'La La Land' leads Oscar field

Posted by Chip Chandler on
"La La Land" leads the 2017 Oscar nomination field with 14.
Courtesy Lionsgate

By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer

Nominations for the 89th Academy Awards were announced Tuesday, with musical fantasia La La Land leading the pack with a record-tying number of nods.

Moonlight, a lyrical drama in three parts about a gay black man in Miami that was one of my favorite films of the year, followed behind with eight.

The Oscars will be handed out Feb. 26 on ABC.

La La Land ties All About Eve and Titanic for the most nominations in a single year with 14. The total haul was presaged by its record-breaking haul of seven awards at the Golden Globes, and already, the backlash has begun. I must admit, the overwhelming adoration for the film seems a bit excessive, as much as I loved it. But never discount Hollywood's ability to love and reward films about itself (see also, The Artist).

Joining La La Land and Moonlight as Best Picture nominees are Arrival, a thoughtful sci-fi drama about the attempt to communicate with an alien species; Fences, an adaptation of the August Wilson drama about a black man's struggle for meaning in the 1950s; Hacksaw Ridge, a true story about a World War II-era conscientious objector who won the Congressional Medal of Honor; Hell or High Water, a drama about a pair of West Texas brothers who begin robbing branches of a bank to pay back an onerous loan; Hidden Figures, a feel-good drama about the contributions of African-American women to the space race; Lion, a true story about a young Indian man who was lost as a child, adopted by Australians and eventually found his home via Google Earth; and Manchester by the Sea, a searing drama about a man lost in grief who's forced to step up for his nephew.

Eight of the nine Best Picture nominees have screened here. We're still waiting on Moonlight, and I've been told it could open here Friday. Check back Thursday for the weekly movie roundup.

After two straight years of #OscarSoWhite, seven actors of color were nominated in the four categories this year: Denzel Washington (Fences), Ruth Negga (Loving), Mahershala Ali (Moonlight), Dev Patel (Lion), Viola Davis (Fences), Naomie Harris (Moonlight) and Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures). It's the largest number of black nominees ever in acting categories.

Joining Washington in the race for best actor are Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea), Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge), Ryan Gosling (La La Land) and Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic).

Ali is the frontrunner for supporting actor, facing Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water), Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea), Patel, and Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals).

Negga was a bit of a surprise nominee, taking a slot many prognosticators expected would be filled by Arrival star and Oscar darling Amy Adams, a five-time nominee. Also making the cut were surprise Golden Globe winner Isabelle Huppert (Elle), Natalie Portman (Jackie), Emma Stone (La La Land) and Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins), scoring her 20th Oscar nomination.

Davis, who memorably introduced Streep's barn-burning acceptance speech for the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the Globes, is the front-runner for best supporting actress for Fences; she won a Tony Award in 2010 for the same role. Nominated alongside her are Harris, Spencer, Nicole Kidman (Lion) and Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea).

Animated feature film nominees include the stop-motion Japanese epic Kubo and the Two Strings, the Disney smashes Moana and Zootopia, and foreign entries My Life As a Zucchini and The Red Turtle.

Mel Gibson took another major step in cementing his comeback by scoring a nomination as best director for Hacksaw Ridge, his first nomination in the category since winning for 1995's Braveheart. He'll face a field of first-time nominees: Denis Villenueve (Arrival), Damien Chazelle (La La Land), Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea) and Barry Jenkins (Moonlight).

Lonergan also scored a nod for best original screenplay, where he'll face Chazelle (previously nominated for Whiplash) and first-time nominees Taylor Sheridan (Hell or High Water); Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou (The Lobster); and Mike Mills (20th Century Women).

Jenkins also scored an adapted screenplay nod with Tarell Alvin McCraney (who wrote the play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue), as did Eric Heisserer (Arrival); the late August Wilson (Fences); Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi (Hidden Figures); and Luke Davies (Lion). All are first-time nominees.

Foreign-language film nominees are Land of Mine (Denmark), A Man Called Ove (Sweden; it screened in Amarillo in December), The Salesman (Iran), Tanna (Australia) and front-runner Toni Erdmann (Germany).

Documentary feature nominees include Fire at SeaLife, AnimatedO.J.: Made in America13th; and I Am Not Your Negro, which will be featured in the next season of PBS's Independent Lens. Other documentaries airing on PBS that made the shortlist but didn't get nominated were The Tower (airing Feb. 14), The Witness (which aired last night and will encore at 2 a.m. Wednesday), and Command and Control (which aired Jan. 11 and is available online).

The bulk of the films nominated in major categories (excluding documentaries, shorts and foreign) have screened in Amarillo — all but nine: Moonlight, Jackie, Elle, Loving, My Life as a Zucchini, The Red Turtle, Jim: The James Foley Story (nominated for original song; available on HBO Go), The Lobster (available on Amazon Prime), and 20th Century Women (I'm told it's opening here Feb. 3 at Premiere Cinemas Westgate Mall 6).

All nine Best Picture nominees will screen in Cinemark's Oscar marathons from Feb. 20 to 26 at Cinemark Hollywood 16, and the live action and animated shorts nominees will screen in marathons Feb. 24 to 26.

Documentary short nominees Extremis and The White Helmets are available on Netflix. 4.1 Miles and Joe's Violin are streaming online, as well. There's no immediate word on the availability of Watani: My Homeland. The documentary shorts marathons will not screen in Amarillo.

As I have for the past several years, I will attempt to see all the films nominated — 63 in all this year. At this point, I have seen 35. Keep watching the blog to follow my progress. 




Chip Chandler is a digital content producer for Panhandle PBS. He can be contacted at Chip.Chandler@actx.edu, at @chipchandler1 on Twitter and at www.facebook.com/chipchandlerwriter on Facebook.

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