Milestones at the 2017 Oscars: See All the History That's Been Made Already, Plus Major Moments to Watch Out For

From the record amount of diversity in the acting categories to the number of statues La La Land is primed to dance away with, here's why 2017 is already one for the books

By Natalie Finn Feb 24, 2017 11:00 AMTags

If La La Land wins 12 Academy Awards this Sunday—let alone sweeps the 14 categories it's nominated in—the fanciful Hollywood romance will become the most honored film in Oscar history, let alone the most honored musical.

But whether the city of stars shines so brightly on La La Land or not, the Dolby Theater in Hollywood will already be awash in history before a single statue is handed out.

In fact, the 2017 Oscars are going to be remembered for a host of milestones—particularly when it comes to the push for more diversity among the honorees, noticeable strides having been made in the year since a certain hashtag was all anyone could talk about ahead of the 2016 ceremony.

"I felt happy and enthused about the direction the Academy is going in," Common, who shared the Oscar for Best Original Song with John Legend in 2015 for "Glory" from Selma and has since joined the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, told E! News in a recent interview when asked if he was heartened by 2017's slate of nominees.

Oscar Records & Milestones
E! Illustration

"Seeing the efforts that are being made internally to be more inclusive, to make sure it's balance and to bring women, people of color—black, Latino, Asian, brothers and sisters...I see the efforts being made," the rapper, actor and activist said. "Trying to progress from just being in a place where we're just doing what we did before. I think this year, it was all kind of serendipitous because the films and the work denote Oscar-worthy."

So go the numbers:

• #OscarsMore Diverse, finally. For the first time in the Oscars' 89-year history, all four acting categories include at least one black nominee and overall seven actors of color were nominated.

• 2017 is the first year in which three black actresses have been nominated in one category: Hidden FiguresOctavia Spencer, FencesViola Davis and Moonlight's Naomie Harris for Best Supporting Actress.

Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox, A24

• Front-runner Davis is the first black woman to have been nominated for three Oscars—Best Supporting Actress for Doubt in 2009,  Best Actress for The Help in 2012 and Best Supporting Actress this year for Fences.

• Spencer, who won Best Supporting Actress for The Help in 2012, is the first black actress to be nominated again after winning an Oscar.

Denzel Washington is already the first black actor to have two competitive Oscars (Sidney Poitier has one, plus an honorary)—he'll tighten his hold on the record should he win Best Actor for Fences, as well as join the tiny, illustrious club of three-time acting Oscar winners that includes Meryl StreepIngrid Bergman, Jack Nicholson, Daniel Day-Lewis and Walter Brennan. Katharine Hepburn remains in a class by herself with four Best Actress wins.

• Washington also now has the most acting nominations for a black actor with seven, plus another nomination as a producer on Best Picture nominee Fences.

Oscars 2017: Notable Nominees

• Though his parents were born in Kenya and he himself was born in England, Dev Patel is the first person of Indian descent on both sides of his family to be nominated for an Oscar in an acting category, Best Supporting Actor for Lion. (Ben Kingsley's father was also of Indian descent and born in Kenya, but his mother was British.)

A24; 20th Century Fox

Mahershala Ali, the front-runner for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Moonlight as a drug dealer who looks after a client's son as the young boy comes to terms with his sexuality, is in two of the Best Picture nominees; he also plays a military man in Hidden Figures.

The only other times an actor was nominated and appeared in multiple Best Picture nominees were in 1951, when Sunset Boulevard star and Best Actor nominee William Holden was also in Born Yesterday; 1991, when Robert De Niro was up for Best Actor for Awakenings, which was in turn up for Best Picture along with Goodfellas; 1998, when Best Supporting Actor nominee for Shakespeare in Love Geoffrey Rush was also in Elizabeth; 2001, when Albert Finney was up for Best Supporting Actor for Erin Brockovich and also appeared in Traffic; 2002, when John C. Reilly was up for Best Supporting Actor in Chicago and was also in Gangs of New York and The Hours; and 2012, when Brad Pitt was up for Best Actor for Moneyball and also starred in The Tree of Life.

