We all remember what it felt like when The Big Short turned out to be the PGA’s big winner last year. And we all remember the shock when Birdman won in 2014. We also remember how weird it was when 12 Years a Slave and Gravity TIED! But before these recent rock n’ roll days, things were mostly steady — Argo won the PGA and that was that – DGA and SAG followed suit and Argo was onward to Oscar. The Artist won the PGA and the DGA, didn’t need the SAG (though it was nominated) and onward to Oscar. The King’s Speech was a bit of a surprise, until it won the DGA and SAG and onward to Oscar. The Hurt Locker took the lead away from Avatar after the Golden Globes and that was that – PGA/DGA, didn’t need SAG (but it was nominated) and onward to Oscar.
You’ll need to decide for yourself which kind of year we’re in. There is a bit of a push for Moonlight. But La La Land remains a massive juggernaut. 14 nominations — even in Costumes and Sound Editing! According to many, it has simply captivated the industry and no other film can win this weekend.
At least, not until we get to the SAG Awards on Sunday where La La land is not nominated for ensemble. Maybe it matters, maybe it doesn’t, but we’ve never had a year like this in all the years I’ve been writing about the Oscars and I don’t know what it means. Maybe it’s nothing. Maybe it’s something. We won’t know until Saturday night.
I would not bet against La La Land to take the season in a sweep and win a shit-ton of Oscars on Feb 26th. You can write that script and easily sell it. La La Land works. It’s a beloved film that feels fresh and original and alive. The songs embed themselves in your head and they kind of haunt your days. There is no other film like it in the race.
But then there is Moonlight. Barry Jenkins would make history as the first black director to win the DGA or the Oscar. It is a film no one hates and everyone loves. It is a film where the main character is someone you root for with your heart and soul. Without La La Land, Moonlight would probably be hard to beat.
But … the consensus is huge. The consensus is massive. It’s like the Titanic moving through the water going too fast to turn before it hits the iceberg. That momentum can’t be shifted so easily. Still, the only consensus votes so far for La La Land have been the way too early Critics Choice and the Golden Globes. Traditionally, the Globes usually can foretell the kiss of death for an Oscar frontrunner.
Were the seven Globes wins for La La Land seen by some as too much? Did it not feel like a good winner? Were people cheering more loudly when the underdog, Moonlight, won its one award of the night? It’s hard to say. But BAFTA, the Academy, the Globes seem to have chosen their favorite. That’s what the nominations tell us.
As I said on this week’s podcast, you are witnessing an unstoppable force, La La Land, meeting an immovable object – the effect of #OscarsSoWhite, an historic year for African American nominees — not just in the acting categories but in cinematography for the first time (Arrival), in editing for the first time (African American female – Moonlight). Two films by black directors nominated for Best Picture — Moonlight and Fences.
La La Land is not that. It’s not about any sort of high stakes. It is about two white kids in love and fulfilling their dreams. It is also about regret. Can La La Land be about anything more important? Its own title declares that no, it isn’t about that. Its charm is like The Artist’s — it’s just love at first sight, no gravitas needed. It is a movie that makes people feel deeply and profoundly, perhaps connecting to a time when dreams still mattered to them. Reaching back to simpler times when getting famous did seem like an urgent need. La La Land really is like dipping into a light and easy fantasy. Maybe that is what people need right now. We all feel like our worlds have been turned upside down and in a year where Hamilton became a phenom, is La La Land the Oscar race’s Hamilton? (I stole that from Kris Tapley).
I think movies that make you feel like this can’t lose.
But I also know that we won’t know for certain until the PGA prize is handed out Saturday night, where I fully expect La La Land to walk away with the thing.
As far as Moonlight goes, that one sits a little higher in my esteem, though both are excellent films. I’ve never seen a movie like Moonlight. I’ve never gone so deeply inside a character like that, and rooted for them to succeed. That last scene is nothing short of masterful. I saw two films I would call masterpieces this year. One is Martin Scorsese’s Silence and the other is Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight. It is going to walk away with at least two Oscars, and maybe the Academy will feel as though that is enough. But I keep hearing buzz about Moonlight. It’s sort of deafening and it’s everywhere. Both films seem to have grown a following but only one is the juggernaut. That makes it an easy film to hate but remember, it was not made to be an Oscar juggernaut. It just turned out that way.
The Producers Guild uses the preferential ballot. Many expect La La Land to win a majority after the first round of voting, without any recount triggered. If a recount is triggered, I suspect La La Land will have a hard time because there is something about it that has become somewhat divisive. Perhaps not enough to turn the ship around. But it’s there. We really have two movies now, I figure. And whichever of those two is a number two choice, not a number one, is probably going to win Best Picture. So watch out for Moonlight, all I’m saying.
A 14 nomination juggernaut clearly hit most of the branches of the Academy right in the heart. It hit all of the techs it was eligible for, something only two other films have ever done in all of Oscar history. That’s big.
So, for the Producers Guild I’d say it will go down like this:
Predicted winner: La La Land
But I secretly want to predict the spoiler: Moonlight
What would shock the room: Manchester by the Sea or Hidden Figures