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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?