When the movie musical La La Land went seven for seven earlier this month at the Golden Globes, naysayers predicted the sweep would result in a backlash. Well, not exactly. This morning, the Damien Chazelle-directed contemporary song-and-dance romance received 14 Oscar nominations, tying the all-time record high held by Titanic and All About Eve.
The Los Angeles-based musical will be vying for Best Picture, Best Director (Chazelle), Best Actor and Actress (Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone) and a host of technical and design awards, plus two nominations in the Best Song category.
With the convoluted rules dictating the Best Picture category, between five and 10 films can make the cut. This year, it is a field of nine. Competing with La La Land will be Moonlight (8 nominations), Arrival (8), Hacksaw Ridge (6), Lion (6), Manchester by the Sea (6), Fences, Hidden Figures and Hell or High Water. All nine were widely predicted, though Loving and Jackie probably feel they deserve the 10th Best Picture slot.
The five Best Director nominees all came from Best Picture competitors as usual. In addition to Chazelle, they are Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea), Barry Jenkins (Moonlight), Denis Villeneuve (Arrival) and Mel Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge). Gibson’s inclusion suggests that Hollywood has forgiven its bad boy for past anti-Semitic and homophobic remarks. Good box office grosses will do that. Left out was Denzel Washington, expected to be recognized for his helming of Fences.
Washington, already a two-time Oscar winner, did make the cut in the Best Actor category for Fences. He will be up against Gosling, Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge), Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic) and the presumed front runner, Casey Affleck, who has collected most of the preliminary awards for his performance as a janitor with sudden parental responsibilities in Manchester by the Sea. It would have been a long shot, but the sixth actor in line for a nomination was probably Tom Hanks for his low-key title performance in Sully.
As many industry watchers have observed, this was a strong year for women actors, and the nominations reflect that. Joining La La Land’s Stone are Ruth Negga (Loving), Isabelle Huppert (Elle), Natalie Portman (Jackie) and Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins), picking up her record 20th nomination. The most egregious snub of the day is surely Annette Bening, who stars in 20th Century Women. Having lost a few times previously, this was widely seen as her year to reach the podium. It now looks probable that Portman will win her second Oscar for her uncanny portrayal of Jackie Kennedy.
The nominees for Best Supporting Actor are Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water), Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea), Dev Patel (Lion) and Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals). If any of them win, it will be considered an upset over Mahershala Ali as the father figure/drug dealer in Moonlight.
Similarly, Viola Davis is the prohibitive favorite to win the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for playing the put-upon wife in Fences, a role that brought her a Tony Award a few seasons ago. She vies with Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea), Naomie Harris (Moonlight), Nicole Kidman (Lion) and Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures).
The Motion Picture Academy can breathe a sigh of relief after two years of no nominees of color in the acting categories. This year, seven of the 20 are non-white, with a couple of them likely winners. The 89th annual Academy Awards, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, airs Feb. 26 at 8:30 p.m. on ABC.