Oscars get it mostly right with diverse lineup of nominees

Hollywood inequality is a top down problem
Hollywood inequality is a top down problem

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(CNN)Always subject to debate and second-guessing, this year's Oscar nominations got it mostly right, while dispensing, first and foremost, with the criticism that produced the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite.

That's not to say there won't be grumbling about oversights and "snubs" on this year's roster, such as how Amy Adams could be overlooked for "Arrival," while the movie nabbed a number of nominations. Others will focus on seemingly uneven expressions of outrage for past sins, with Casey Affleck ("Manchester By the Sea") and "Hacksaw Ridge" director Mel Gibson earning nominations despite past controversies, while Nate Parker's "The Birth of a Nation" was an afterthought.
Finally, those thirsting for a burst of populism in the form of a nomination for a movie like the R-rated superhero movie "Deadpool" were, again, disappointed, as genuine box-office blockbusters, a la "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" and "Dr. Strange," were largely confined to categories like visual effects and animated feature. (Even there, "Finding Dory," 2016's second-highest-grossing movie in the U.S., didn't make the cut.)
    Still, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences -- chastened by past criticism -- produced an inordinately strong lineup of movies, with a central trio of contenders: "La La Land," Damien Chazelle's splashy musical, which garnered a record-tying 14 nominations; "Manchester By the Sea," Kenneth Lonergan's sobering drama; and "Moonlight," Barry Jenkins' searing coming-of-age tale.
    One suspects the other films up for best picture are largely filling out the ballot, but "Moonlight" is joined by two other movies with predominantly African-American casts, Denzel Washington's "Fences" and the historical drama "Hidden Figures."
    The stars of those movies have also helped produce seven nominees of color in key acting categories, including three of five bids -- for Viola Davis, Naomie Harris and Octavia Spencer -- in the supporting actress balloting.
    The subject of race also dominated this year's documentary category, with Ava DuVernay's "13th" -- an indictment of the criminal justice system -- the epic "O.J.: Made in America" and "I Am Not Your Negro" -- derived from an unfinished book by author James Baldwin -- among the nominees.
    The nature of award shows is such that the Oscars can never please everyone. Nevertheless, the academy has produced a diverse and deserving list, one that has the advantage of containing several movies, such as "Hidden Figures" and "La La Land," which have escaped the confines of the art-house crowd and connected with sizable audiences.
    That might sound like a small point, but it's often helpful in terms of ratings, giving more viewers a rooting interest in the outcome, as opposed to just tuning in to see what everyone's wearing.
    The fashion, parties and yes, inevitably, politics, are all still to come. But for now, after a few years where much of the buzz surrounding the Oscars was for all the wrong reasons, the academy has outfitted its big night quite nicely.