They Shoot Oscar Prognosticators, Don't They?

La La Land Dominates Oscar Nods

By J Don Birnam

January 24, 2017

You'd think she'd be happier today.

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Henceforth, La La Land has joined Titanic and All About Eve as answers to the trivia question: Which movies have received the most Oscar nominations ever, with 14?

This morning, as the Academy announced the nominations with a new, prerecorded format, the question in everyone's mind was just how high will the movie go? Scoring nominations in essentially every category it was eligible for, including Picture, Director, Actor (Ryan Gosling), Actress (Emma Stone), and two song nominations, the only two words that are really relevant for the remainder of this Oscar season are "La" and "Land." The film was joined by Moonlight which, along with Arrival, received eight nominations apiece, including for Directing and that ever important Editing category. But Arrival was shut out of the impossibly competitive Best Actress race, which stunned us by having both Ruth Negga and Isabelle Huppert instead. Both selections were deserved and perhaps it’s for the best that Amy Adams wouldn't have to lose.

Also nominated for Best Picture was the other festival hit, Manchester by the Sea, which scored only five nods given that it is not really a showy movie. Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams received nods, though only the former has a real shot at a win. Director Ken Lonergan appeared in the Directing and Screenplay categories.

Another story to come out of this morning's nominations is that Mel Gibson appears fully rehabilitated. He made it into the Best Director race, and Hacksaw Ridge did very well with the Academy, scoring Picture, Editing, Actor (Andrew Garfield) and some technical nominations.


And, thankfully, one can finally put to rest the dubious #OscarsSoWhite controversy that had dominated the news cycle for the past two awards season. The Supporting Actress category broke a record, with three African American nominees this year: Viola Davis, Naomie Harris, and past winner Octavia Spencer. Indeed, the Best Picture race contains three stories of African American lives, from Moonlight to the last minute surging Hidden Figures and Denzel Washington's Fences.

Weinstein's Lion rounds out the Best Picture slate, which for the first time in a couple of years showed nine nominees. This is somewhat of a surprising result, given the voting rules. The Academy needs at least 5% of the vote to get a Best Picture nomination and a slice of #1 votes. If La La Land is as popular as we think it is, why did so many other movies get in for Best Picture?

Elsewhere in the nominations there were few surprises. I, along most other pundits, predicted Best Actor exactly, as well as Best Supporting Actress - neither of those two were in doubt at all. Best Supporting Actor felt like it had space for one question mark, and Nocturnal Animals did score a nomination there, but it was for Michael Shannon, not Globes winner Aaron Taylor-Johnson. And as I mentioned, Best Actress showed a little bit of pop - that was always the toughest category.

We will have much more to write about this Oscar race and season. Without taking anything away from the delightful La La Land, it does seem like Hollywood and the Academy's insularity has reached extraordinary proportions of late. Up until The Artist, no movie about Hollywood had ever won Best Picture. Now, several have, and this one is about to take the rest of them by the storm and tie and possibly break the record of 11 Oscars. Why? Is the movie that good? Or have we become all so insular in our lives that the coast elites can't see past their own noses either?

Given everything else that is happening in the world and in our politics, it is certainly a question worth pondering.

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