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It feels not long ago since Hollywood were open-mouthed at journalism drama Spotlight stealing the best picture crown from Leonardo DiCaprio’s epic The Revenant. However, last year’s Academy Awards selection seems rather dull in comparison to the nine showstopper nominees released last week.
There is one nomination on every film lover’s lips – the musical La La Land. Damien Chazelle’s second directorial offering, following 2014’s thriller Whiplash, showcases leads Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in an unexpected Broadwayesque spotlight. As the audience is stunned through two hours of celebration of all things jazz and Hollywood, it becomes evident how Oscar-made this film is. La La Land swept the board with 14 nominations, including two in the Best Song category, for musical highlights City of Stars and Audition (The Fools Who Dream) and in Original Score for Justin Hurwitz’ stunning soundtrack. Also, worth a mention are the nominees David and Sandy Wasco for Best Production Design. They perfectly capture the essence of Hollywood that makes the film a true ode to classic American cinema. And luckily for La La Land, the Academy adores films about their own industry, which saw previous Best Picture winners, Birdman and The Artist, rise to success.
However, no musical since 2002’s Chicago has won the acclaimed prize, so there are many other offerings that would make likely alternatives. If the victor was decided based on acting alone, then Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester By The Sea would surely win. This independent drama stars Casey Affleck as a lonely suburban man, forced to take guardianship of his nephew, played by the rising star Lucas Hedges. This emotional powerhouse has taken three acting nominations, all of which would be deserved winners; as would be Lonergan’s nomination for original screenplay.
La La Land and Manchester By The Sea have both been criticised for their lack of diversity, so the Academy may opt for the other frontrunner, Moonlight. Racial diversity has always been an issue at the Oscars, especially at last year’s peak which saw the ‘#oscarssowhite’ slogan branded on the awards. Therefore, it would be no surprise to see Barry Jenkins’ adaptation of his play ‘In Moonlight, Black Boys Look Blue’ take home some accolades. Moonlight is split into three sections, each recounting a section of the protagonist’s life as a gay African-American growing up in a rough Miami neighbourhood. This received eight nominations, and is predicted to win many, come 26th February. The most likely being for supporting actor Mahershala Ali, known for the Netflix drama House of Cards.
Continuing with diversity, race dramas Hidden Figures and Fences have earned nominations for Best Picture. Fresh from winning the Screen Actors Guild award, Hidden Figures tells the untold story of the women who aided NASA, despite the backlash due to their race. This stars African-American actresses, Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae in their most high profile roles to date, and has three nominations. Fences, similarly stars dramatic performances from Denzel Washington, who also directs the film, and Viola Davis, who both pick up nominations; as well as the adapted screenplay.
Perhaps the people’s favourite of the selection is the sci-fi thriller Arrival. Starring Amy Adams, this blockbuster displays attempts to communicate with aliens who arrive on Earth and grossed nearly $200million. It also holds eight nominations, giving it the second most and is expected to sweep in the technical categories such as cinematography and sound.
Controversially, Arrival’s Amy Adams was snubbed in the Lead Actress category in place of performances from less nominated films, like Isabelle Huppert (Elle), Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins) and Irish actress Ruth Negga (Loving); as well as frontrunners Emma Stone (La La Land) and Natalie Portman in the Jacqueline Kennedy biopic, Jackie. Casey Affleck (Manchester By The Sea) and Denzel Washington (Fences) lead the pack on the actor side, alongside Ryan Gosling (La La Land), Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic) and the first nomination for British actor Andrew Garfield in pacifist war drama Hacksaw Ridge.
This years’ ceremony will take place on 26th February in the Dolby Theatre, California. It is to be hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, fresh from presenting the Emmy’s last year, so expect a scathing opening monologue full of Trump and celebrity shaming. Also, artists nominated for Best Original Song take to the stage between award presentations, so Justin Timberlake, Sting, Auli’i Cravalho, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are due to perform throughout the night.
The 89th Academy Awards will be broadcast live in the UK on 26th February on Sky Movies.