholar now holding what Meryl Streep referred to as “the most respected seat in our country” inaugurates Black History Month (soon to be referred to as All History Month) by whitesplaining that he just discovered who Frederick Douglass is, clearly Rose isn’t going to be the only one giving more years of her life just to stand in the same spot.
Will Win: Viola Davis, Fences
Could Win: Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures
Should Win: Viola Davis, Fences