It looks like La La Land is the movie to beat at this year’s Oscars.
The film, a jazzy musical that stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone as a musician and an actress trying to make their way in Hollywood, racked up 14 Academy Award nominations this morning — tying the record set by 1950’s All About Eve and 1997’s Titanic. However, because La La Land was nominated twice for original song, it is actually nominated in 13 categories — which is more than the 12 categories that All About Eve was nominated in but less than the 14 that Titanic was up for.
Traditionally, the movie with the most nominations tends to win Best Picture, and most pundits expect La La Land to follow that precedent. The fact that the Academy clearly loves movies about showbiz doesn’t hurt either: witness recent winners like 2011’s The Artist, 2012’s Argo and 2014’s Birdman. (All About Eve, the first film to get 14 nominations, was also about actors; it even begins with an awards show.)
But there is one important prognostication tool that might not bode well for this movie: the Screen Actors Guild, which announced its nominees in December, pointedly did not nominate La La Land for its ensemble award. (Every Best Picture winner since 1996 has at least been nominated for the SAG ensemble award.)
So, what other film could win the award if La La Land does not?
Historically, it is rare for a film to win Best Picture without at least being nominated for director, screenplay and film editing. And this year, apart from La La Land, the only other Best Picture nominees that received nods in those categories were Arrival and Moonlight, each of which garnered eight nominations altogether.
Of those two, Moonlight probably stands a better chance of beating La La Land, not least because two of its actors got Oscar nominations, whereas none of Arrival’s actors did — not even lead actress Amy Adams, who did get a SAG nomination.
But La La Land got almost as many nominations as those two films combined, so for now it remains the odds-on favorite to win the top prize on February 26.
Meanwhile, here are a few other points that jump out at me:
Bible-movie buffs might be happy to see that Hail, Caesar! got a nomination for its production design, which re-created multiple classic movie genres including the biblical epic. If we count Hail, Caesar! as a “Bible film” — though it’s really only partly about the making of a Bible movie — it would be the first feature-length film in that genre to get an Oscar nomination since 2004’s The Passion of the Christ.
It is also interesting to see how the directors of two previous — and very controversial — Jesus movies fared this year. Mel Gibson (The Passion of the Christ) and Martin Scorsese (The Last Temptation of Christ) both made movies set partly in Japan that star Andrew Garfield as a Christian who struggles to defend his religious principles — but whereas Scorsese’s Silence got just a single nomination for cinematography, Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge got six nominations, including not only an acting nod for Garfield but a directing nod for Gibson himself. And with that, Gibson — eleven years after his infamous DUI arrest — would seem to be officially out of movie jail.
Also worth noting is that Garth Davis’s Lion was nominated for six awards including Best Picture — but Davis himself did not get a nomination. Davis, of course, is currently in post-production on Mary Magdalene starring Rooney Mara.
It’s also fun to see how movies in the animated and foreign-language categories got nominations outside of those “ghettos”. Kubo and the Two Strings was nominated for best animated film and for its visual effects, while A Man Called Ove, from Sweden, was nominated for best foreign language film and for its makeup. Also, Isabelle Huppert was nominated for her lead role in the French film Elle even though the film itself failed to get a nomination for best foreign language film. (The Academy didn’t even put that critically-acclaimed film on the foreign-language shortlist.)Star Trek Beyond was nominated for its makeup, which makes it the seventh Star Trek movie (out of thirteen movies) to get at least one Oscar nomination. It is also the fourth film in the series to be nominated specifically for makeup. The only Star Trek film to actually win an Oscar was the 2009 reboot — which won for makeup.
And that about wraps up my first impressions … for now.
Here are the feature films that have been nominated for Oscars, from those with the most nods to those with only one. The titles of those I have seen are in bold:
14 nominations in 13 categories
- La La Land — Picture, director (Damien Chazelle), original screenplay, cinematography, actor (Ryan Gosling), actress (Emma Stone), production design, costume design, film editing, original score, original song (x2), sound editing, sound mixing
- Arrival — Picture, director (Denis Villeneuve), adapted screenplay, production design, cinematography, film editing, sound editing, sound mixing
- Moonlight — Picture, director (Barry Jenkins), adapted screenplay, cinematography, supporting actor (Mahershala Ali), supporting actress (Naomie Harris), film editing, original score
- Hacksaw Ridge — Picture, director (Mel Gibson), actor (Andrew Garfield), film editing, sound editing, sound mixing
- Lion — Picture, adapted screenplay, cinematography, supporting actor (Dev Patel), supporting actress (Nicole Kidman), original score
- Manchester by the Sea — Picture, director (Kenneth Lonergan), original screenplay, actor (Casey Affleck), supporting actor (Lucas Hedges), supporting actress (Michelle Williams)
- Fences — Picture, adapted screenplay, actor (Denzel Washington), supporting actress (Viola Davis)
- Hell or High Water — Picture, original screenplay, supporting actor (Jeff Bridges), film editing
- Hidden Figures — Picture, adapted screenplay, supporting actress (Octavia Spencer)
- Jackie — Actress (Natalie Portman), costume design, original score
- Deepwater Horizon — Visual effects, sound editing
- Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them — Production design, costume design
- Florence Foster Jenkins — Actress (Meryl Streep), visual effects
- Kubo and the Two Strings — Animated feature, visual effects
- A Man Called Ove — Foreign language film, makeup and hairstyling
- Moana — Animated feature, original song
- Passengers — Production design, original score
- Rogue One: A Star Wars Story — Visual effects, sound mixing
- Allied — Costume design
- Captain Fantastic — Actor (Viggo Mortensen)
- Doctor Strange — Visual effects
- Elle — Actress (Isabelle Huppert)
- Fire at Sea — Documentary feature
- Hail, Caesar! — Production design
- I Am Not Your Negro — Documentary feature
- Jim: The James Foley Story — Original song
- The Jungle Book — Visual effects
- Land of Mine — Foreign language film
- Life, Animated — Documentary feature
- The Lobster — Original screenplay
- Loving — Actress (Ruth Negga)
- My Life as a Zucchini — Animated feature
- Nocturnal Animals — Supporting actor (Michael Shannon)
- O.J.: Made in America — Documentary feature
- The Red Turtle — Animated feature
- The Salesman — Foreign language film
- Silence — Cinematography
- Star Trek Beyond — Makeup and hairstyling
- Suicide Squad — Makeup and hairstyling
- Sully — Sound editing
- Tanna — Foreign language film
- 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi — Sound mixing
- 13th — Documentary feature
- Toni Erdmann — Foreign language film
- Trolls — Original song
- 20th Century Women — Original screenplay
- Zootopia — Animated feature