Is Moonlight’s Mahershala Ali the leading contender for Best Supporting Actor?


This gentleman ^ is Mahershala Ali. He has a small but vital role in Moonlight, which I just saw over the weekend. I sort of lost count of how many times I cried during Moonlight, but I know the first time I cried was when Mahershala’s character, a drug dealer named Juan, takes the young Chiron swimming in the ocean for the first time, and Juan tells Chiron a story about Cuba. Throughout the film, there are incredible, stand-out performances – especially the trifecta performances of Alex R. Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes as Chiron in the three acts of the film – but Mahershala is getting some significant attention for his role. And that’s exactly as it should be. I’m not going to do a spoiler-filled review of the film, because it’s not really that kind of movie. It’s made up of these incredibly small moments and extraordinary characters, and by the end of it, I was just full on sobbing.

While many believe that Viola Davis has Best Supporting Actress wrapped up already, the supporting actor race has been up in the air. I keep hearing Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water), Michael Shannon (for anything, but especially Nocturnal Animals), Dev Patel (he could be supporting or lead though) and Lucas Hedges (the young actor in Manchester by the Sea). While I haven’t seen any or all of those performances yet, I’m saying right now that I will burn something to the ground if Mahershala Ali doesn’t get an Oscar nomination. He really does give a traditional “supporting performance,” only appearing in the first act of the film, but his presence lingers throughout the next two acts in surprising and beautiful ways.

Thankfully, the critics seem to agree with me. Mahershala has been nominated for a Critics Choice Award, he’s picking up awards as part of Moonlight’s ensemble, and now he was just named the LA Times’ Film Critics Best Supporting Actor. The LAFCA also named Moonlight the Best Picture, and Moonlight’s director Barry Jenkins their Best Director. While I think Manchester by the Sea will be a favorite in the months to come, right now, Moonlight is picking up significant steam. I feel pretty confident that the film, director and Ali will all pick up major nominations. And I’ll say it right now: I hope Ali wins. He’s wonderful.

Also: Naomie Harris – who plays Chiron’s mother – is also being shortlisted for a lot of awards early on. I’m totally fine with her being nominated for everything, but… I actually thought her performance was the weakest of the film. Go ahead and yell at me if you’ve already seen it and disagree with me! But I walked out of the theater thinking that Ali should win everything, not Naomie.


Photos courtesy of WENN.

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39 Responses to “Is Moonlight’s Mahershala Ali the leading contender for Best Supporting Actor?”

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  1. Bex says:

    I think you’re right, he’s in the lead. He’s got so much momentum, and he’s absolutely devastating in Moonlight. There’s no way he’s not at least getting nominated.

    • Hannah says:

      And he is a great actor!

      • third ginger says:

        Can’t wait to see the film. I have seen this young man only on TV. Wish him all the best.

    • Malibu Stacy says:

      So much yes! Ali was heartbreakingly real and brought so much depth to his character. Even though he was only in the film for a little while. He deserves all the awards.

      • sanders says:

        I finally saw the film this past weekend. It was very good and yes Ali was amazing as were the actors who played Chiron/Little.

        The movie could have easily veered into cliches and sensationalist short hand about life in the ‘ghetto’, as it’s about a black character who lives in public housing during the crack epidemic.

        I realized how conditioned I’ve become to pointless violence and gratuitous sex as I kept expecting the usual but nope… instead we get a beautiful and complex coming- of- age love story about a Black gay man.

        So glad someone financed it (plan B- brad pitt-kudos to him) and that we have a chance to see these stories from a black film maker. We all need to go to the theater to support these films if we want to see more stories about poc communities.

  2. Margo S. says:

    I haven’t seen the film yet. I really want to but I’m 8 months pregnant and I wonder if it will be too much for my emotions… I’ll probably see it anyways. But so far with the clips I’ve seen, Naomi’s accent is incredible. Also, she filmed all her parts in only three days because she had a visa issue and wasn’t allowed in the US for longer.

  3. Nicole says:

    Same hope he wins. Moonlight was amazing.

  4. LB says:

    It’s him or Jeff Bridges winning. Having seen both of their movies (Moonlight and Hell or High Water), either one would be a worthy winner.

  5. Sixer says:


    That is all.

    • lightpurple says:

      And they are beautifully displayed in the film.

      • Sixer says:

        I might even schlep it to the cinema to see this. He’s been among the cohort of my internet boyfriends for ages now and the film sounds wonderful.

  6. Loopy says:

    I think he is hot,loved in in House of Cards.

    • Kori says:

      I remember him way back in Crossing Jordan (his size, name and acting All stood it to me) then The 400 (which was really hubby’s show) and then I was glad to see him get acclaim for HOC (Emmy nom). He was also in Mockingjay Pts. 1 & 2 and in another awards-bait film this year Hidden Figures. He’s worked steadily since CJ but has really been on a roll since 2013. But. CJ was his first role so is always cool to see someone’s whole career unfold.

      • Loopy says:

        Wow thanks for that Kori, I need to give all those a shot,clearly not as big a fan as I thought I was didn’t know he was in all those. good stuff!