Long story short, Ali very likely will be the first actor to actually win an Oscar in the same year in which he appeared in more than one of the Best Picture nominees. Reilly, meanwhile, holds the record for most discerning taste in scripts in one year.

Celebrities Discuss Diversity in Hollywood

• This is the first time three black writers have been nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay—Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney (whose story Jenkins adapted) for Moonlight and playwright August Wilson, posthumously for Fences. The last time two black writers were nominated was in 1972, when Lady Sings the Blues co-writer Suzanne De Passe was up for the equivalent of original screenplay and Lonne Elder III was up for the equivalent of adapted screenplay for Sounder.

• Jenkins could become the first black filmmaker to win Best Director. Spike Lee, who has never been nominated for Best Director, was given an honorary Oscar in 2015.

• 2017 is the first year in which three of the Best Picture nomineesHidden Figures, Manchester by the Sea and Fences—have black producers (within the short list of credited producers who would take home a statue if their movie wins). Manchester's Kimberly Steward is only the second black woman to get a Best Picture nomination, the first being Oprah Winfrey for Selma in 2015.

50 Years of Oscar Dresses: Best Actress Winners From 1954 - 2014

Bradford Young is the first African-American to receive a nomination for Best Cinematography, for Arrival. The first black nominee was British-born Remi Adefarasin for Elizabeth in 1999.

• The sound-editing team behind La La Land of Ai-Ling Lee and Mildred Iatrou Morgan is the first all-woman sound editing duo to be nominated in this category—and the Singapore-born Lee, who is also part of the nominated sound mixing team, is the first Asian person to be nominated for sound editing and only the second-ever in sound mixing.

• For her work on MoonlightJoi McMillon is the first black woman to be nominated for Best Editing.

• Four of the five works nominated for Best Documentary Feature were made by black filmmakers.

Courtesy: Michael Buckner/Getty Images for InStyle

• If Casey Affleck wins Best Actor for Manchester by the Sea, he and Ben Affleck will be the first brothers to win separate Oscars in which one is for acting and the other is in a non-acting category—and Ben, of course, has two Oscars, for co-writing Good Will Hunting and as a producer on Best Picture winner Argo. Only one other sibling duo has a similar distinction: Shirley MacLaine won Best Actress, for Terms of Endearment, while brother Warren Beatty won Best Director, for RedsEthel and Lionel Barrymore remain the only siblings to have both won acting Oscars.

Manchester by the Sea scored the first-ever Best Picture nomination for a streaming service, in this case Amazon Studios.

• On its 10th try, Australia has its first-ever nominee for Best Foreign Language Film, Tanna

• Natalie Portman's role in Jackie scored her the first-ever Best Actress nomination for the portrayal of a first lady. Joan Allen was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for playing Pat Nixon in Nixon.

Stars Playing Kennedys

• If La La Land goes 14 for 14, it will join The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and It Happened One Night as the only Best Picture winners to run the table—and if it pulls in Oscars for "the big five," it will be only the fourth film in history after It Happened One Night (which went 5-for-5), One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and The Silence of the Lambs to win Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Director and either Adapted or Original Screenplay.

La La Land only needs 12 Oscars to beat the current trio of record holders: 1959's Ben-HurTitanic and LOTR: The Return of the King all have 11.

• The odds may be in Emma Stone's favor as she gains momentum in the Best Actress race. A much longer shot is Ryan Gosling for Best Actor. The last Best Actor/Actress pair from the same film to win were Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt for As Good as It Gets, in 1998. Meanwhile, the last woman to win Best Actress for the eventual Best Picture winner was Hillary Swank for Million Dollar Baby in 2005.

The 2017 Oscars air Sunday, Feb. 26, at 5:30 p.m. PT/8:30 p.m. ET on ABC.

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