How Many Oscars Can La La Land Lose?

La La Land movie poster

Okay, so these are not predictions, not me trying to be clever…just merely an attempt to throw a huge “what if” out there regarding how many of the 14 Oscar nominations La La Land is going to come away with in two weeks. With the voting now live, and the question of “how many” seemingly everywhere, I thought I would get thoughts spinning, and tongues wagging, by attempting to put forward some basic arguments as to how La La Land could lose each category (not necessarily in the same reality) come Oscar night.

la la land very very exciting gif

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ACTOR

Well, this needs little convincing. Ryan Gosling has no chance here. He’s done far better work without even a sniff of a nomination (Drive; Lars and the Real Girl). Enjoy riding the wave of the La La Land steamboat, Ryan, but this is between Casey Affleck and Denzel Washington only. Next.

COSTUME  DESIGN

Yes, I love love Emma Stone in that yellow dress. And the range of colors sartorially is very enticing. But to be nominated for “best” in costume design when there are so many other movies with lavish, distinctive, bold, spectacular clothing range? This should not have even made the nominations, let alone competing for the win. Poor films like Allied and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them have been recognized, but the real one to beat might be Madeline Fontaine’s work on Jackie – not only immaculate in design, but awakens our own recognition of the era and moments in history. And that stuff sticks.

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

With Taylor Sheridan reviving an original, brilliant chapter of the modern western genre, Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou swirling our brains around, while genuinely making us laugh when we ought not to, Kenneth Lonergan portraying a brutally honest story of grief and Mike Mills floating around a group of women as they make transitions, Damien Chazelle’s screenplay is not an aspect that requires honoring. And La La Land rarely, and significantly, is the weakest of the bunch like a sore thumb. Don’t waste your vote.

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SOUND EDITING

Most of us still don’t grasp the difference between Sound Editing and Sound Mixing. La La Land is actually a great example in that although the sounds / songs / music blends so well (Mixing) the actual production of the sound (Editing) is nowhere near as impressive or integral as, say, Arrival (the aliens), Deepwater Horizon (explosions), Hacksaw Ridge (battles), or Sully (airplane). It has no business being here, but it’s inclusion demonstrates how voters went gaga when ticking their boxes. Think.

SOUND MIXING

Musicals ought to fair well in this kind of category; they give the extra dimensions of the sound design. But with double helpings of the sci-fi and the war genres, you can’t help feeling La La Land is a small fish. But the movie is snowballing. Arrival and Hacksaw Ridge are the heavyweights here, and either could justifiably sneak the votes.

PRODUCTION DESIGN

Flamboyance, dream-worlds, depictions of old Hollywood, jazz bars, backdrops like being in a painting, provide some eye-catching set designs in La La Land. This could go the way of the landslide, but practical thinking means you cannot forger Arrival for its scale, Hail, Caesar! for a much more grounded, realistic view of the movie world, and even the extensive work clear to see on the awful movies Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and Passengers, are admirable and varied, and dare I say more deserved.

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CINEMATOGRAPHY

What a category. La La Land’s appeal is obvious, but yet again we have to weigh heavy with respect on the other nominees (and many that were not). The rising tide that is Lion means Greig Fraser’s work is rightly being talked about. Having abandoned Martin Scorsese’s Silence, the Academy still found the sense to nominate Rodrigo Prieto’s cinematography – referred to in many quarters as the best of the year. Do they feel guilty? Moonlight’s James Laxton shot a film that looked like no other, a gorgeous blend of lights, darks, blues, some unforgettable palettes. Perhaps wanting to reward it somewhere,  Arrival and Bradford Young would be a worthy winner here – some of the most glorious wide shots of the year with those intimate flashback sequences are shot incredibly. I, for one, was smitten.

FILM EDITING

One of the big categories, but also one of the most misunderstood. In recent years, they seem to have their fingers on the pulse much more accurately. Although they Academy missed the mark somewhat with the likes of nominees Frost/Nixon, The King’s Speech, American Hustle, The Imitation Game within the last ten years, the Film Editing winners appear to have had some thought put into them. The Social Network, Gravity, Whiplash, and Mad Max: Fury Road were very worthy winners, and did not win Best Picture. The Bourne Ultimatum and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (also deserved winners) neither even nominated for Best Picture. If the more technical, well thought-out editing gets the votes here, then again Arrival and Hacksaw Ridge could easily nab this. Mine, and many others’, money is surely on Moonlight though.

