The candy-colored love letter to musicals “La La Land” landed a record-tying 14 Academy Award nominations on Tuesday, while a notably more diverse field of nominees brushed off two straight years of “OscarsSoWhite” backlash.
“La La Land” matched “Titanic” and “All About Eve” for most nominations ever, earning nods for best picture, stars Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, its jazz-infused songs and its 32-year-old writer-director, Damien Chazelle.
“I’m in Beijing right now. This only adds to the disorientation,” Chazelle said by phone Tuesday. “All that I have in my head is ‘thank you’ a million times over.”
In stark contrast to the last two years of all-white acting nominees, seven actors of color were nominated out of the 20 actors. A record six black actors were nominated (“Fences” stars Denzel Washington and Viola Davis, Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris of “Moonlight,” Ruth Negga of “Loving” and Octavia Spencer of “Hidden Figures”), as was Dev Patel, the British-Indian star of “Lion.”
A trio of acclaimed films led the overhaul, foremost among them Barry Jenkins’ luminous coming-of-age portrait “Moonlight.” Its eight nominations, including best picture, tied for the second most nods. Denzel Washington’s fiery August Wilson adaptation “Fences” and Theodore Melfi’s crowd-pleasing African-American mathematician drama, “Hidden Figures,” were also showered with nominations, including best picture.
Jenkins, who was nominated for directing and adapted screenplay, said the nominations for “Moonlight” and other films showed that people were eager to put themselves in the shoes of others.
“I love the American film industry and to see it this year, I feel, really reflect the world that we all live and work in, it gives me hope,” Jenkins said by phone from Amsterdam. “It heartens me. There’s a lot of work being done to make this year not be an anomaly.”
Nine films out of a possible 10 were nominated for best picture. The others were: Denis Villeneuve’s cerebral alien thriller “Arrival,” Kenneth Lonergan’s New England family drama “Manchester by the Sea,” the West Texas heist thriller “Hell or High Water,” the “Lion,” and Mel Gibson’s World War II drama “Hacksaw Ridge.”
The biggest surprise of the morning was the strong boost of support for Gibson, who had long been shunned in Hollywood since an anti-Semitic tirade while being arrested for drunken driving in 2006 and a 2011 conviction for domestic violence. Along with the best picture nod, Gibson scored an unexpected best director nomination. Gibson, whose ninth child was born Friday, said in a statement that nothing was more exciting than hearing the nominations read while holding my newborn son.”
Andrew Garfield, who was nominated for best actor for his performance in “Hacksaw Ridge,” said Gibson deserved the moment.
“I think finally people are remembering who Mel actually is, not what the tabloids (said),” said Garfield by phone. “I’m so, so proud of him.”
“Arrival” tied “Moonlight” for the second most nominees with eight nods. Yet its five-time nominated star, Amy Adams, was left out of the competitive best actress category.
Instead, Meryl Streep, whom President Donald Trump recently derided as “overrated,” landed her 20th nomination. Her performance in “Florence Foster Jenkins” was among the best actress nominees that included Stone, Natalie Portman (“Jackie”), Ruth Negga (“Loving”) and Isabelle Huppert (“Elle”). Also left out was Annette Bening for “20th Century Women.”
Best actor favorites Washington, Gosling and Casey Affleck (“Manchester by the Sea”) were joined by Garfield and Viggo Mortensen (“Captain Fantastic”). Along with Ali and Patel, the best supporting actor nominees are Lucas Hedges (“Manchester by the Sea”), Michael Shannon (“Nocturnal Animals”) and Jeff Bridges (“Hell or High Water”).
Viola Davis, the supporting actress front-runner for her performance in “Fences,” notched the expected nomination. Also up for the category are Harris, Spencer, Nicole Kidman (“Lion”) and Michelle Williams (“Manchester by the Sea”).
Whether fairly or not, the nominations were measured as a test for the revamped film academy. It’s 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 inclusion influx Tuesday wasn’t driven by any kind of response to the last two Oscars; most of the nominated films have been in development for years. And the awards still left many groups unrepresented. No female filmmakers were nominated for best director and outside of Lin-Manuel Miranda (up for his song to “Moana”), Latinos were nearly absent.
Four black directors dominated the documentary category: Ava DuVernay (“The 13th”), Raoul Peck’s (“I Am Not Your Negro”), Ezra Edelman (the seven-plus hours “O.J.: Made in America”) and Roger Ross Williams (“Life, Animated”). The other nominee was “Fire at Sea.” “Gleason,” the acclaimed documentary about former Spokane resident and NFL player Steve Gleason and his life with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, had been among the films in contention for best documentary. It did not make the cut.
History was marked in other categories. Joi McMillon, who edited “Moonlight” with Nat Sanders, became the first African-American woman nominated for best editing. Bradford Young of “Arrival” was just the second black cinematographer nominated.
Instead of announcing nominees live in Los Angeles, the Oscars streamed pre-produced videos of previous winners introduced each category – an innovation that drew mixed reviews.
Though “La La Land,” “Arrival” and “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, making this year’s best picture nominees one of the lowest grossing bunch ever.
But 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 nod for Kenneth Lonergan’s “Manchester by the Sea,” which the streaming retailer partnered with Roadside Attractions to distribute. Netflix also scored three nominations, including two for documentary short and one for feature documentary (“The 13th”).
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, which host Chris Rock introduced as “the White People’s Choice Awards,” drew 34.4 million viewers, an eight-year-low.
Like others, Viggo Mortensen expects this year’s broadcast to have a strong political undercurrent. “The Trump White House,” he said Tuesday, “is about, to some degree, shutting people up who you don’t like or who don’t agree with you, and I think the Oscars will probably be the opposite of that.”
Nominees for best animated film split between big and small films: “Kubo and the Two Strings,” “Moana,” “My Life as a Zucchini,” “The Red Turtle” and “Zootopia.” The year’s second biggest box-office hit, “Finding Dory,” was surprisingly shut out.
In the foreign language film category, Maren Ade’s Cannes sensation “Toni Erdmann,” from Germany, was nominated alongside Denmark’s “Land of Mine,” Sweden’s “A Man Called Ove,” Australia’s “Tanna” and Iran’s “The Salesman,” from Asghar Farhadi, whose “A Separation” won the award in 2012.
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