1) La La Land Leads the Pack
It's been no secret that director Damien Chazelle's musical L.A. story La La Land is the favorite to win the Best Picture Oscar, but it was a little surprising to see just how dominant the much-loved movie was across all categories. With 14 nominations, it tied All About Eve (1950) and Titanic (1997) for the record. (But there's no way it can win all 14 — it will be competing against itself in the Best Song category.) How will it do? The odds-makers at SportsBettingDime.com have it favored to win in at least five categories: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Cinematography and Best Song. Among the categories they track, they see it losing only Best Original Screenplay (to Kenneth Lonergan's Manchester By The Sea) and Best Actor (to Casey Affleck, also for Manchester By The Sea).
The Academy set a record by nominating six black actors — two men and four women — for acting Oscars. Other high-profile people of color nominated for Oscars this year included Moonlight director Barry Jenkins, Arrival cinematographer Bradford Young, and documentarians Ezra Edelman (O.J.: Made in America), Ava DuVernay (13th), and Raoul Peck (I Am Not Your Negro). But the Los Angeles Times wanted to know: where are Latinos?
3) TV Can Be Movies, Too
Ezra Edelman's expansive documentary O.J.: Made in America debuted at Sundance and enjoyed a brief theatrical release in May before debuting as a television miniseries, spread across five nights on ABC and ESPN, in June. It's a singular piece of work, with the scope, rigor and penetrating insight of a good book, and it absolutely deserves the recgonition it has earned. But does its nomination open the door for other types of TV programming to angle for festival play in hopes of Oscar glory? Will showrunners start demanding, as part of their contract, that they get a bid for a theatrical run? We'll see what happens in 2017.
4) Mel Gibson Escapes Movie Jail
Even though it managed three Golden Globe nominations (but no wins), the performance of Hacksaw Ridge this morning may have been the biggest surprise among the Oscar nominations. The Academy came out in full force as an advocate for director Mel Gibson's violent war movie, which was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing. That's more than an endorsement of the movie's quality — it's a throaty "welcome back" to Gibson, who hadn't directed a film since his career took a wrong turn due to some widely reported personal issues back in 2006.
5) Martin Scorsese Gets Shut Out
Gibson's fortunes were lifted, no doubt, by his film's box-office performance — Hacksaw Ridge has earned more than $65 million. By contrast, Martin Scorsese's long-planned Silence has struggled to make $5 million to date. (It's really good, and you should go see it,) It's hard not to imagine that its poor performance with ticket-buyers negatively impacted its Oscar chances. Indeed, voters honored it with only a nomination for Rodrigo Prieto's cinematography. So much for passion projects! It was a bad year for Scorsese (his HBO series, Vinyl, was canceled after a single season), but one suspects commercial prospects will be brighter for his 2018 release, The Irishman, which is set to be his first collaboration with Robert De Niro since Casino in 1995.
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