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ORIGINAL SCORE

Can they confuse the score with the songs here? That could work for or against La La Land. With the momentum of Lion and Moonlight, both distinctive scores, this is a tougher category than people think. And the very fact they nominated Jackie’s Mica Levi (whom they sinfully ignored for Under the Skin) means they like it, they really like it. Only two Score winners since 2004 have won Best Picture, and both mini-swept.

ACTRESS

If the Academy follow their popular choice to reward the portrayal of historical figures then the much-loved Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy might still be the favorite. Defying the odds and early release stumbling block, Ruth Negga also gets the “real person” vote, as well as underdog and social change. And there’s Meryl Streep. However, if we’re looking at genuine brilliance in a polarizing film, a woman who has incredibly never been nominated, and has had a long, fascinating career, and prolific 2016, not to mention everyone, and I mean everyone, is talking about her. This could be Isabelle Huppert’s year.

ORIGINAL SONG

I’m not even going to argue this one. Just consider what could happen if they split the votes between “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” and “City of Stars” so the actual best song “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana wins. Plus, they can then add Lin-Manuel Miranda to the illustrious EGOT list.

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PICTURE

So those fourteen nominations…game over right? Well, since 2004 only four films with the highest nomination tally has gone on to win Best Picture. So it’s not a great indicator like it used to be. What if La La Land has now become so popular it could be somehow forgotten in its own cloud of fortunes, like that favorite song you are sick of hearing? What if Chazelle is so nailed as director they want to share the wealth (a rare notion for AMPAS but a year that has earned it)? The two acting wins, and surprise but sentimental win for screenplay, might push Fences to the front. Mel Gibson’s comeback could roll over everything, especially as he is telling such a heroic story. The glorious feel-good, success story of Hidden Figures could hit the right notes at the right times. Is Lion making a surge for it? And that’s before I have even touched on La La Land’s two huge rivals, both of the far more Oscar-friendly drama genre: Manchester by the Sea and Moonlight.

DIRECTOR

This is the hardest sell. In all La La Land’s glory, Damien Chazelle seems to be the man at the top of the mountain. A director’s movie. Fresh off the back of Whiplash, which the Academy loved, and Chazelle was likely not far off a Best Director nomination. And he’s just won the DGA. Done deal. However, the surprise inclusion of Mel Gibson only adds to the fuel that Hacksaw Ridge has real momentum. Gibson, a household name making a steak-eating comeback is going to grab a lot of votes whether you like the movie or not. And then there is Barry Jenkins, the breakthrough writer and director of the wonderful Moonlight, depicting a repressed homosexuality in an accessible, beautiful way, Jenkins would be a terrific choice to make history here.

Okay, so the sensible, likely, written scenario is that you don’t need to look back at the Oscar history books and plow through stats to tell you that La La Land is winning a few. Common sense, as well as the age-old laws of probability, tells you that alone. The pendulum of potential gold statuettes is making us dizzy should we stare too long. All possible 13? A record-equaling 11? Just the 4? What do you think? What could realistically happen? What are your arguments for other wins in La La Land’s snare?

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20 thoughts on “How Many Oscars Can La La Land Lose?

  1. Your knack with a well chosen gif remains. I’m putting it out there that I thought the Sound Mixing on Moonlight was particularly good. No idea if they’re nominated. Stone is the traditional win for Best Actress, younger actress pushes her range by being ugly, playing older or doing a musical. She’s not a given but after the SAGs has become the frontrunner. Moonlight could upset like Spotlight did last year and win Best Picture. Chazelle getting DG seems in a good position too. Song, score. That’s five. I think there’s a good chance the other technical go to something like Hacksaw Ridge and screenplay or designs are given to others to share the love. It ain’t sweeping and if it starts to then it early in the evening you definitely know it’s got Best Picture. I’m interested to see about Denzel, it would be historic and his SAG victory makes him the frontrunner and surprised me. Neat twist on an Oscar post. I’m quite enjoying your award season write-ups uh Courtney or Robin?