  7. lightpurple says:

    I haven’t seen Nocturnal Animals yet so I can’t comment on Shannon’s performance but Ali definitely deserves a nomination, as does Lukas Hedges for Manchester. And Bridges for Hell or High Water. Comedy tends to get overlooked in these things but I think Simon Helberg deserves a nomination for his performance in Florence Foster Jenkins.

  8. Deanna says:

    I haven’t seen this, but I enjoyed him in Luke Cage.

  9. lala says:

    I haven’t seen Moonlight yet but I’m so happy he’s getting attention! He is fantastic in House of Cards and Luke Cage.

  10. CornyBlue says:

    Have not been able to watch Moonlight yet but honestly this is so amazing. And that his only real threat would be Dev Patel if Lion does good. I am so happy with this category oh lord.

  11. JulP says:

    I’m going to go see this movie over the weekend, so excited! Of the supporting actor contenders, thus far I have only seen Hell or High Water (Jeff Bridges is amazing as usual) and Nocturnal Animals (I’m a huge Michael Shannon fan and thought he was great, definitely deserving of a nomination if not a win). I really hope Dev and Issey Ogata from Silence (apparently he’s stealing Liam Neeson’s thunder) pull off nominations too. It would certainly be a refreshing change after last year …

    • third ginger says:

      HELL OR HIGH WATER is one of my favorites this year!

      • LB says:

        Mine too. Wasn’t expecting it to be that great, but Hell or High water is fantastic! And who knew Chris Pine could act that well?

      • Flora says:

        I agree. It was a very good film. Pine, Bridges and Foster all gave fabulous performances. I thought that Gil Birmingham gave a standout performance as well. It would be good if a Native American was nominated for a change.

  12. MellyMel says:

    He’s so hot! And a great actor. Been crushing on him for a few years now and I’m so happy he’s getting all this attention. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but he’s my favorite character in House of Cards and he’s really good in Luke Cage. Honk!

  13. Tallia says:

    Yes. Yes, he is and with good reason. Moonlight is the movie of the year for me. SO powerful.

  14. Moon says:

    Yes! Time he got recognition

  15. GingerCrunch says:

    What a beautiful group of people! Is that Janelle Monáe?

  16. Lucy says:

    Ooh, I really liked him in Mockingjay 1 and 2!! All of the actors cast as the squad were great, really. Hopefully he gets the recognition!!

  17. JaneDoesWork says:

    YASSSSS I am such a fan! He was incredible in Luke Cage. That scene where Jidenna is rehearsing “Hail to the Chief” at the club while Cotton Mouth watches? So powerful. The emotions on Ali’s face are just so unsettling.

  18. Elian says:

    I don’t know if I will ever be able to watch Moonlight again. It’s so incredibly powerful and absolutely devastating. To the pregnant commenter above – yes, it will be too much for you. I’m three months post partum and the hormonal emotions made it even more intense. Everyone in the film should be nominated. All the actors, director, cinematographer, composer, etc. And Ali should win for sure. He’s incredible. I kind of think there is no better movie than Moonlight this year.

  19. QQ says:

    *delighted Jumpy Claps* I Love me some Remy LOL yes I call him Remy like that’s really his name, but no seriously I loved his story (as told by himself!) In Death sex and Money Pod… His voice is also Like buttah!

  20. I Choose Me says:

    Mahershala has been on my radar for a long time. He elevates everything he’s in including the Luke Cage series. Haven’t seen Moonlight yet but I’m hearing such lovely things about it and I can’t wait to see it.

    • Platospopcorn says:

      Has been ages since I’ve commented on this site, but YES! He is one of those actors that you just can’t take your eyes off when he’s onscreen. So excited to watch his career going forward and hope he gets all the awards!

  21. CherryBlossom says:

    Critics awards aren’t always the greatest indication, but in this case yes, I think he is becoming a safer bet by the day. First of all, his performance if genuinely good, if a little short in terms of screen time. Second, he is in a strong movie, that is practically a lock for nominations in picture, director, screenplay, and supporting actor/actress. The academy will want to give it at least one victory, and Ali at this point is the safest bet. Third, it can ride not only the oscar-so-white narrative, but also the oscar-so-straight, so the academy can kill two birds with a stone. Forth, he is doing his fair share of campaigning, and comes across quite good. Likability shouldn’t be a major factor, but we all know it is.

  22. Neelyo says:

    This film is a work of art.

    I disagree about Harris, I thought she was great. It doesn’t matter though because it’s been decided that Davis should have it.

    Now for today’s Oscar rant. There’s a film called MAKE WAY FOR TOMORROW (1937) that contains one of the most remarkable performances on film by Beulah Bondi. Never heard of it or the film? No shock there. It’s a devastating love story about two elderly people, not exactly a blockbuster. Bondi wasn’t even nominated. Instead the Best Actress Oscar went to Luise Rainer in THE GOOD EARTH. Rainer and film are now universally derided while MAKE WAY FOR TOMORROW and Bondi’s performance have only grown in stature (and it’s on TCM tonight at 8 PM EST).

    Oscars have about 10% to do with actual talent.

  23. eto says:

    I’m rooting for him!

  24. Madailein says:

    The acting in Moonlight is superb across the board…Astonishing.