LOS ANGELES, Jan 24, (Agencies): The candy-colored love letter to musicals “La La Land” has landed a record-tying 14 Academy Awards nominations, matching it with “Titanic” and “All About Eve” for most nominations ever.
“La La Land” has earned nods for best picture, its stars Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, its songs and its 32-year-old writer-director, Damien Chazelle.
The other nominees for best picture are: “Moonlight,” “Arrival,” “Manchester by the Sea,” “Hell or High Water,” “Lion,” “Fences,” “Hidden Figures” and “Hacksaw Ridge.”
Following two years of “OscarsSoWhite” furor, the Academy of Motion Pictures fielded a notably more diverse field of nominees, led by Barry Jenkins’ luminous coming-of-age portrait “Moonlight,” Denzel Washington’s “Fences” and Theodore Melfi’s “Hidden Figures.”
“Moonlight” tied with Denis Villeneuve’s cerebral science fiction thriller “Arrival” for second most nominees with eight each.
The biggest surprise of the morning was the strong boost of support for Mel Gibson, who had long been shunned in Hollywood. Not only did his World War II drama “Hacksaw Ridge” land a best picture nod, but Gibson scored an unexpected best director nomination.
The nominees for best actor are: Casey Affleck (“Manchester by the Sea”), Andrew Garfield (“Hacksaw Ridge”), Ryan Gosling (“La La Land”), Viggo Mortensen (“Captain Fantastic”), Denzel Washington (“Fences”).
The nominees for best supporting actor are: Mahershala Ali (“Moonlight”), Jeff Bridges (“Hell or High Water”), Michael Shannon (“Nocturnal Animals”), Lucas Hedges (“Manchester by the Sea”) and Dev Patel (“Lion”).
Whether fairly or not, the nominations were seen as a test for the revamped film academy. It will be the first Oscars voted on since academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs ushered in new membership rules and added 683 new members as a way to diversify a predominantly white, male and elderly group, which now numbers 6,687.
The Oscars also rejiggered its nominations format. Instead of announcing nominees live in Los Angeles, pre-produced videos of previous winners introduced each category on Tuesday morning.
Though “La La Land” and other best-picture nominees such as “Arrival” and (less certainly) “Hidden Figures” are knocking on the door of $100 million at the North American box office, none of the best picture nominees has yet grossed more than $100 million.
After an unlikely awards season run, the smart-aleck superhero “Deadpool” ($363.1 million) didn’t managed to crash the party, making this year’s best picture nominees one of the lowest grossing bunch ever.
The regular business of today’s corporate-driven Hollywood is increasingly set apart from the industry’s awards season, where smaller, critically adored films like “12 Years a Slave,” “Birdman,” “Boyhood” and “Spotlight” have recently dominated. Only one major studio — Paramount, which distributed “Arrival” and “Fences” scored a best picture nomination.
Amazon, however, landed its first best picture nomination for Kenneth Lonergan’s “Manchester by the Sea,” which the streaming retailer partnered with Roadside Attractions to distribute.
The dearth of blockbusters will pose a test for host Jimmy Kimmel, who’ll be presiding over the Feb 26 Oscarcast for the first time. While the Academy Awards are still among the most-watched TV programs of the year, ratings have been in decline the last two years. Last year’s broadcast, hosted by Chris Rock, drew 34.4 million viewers, an eight-year-low.
Rock’s show, which he introduced as “the White People’s Choice Awards,” was rife with Hollywood’s diversity debate. This year’s — where politics may take over the spotlight — will surely be seen as an improvement. But many have always held that the industry’s inclusivity problems are rooted not in its award shows but in its power brokers: executives, agents and producers.
“La La Land’s” main competition came from “Arrival,” an alien invasion thriller, “Moonlight,” a low-boil drama looking at a gay man in the inner city, and “Manchester by the Sea,” a shattering family tragedy that marks a return to the A-list for Kenneth Lonergan after a few years in the wilderness. Lonergan’s career was derailed after his previous film, 2011’s “Margaret,” became entangled in a protracted legal fight. He was nominated for best original screenplay and his direction. “Manchester by the Sea” was backed by Amazon Studios and marks the first time that a streaming service has earned a best picture nod.
The Academy has been rocked by protests over the lack of diversity of its nominees. However, after two straight years of shutting out performers of color, this year’s nominees were notably more reflective of a multi-cultural America. Seven out of the twenty performance nominations went to actors of color, and a number of best picture and documentary contenders, such as “Hidden Figures,” “Fences,” “13th,” and “O.J.: Made in America” grappled with the issue of racial inequality.
“La La Land” a spirited, rousing tribute to the musicals of Vincent Minnelli and Jacques Demy, is also the rare uplifting best picture nominee. That escapist vibe could resonate with Oscar voters at a time when Donald Trump’s presidential victory exemplifies a rightward swing in the country that is out of step with left-leaning Hollywood. Other best picture nominees examine race relations, sexual identity, war, and economic disaffection.
Casey Affleck, who stars in “Manchester by the Sea” as a grieving janitor, has dominated the early awards, picking up a Golden Globe and most of the critics honors. His competition comes from Denzel Washington as bitter garbage man (“Fences”), Andrew Garfield as a conscientious objector (“Hacksaw Ridge”), Viggo Mortensen as a hippie father (“Captain Fantastic”), and Gosling.
“La La Land” wasn’t the only record-breaker. The Academy continued its love affair with Meryl Streep, handing her a precedent-fracturing twentieth Oscar nomination, the most ever for a performer. Streep was recognized for her work as a tone-deaf opera singer in “Florence Foster Jenkins.” She will face off against Isabelle Huppert as a rape victim (“Elle”), Natalie Portman as a resilient first lady (“Jackie”), Ruth Negga as a civil rights warrior (“Loving”), and Stone.