  2. I’m predicting 10 wins for no other reason than just because it would be such a delicious “Ah, good try. You were so close to tying the record, but, sorry, no” scenario. Incidentally, THR’s awards analyst is now predicting 10 wins, taking into account how everything’s played out at the Globes, SAG, DGA, PGA, BAFTA, USC Scripter, Art Directors Guild, Society of Camera Operators, NAACP Image and even Grammy awards (http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/lists/oscar-predictions-feinberg-forecast-975648/item/best-production-design-feinberg-forecast-oscars-19-975639)

    To more seriously answer the question posed in the title of your article, you can automatically say La La will lose at least 2 of its nominations. Ryan Gosling has no chance in Best Actor, and its 2 nominated songs can’t both win (although I think “City of Stars” will win, and Miranda will be denied is EGOT).

    Beyond that, I agree it also has no chance in the screenplay category, not just for the level of competition there but also because the Academy historically slights screenplays for musicals. It’s rare for a musical to even be nominated in the screenplay category (last I found was Chicago, which lost despite winning Best Picture that year).

    So, that’s 3 which are absolute locks to lose.

    It’s also looking remarkably shaky in Best Costume since you should never vote against Colleen Atwood (Fantastic Beasts) and oy vay that pink dress in Jackie.

    That’s 4.

    There’s also the seemingly age old debate about sound mixing and sound design, as you eloquently argued. However, it seems to me that even the majority of the Academy doesn’t know the difference between the two and just rubber stamps both to the same movie (if given the option depending on the nominations), as with Mad Max last year, Gravity three years ago, Hugo five years ago, Inception before that and so on. La La could certainly lose one of these, but I see this as another year where clueless, actors, producers, writers, publicists and other Academy voters just assume if the movie was good at one it was probably just as good at the other.

    As for everything else, there are some vulnerabilities (Editing, Production Design) but La La Land should still be considered the front-runner. So, if La La Land loses more than 4 or 5 of its nominations I will be surprised, although I would oddly be least surprised to see it lose Best Picture just because wouldn’t it be such an Oscars thing to do, break with just about every awards body and vote in Moonlight, Manchester or Hidden Figures mostly because people got sick of La La during the long awards season.

      • I do have this sense that it’s going to either be Moonlight or La La Land. None of the other Best Picture nominees really seem to stand a chance, not even Manchester. And for as much as this type of thing influences voters it’s been difficult to ignore the David v. Goliath narrative which has emerged throughout the awards season, with La La dominating just about everywhere (other than SAG) and Moonlight stuck picking up screenwriting and supporting actor awards. That might tilt things in Moonlight’s favor, a lot of “I know La La is going to win so I’ll vote for something else” decisions leading to an actual upset. Plus, for those voters looking to make some kind of political or socially conscious message with their picks Moonlight is the more progressive “See, we’ve so moved on from #OscarsSoWhite that we’re ready to embrace a movie about the gay black male experience!” choice that also feels more like an actual Best Picture than Hidden Figures or Fencees. That all being said, though, La La looks like it has this one in the bag, and history might look back on such a win with a regretful eye (although I actually think La La is a Best Picture the Academy could be proud of, unlike some of their prior unfortunate choices *Cough* Crash *Cough*).

  3. At that point I wouldn’t be surprised if it gets Screenplay and even Gosling wins…the double edged sword though is that people are already tired of this movie and it’s sweep made the Oscar season so very boring

  4. You make excellent points! I’m not knowledgeable at all about the Oscars but I’d say La La Land might take away about half of the awards it’s been nominated for. As you’ve said, there are a few that it doesn’t stand a chance for!

  5. I’m actually rooting for La La Land in costume just because modern films rarely win. I think the ones they will for sure lose are Actor and both Sound categories. Score, I don’t think is a lock either because like you said, Moonlight and Lion are strong right now.

    It definitely doesn’t deserve screenplay but I know it will probably win it.

  6. Nice ‘predictions’ list! I didn’t hate La La Land but the amount of nominations it acquired was a bit silly – costume, sound mixing, editing, etc. But it’s a movie by Hollywood that praises Hollywood so it’ll sweep. I have my fast forward button ready. :/

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