By Murphy Kenefick, Columnist
For the first year ever, the Academy decided to forego the usual live announcement and instead stream a pre-recorded package of various Oscars alumni to introduce the categories and nominees. The idea was to spare the L.A. reporters the hassle of being up at 5 a.m., but surely they were awake anyway since, in the movie industry, this is like Christmas morning. Brie Larson, Jason Reitman, Glenn Close and other past nominees/winners described their experiences of being nominated, and then went on to announce nominees for this year, category by category. For the most anticipated one, Best Picture, Academy president Cheryl Boone-Isaacs announced the nominees as follows: “Arrival,” “Fences,” “Hacksaw Ridge,” “Hell or High Water,” “Hidden Figures,” “La La Land,” “Lion,” “Manchester by the Sea” and “Moonlight.” For a year that’s been relatively hit or miss movie-wise, this list can be divided into two even categories: borderline masterpieces and middling crowd-pleasers. Whereas last year there were several movies that were left out of the Picture race that maybe should have made it, the nominees this year were fairly obvious.
The most notable statistic from the announcement was the record-tying amount of nominations that “La La Land” received: 14. Previously set by “All About Eve” and “Titanic,” this all-time record was tied by the L.A. musical in all the “big five” categories (Picture, Director, Actor, Actress and Screenplay) along with two songs, score, and several other nominatinos. The next highest amount was eight, achieved by “Arrival” and “Moonlight.”
Speaking of “Arrival,” one of the biggest snubs of the morning was Amy Adams not receiving a nomination for the film, even though she carries quite a bit of it. She was undoubtedly pushed out by Meryl Streep (a record 20th nomination) who was almost definitely only nominated for her Golden Globes speech, which was largely Anti-Trump and pro-arts, so it naturally caused controversy. And as for the Golden Globes, Aaron-Taylor Johnson won Best Supporting Actor for “Nocturnal Animals.” While a win there typically translates into an Oscar nomination, Michael Shannon picked one up instead for the same movie. Other snubs included “Finding Dory” missing from Animated Feature, “Manchester by the Sea” from Editing and “Annette Benning” for Best Actress, but if those all sound like frivolities, it’s mainly because they are. To properly predict the winners, one has to pay attention to the smaller details and statistics. For example, many people said that “Birdman” couldn’t win Picture because it didn’t get an Editing nomination, that “Argo” couldn’t win because Ben Affleck didn’t make it in for Director or that “Spotlight” would lose because it was poised to only win one other award. It’s the annoyingly particular minutia that makes the Oscars less of an awards show and more of a statistics game.
As for the potential winners, most of these races have pretty clear endings already. Mahershala Ali (“Moonlight”) and Viola Davis (“Fences”) will almost certainly win their respective Supporting categories. “Moonlight” will deservedly take Adapted Screenplay and as for the rest…well it’ll be “La La Land’s” night. With many nominations comes many wins, and calling it for winning Picture, Director and Actress would be a safe bet. As for now, I am predicting that it will win at least 10, more than any movie in over a decade. It’s no surprise that a film about pursuing your dreams in Hollywood did so well with them, but it’s also definitely not the exclusive reason. I’ll be rooting for Damien Chazelle (and his crew) on Oscars night, and if he wins, he’ll be the youngest Director winner ever at 32 years old.
The 89th Academy Awards will be hosted by Jimmy Kimmel Feb 26 on ABC.