By Oluwaseun Ashiru
The R&B singer-turned-actress scores her first two nominations at the 90th Annual Academy Awards, thanks to her work in Netflix’s Mudbound.
Blige earned her double nominations for Best Supporting Actress and Best Original Song, becoming the first person nominated for acting and writing an original song in the same year. The latter is for “Mighty River,” which she wrote and performed for the movie. It was co-written by Raphael Saadiq, landing him his first-ever Oscar nod.
“I just can’t stop crying,” says Mary J. Blige early Tuesday morning, holding back tears over the phone. The nine-time Grammy winner had just earned her first Oscar nomination, a best-supporting-actress nod for Mudbound, the Netflix tale that focuses on the post-World War II era in the Deep South.
Like many, she was asleep when the news came. “My phone rang at about 5:30 a.m. and it was my publicist, Amanda (Silverman), and she was screaming. And I don’t know what it is so I’m screaming and I’m crying! It’s just a really emotional time. We’re not taking this lightly, because things like this don’t happen. And it did.”
Blige earned a second nod for best original song, Mighty River. She is the first person ever to be nominated for a performance and original song in the same year, for the same film.
Competition for Music (Original Song) includes Sufjan Stevens’ “Mystery of Love” from Call Me By Your Name; Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez’s “Remember Me” from Coco; Diane Warren and Lonnie “Common” Lynn’s “Stand Up for Something” from Marshall; and Benj Pasek and Justin Paul’s “This Is Me” from The Greatest Showman.
In the Best Supporting Actress category, 47-year-old entertainer, Blige is up against Octavia Spencer (The Shape of Water), Allison Janney (I, Tonya), Leslie Manville (Phantom Thread), and Laurie Metcalf (Lady Bird). She is enjoying critical acclaim for her role as Florence Jackson in Dee Rees’ drama.
Mudbound’s Rachel Morrison also made history as the first female cinematographer to be nominated in the awards show’s history. “Wow! I didn’t know,” says Blige, adding that she “didn’t hear Dee Rees’ name (for best director), which was so upsetting to me.” Still, Rees is in the running for best adapted screenplay, and Blige’s nomination is a watershed moment for Netflix, which has previously failed to crack major categories for its narrative films.
Taking on the role of Florence Jackson, matriarch of a rural sharecropper family, “I really didn’t think of it the way everyone else is thinking about it,” she says. “I was just like, ‘This is great, Netflix is great. It’s the way the majority of people watch movies today.’ I still go to the theatre to see movies because it’s fun, it’s an event. But I also watch Netflix. I didn’t think about it like, ‘Wow, Netflix vs. Paramount.’ “
Blige says she hopes the message of Mudbound, an unflinching look at prejudice, PTSD and friendships made across the colour divide, permeates the current culture. “What I hope that people take away is that no matter how bad or how awful things get or look or people treat us, we cannot give up on ourselves,” she says. “And we have to continue to look at the negative as an opportunity to do something positive, to change something. “Love is the answer. Love is the silver lining through the whole movie. No matter how bad a person treats you or what they say about your colour or your gender, don’t let it destroy you. Know who you are and be who you are.”
The Queen has been celebrated by her peers, as well. Actress Taraji P. Henson, who was nominated for Best Supporting Actress in 2009 for her role in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, cheered her on. “Yaaaaaaaaaassssss,” she wrote. “THE #GLOWUP CONTINUES!!!!”
Angie Martinez also rejoiced over the news. “MARY J BLIGE is a DOUBLE OSCAR NOMINEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” she gushed. “My heart might explode this morning!! Man listen, GOD is something else!! So many lemons turned to the most glorious lemonade! I love u so much @therealmaryjblige!! You deserve it ALL!!”
Hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, the 90th Annual Academy Awards is set to air live from the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood on Sunday, March 4, on ABC.
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