We have now entered Phase 2 of awards season: Oscar nominations have been announced, and now it’s about threading a narrative to create/build and/or maintain enough momentum to win an Oscar.
Last year, we saw the tide turn quickly against The Revenant, which came into Oscar night with a whopping 12 nominations and losing Best Picture to Spotlight and other technical awards to Mad Max: Fury Road. The same thing happened to American Hustle a few years ago; it scored 13 nominations and a ton of late breaking heat from the Golden Globes and Screen Actor’s Guild and won nothing on Oscar night. This year is obviously much different than those years, with La La Land being much more of an Oscar-friendly and consensus title than the other ones I mentioned.
Curiously enough, La La Land only managed nominations for Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, and did not appear in the line up for Best Ensemble which is worth noting. It’s true that La La Land is a lot of just Stone and Gosling, but that hasn’t stopped SAG from nominating films with smaller ensembles before (remember Beasts of No Nation last year? It only had three actors cited). The Producer’s Guild also announces their winner this weekend, which La La Land will almost certainly win. But SAG represents the actors, which outnumber the producers that vote within the Academy which is why I think Moonlight can emerge as a big threat this weekend (but more on that later).
Let’s go through the categories.
I called that it was going to be a big night for La La Land, but I didn’t anticipate it being this big. The Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling led musical won all seven of the awards it was up for, including Screenplay and Director which many thought could have gone to Kenneth Lonergan or Barry Jenkins.
It was clear that the Broadcast Film Critics loved La La Land; they gave it the most nominations of any film with 12, and ended up winning eight including the top prizes: Picture and Director while picking up a lot of the below the line prizes in Editing, Production Design and Cinematography. Many have predicted La La Land will sweep in a similar fashion at the Oscars. And while it’s true the Broadcast critics don’t vote on the Oscars, they are more predictive and align more accurately with the Oscars than any other precursor group, including the Globes and even Screen Actors Guild (sometimes).
Where La La Land missed out, however, was in Best Actress which surprisingly went to Natalie Portman. After suffering from missed citations from recent critics groups, Portman roared back into the race and Jackie picked up additional awards in Costumes and Hair & Makeup. Only two actresses in the past 6 years that have won this award missed out on winning the Oscar; though many were quick to declare this a cakewalk for Emma Stone, it’s clear Best Actress is still a two woman race.
The other two frontrunners, Moonlight and Manchester By The Sea, had their moments as well. Mahershala Ali won yet another trophy for Supporting Actor with the cast winning the group’s ensemble prize. Casey Affleck beat out his biggest competition in Denzel Washington for Best Actor, while Kenneth Lonergan tied in Original Screenplay with Damien Chazelle’s screenplay for La La Land. After winning some notices with the critics, Michelle Williams lost Supporting Actress to Viola Davis, who has begun what I suspect will be a clean sweep of the televised awards. Look out for her next conquest: the Golden Globes (nominations are announced tomorrow).
Read the full list of (film) winners below.
For months I’ve been hearing nonstop talk about Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester By The Sea, which seemed to be the only film out of Sundance that could, at the time, find any coverage outside of Nate Parker’s Birth Of A Nation. As the year has gone on, Manchester has chugged along and slowly been building steam as one of the three Oscar heavyweights. It was named Best Picture by the National Board of Review, with lead actor Casey Affleck winning Best Actor honors from both the Gotham Independent Awards and New York Film Critic’s circle.