Good news for 'La La Land' and 'Moonlight,' bad news for Martin Scorsese?

By Nicole Sperling
December 28, 2016 at 04:21 AM EST
Dale Robinette

Awards season broke into song over the last 24 hours, with musical La La Land winning big at Sunday’s Critics’ Choice Awards and scoring the most nods (seven) during Monday’s Golden Globes nominations. 

But Damien Chazelle’s new film wasn’t alone in standing tall during awards season’s nascent stages: Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight and Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea continued to hold firm as serious contenders, with Hacksaw Ridge, Lion, and more hanging strong. But what does it all mean? Nothing is certain since none of the actual groups that make up the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences have yet to weigh in — that will begin on Wednesday when the Screen Actors Guild, many of whom are also Academy members, gives us their nominees — but let’s muddle through what these early nominations and wins tell us about this year’s race.

La La Land is the picture to beat

With seven nominations from the Golden Globes, La La Land is the belle of the ball. Racking up nods in the actor, actress, picture, director, screenplay, song, and score categories, Chazelle’s film is on track to go all the way. The question is can anything unseat it? The guess right now is no, but it’s still only December and anything can happen.

Manchester By the Sea and Moonlight are the ones with the greatest upward momentum

If La La Land falters then, look toward either Moonlight or Manchester By the Sea. Jenkins’ coming of age drama landed six nominations at the Golden Globes (and won best ensemble from the Critics’ Choice Awards), while Manchester By the Sea snagged four nominations. Both films have serious Oscar contenders in the acting categories, too: Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris for Moonlight (Ali has emerged as the favorite in the supporting actor category) and Casey Affleck, Lucas Hedges, and Michelle Williams for Manchester By the Sea. (Hedges, however, was overlooked by the HFPA, which added another head-scratcher to the supporting actor category: Aaron Taylor-Johnson over Michael Shannon in Nocturnal Animals.)

Fences best picture momentum on the wane

Denzel Washington’s film, which opens on Christmas Day, has earned a lot of love in the actor categories, and the HFPA followed suit on Monday, rewarding the adaptation of August Wilson’s stage play with nominations for Viola Davis in supporting and Denzel Washington in lead. But the movie was omitted from both the director category for Washington and the picture category, opting to reward Mel Gibson and Hacksaw Ridge instead. Will this trend continue to Oscars?

Hacksaw Ridge showing signs of strength

The Mel Gibson war film starring Andrew Garfield landed nominations for actor, director, and picture from the Globes. The film about war hero and conscientious objector Desmond Doss already landed on AFI’s best of the year list, too. Will the Academy go for Gibson’s movie in the same way?

HFPA completely ignores Martin Scorsese’s Silence

You would think the man who landed the organization’s Cecil B. DeMille award in 2010, won three other golden globes for Hugo, The Departed, and Gangs of New York, and was nominated five other times, would get some consideration for the film that took him 28 years to make. But clearly, the foreign body didn’t connect to the auteur’s meditation on faith viewed through the eyes of a Jesuit priest (Garfield) trying to survive in Japan. It’s a big snub and we will see if the film proves to be as polarizing to the Academy.

Strong showing for both Lion and Foster Florence Jenkins

Neither film landed director nods but they did get some love in the picture and acting categories. Lion stars Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman was cited for their work in the drama based on one man’s long journey to find his family, while Florence Foster Jenkins leads Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant scored citations for their work in the nimble comedy. Jenkins likely doesn’t have the gravitas to get recognized by the Academy, but it would be a surprise if the Lion love doesn’t gain more momentum as we head into the guilds.

Hell or High Water looking good for the Academy

The modern-day western by director David Mackenzie scored in the picture category and a nod for Jeff Bridges in the supporting category. Taylor Sheridan’s screenplay was also rewarded, though Mackenzie was left off the director list. Don’t be surprised when this movie, which debuted in August and has earned $27 million, lands a best picture Oscar nomination.

Little boost of love for Deadpool, Sing Street, and War Dogs

Will these movies land an Oscar nod? It’s unlikely but it feels like the HFPA put their comedy/musical category to a bit better use this year, giving Deadpool, the highest-grossing R-rated comedy of the year, a shout-out in the best comedy/musical category. Sing Street, a delightful indie musical that died at the box office when it opened in April, was also nominated in the category. Both will, of course, lose to La La Land. But for Sing Street, the nod may at least get more people to check out the film (available now on Netflix).

But despite all this, a clearer picture should form on Wednesday when the SAG nominations are announced. Until then, go watch some movies!

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