Wesleyan Oscar Nominees: Miranda ’02, Topping ’89, Lonergan ’84 and Lame ’04

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The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will hold their annual award ceremony to recognize excellence on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, 8:30 p.m., ET. The Academy Awards—or “Oscars”— for releases in 2016 have four film nominations with Wesleyan connections.

Disney’s animated comedy-adventure Moana features the song “How Far I’ll Go.” With music and lyrics both by Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, it is one of five nominations in the category Best Original Song and was nominated for Best Animated Feature Film. Common Sense Media reviewer Sandie Angulo Chen writes, “This engaging adventure triumphs because of its empowering storyline, which pays tribute to Polynesian culture, and because of its feel-good music, courtesy of Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda.”

Jenno Topping ’89 is one of the producers of Hidden Figures (20th Century Fox Films), along with Donna Gigliotti, Peter Chernin, Pharrell Williams and Theodore Melfi. The historical drama, about a female team of African-American mathematicians who played a vital role in the nascent years of the US space program, is one of nine films nominated for Best Picture and also received nominations for Writing (Adapted Screenplay) and Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Octavia Spencer). Peter Debruge of Variety called it “empowerment cinema … and one only wishes that the film had existed at the time it depicts.”

Also competing for Best Picture is Manchester by the Sea, which previewed at Sundance and was picked up for distribution by Amazon Studios. Joe Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal calls it “a drama of surpassing beauty.” Writer and director Kenneth Lonergan ’84 earned a place as one of five nominees in the “Best Director” category, as well as in Writing (Original Screenplay). Additional nominations included Actor in a Leading Role (Casey Affleck), Actor in a Supporting Role (Lucas Hedges), and Actress in a Supporting Role (Michelle Wiliams). As an additional note, Jennifer Lame ’04 served as film editor for the production.

And in another Wesleyan connection, David Laub, visiting professor in film studies at Wesleyan, is an acquisitions executive at A24, the distributor of Moonlight, the Best Picture nominee of which the New York Times wrote, “And perhaps the most beautiful thing about Moonlight is its open-endedness, its resistance to easy summary or categorization. . . . To be afforded a window into another consciousness is a gift that only art can give. To know Chiron [the film’s main character] is a privilege.”