At the end of 2016, it looked like “Moonlight” was on its way to being the top contender for Best Picture at the Academy Awards.
That prediction has since fallen by the wayside after “La La Land” dominated at the Golden Globes (though it was in the comedy-musical category) and again raked in the Oscar nominations that were announced Tuesday. It wasn’t a surprise that the academy would have a love for nostalgia, but it gave the film 14 nominations, tying it with “Titanic” and “All About Eve” for record nods.
All in all, it doesn’t look good for any other movie seeking awards on Feb. 26, even though “La La Land” failed to land a Screen Actors Guild nomination for outstanding cast (that awards program will air this Sunday). The last movie to win Best Picture at the Oscars without also at least getting a nomination from SAG for its main award was “Braveheart” more than 20 years ago.
Despite the feeling that this may be another predictable Oscars night in favor of “La La Land,” that’s not to say this year’s nominees don’t offer some glimmer of hope outside of the academy.
This year’s Best Picture nominees list didn’t include that one huge blockbuster of the year. The dark horse would have been “Deadpool,” which managed to get nominations at the Golden Globes, Directors Guild of America and Producers Guild of America—all of which are usually relegated to the Oscar contenders.
But if you look at which of this year’s nominees made the most money at the domestic box office, two of the three are primarily led by women. Amy Adams may have failed to get the Best Actress Oscar nomination but she helped lead “Arrival” to being the most monetarily successful film stateside of the nominees (so far), making $95.7 million domestically.
Close on its heels is “La La Land” with $89.7 million so far, but also edging up is the female-led cast of “Hidden Figures” with $84.7 million domestically.
Not only does that smash the Hollywood thought that female-centric movies can’t make money, but it also means we may be getting away from the perennial male biopic movies that inundated the 2015 awards season.
The fact that “Hidden Figures” also has a strong black cast means movies with minorities can also bring in crowds—as well as awards, considering the critical success of “Moonlight” and “Fences.”
Of course an issue here is that despite the nominations and love from film critics, it’s still a tough road for these types of films at the Oscars.
The academy invited more minorities and women into its ranks, but the makeup is still overwhelmingly white, male and older. And that tends to mean that the nostalgia of “La La Land” is more likely to win over the modern coming of age tale in “Moonlight.”
That also means that Meryl Streep will see nominations for their work no matter what the quality of the film. Street was nominated for “Florence Foster Jenkins,” a movie no one particularly loved. Tom Hanks was mistakenly on the nominee list for Actor for “Sully,” but was later taken off to reflect the normal five-nominee category.
But name recognition didn’t help others like Bening in this year’s Oscars race. Martin Scorsese’s “Silence” only received a cinematography nomination—though that was one of the few parts of the movie critics agreed they liked.
Among other surprises was “Nocturnal Animals” getting mostly shut out of major nominations, save for Michael Shannon for Best Supporting Actor. Co-star Aaron Taylor-Johnson did not get a nomination in the same category despite winning the Golden Globe for that performance, beating out frontrunner Mahershala Ali for “Moonlight.”
“Captain America: Civil War” also didn’t score a single nomination, even for visual effects and sound mixing and/or editing, which is where Marvel Studios usually finds its films. “Deepwater Horizon” usurped it with nominations in two of those categories, though Marvel can still find peace with the knowledge that “Doctor Strange” is still in the running and DC’s only nomination was in makeup and hairstyling for “Suicide Squad.”
And having just watched “Sing Street” (now streaming on Netflix), I’m amazed that it didn’t get a single nomination in the Original Song category, while “La La Land” captured two nominations.
Though the academy may vote the same way its members always do, the nominations themselves are promising in what we may see in the future.