The effervescent, brightly colored romantic musical “La La Land” – a love letter to the city of Los Angeles and the movies themselves – sang and danced its way to a whopping 14 Academy Award nominations on Tuesday morning, tying the all-time record held by “Titanic” and “All About Eve.”
But Oscar voters also spread their love far and wide, with eight other films across a range of genres competing against “La La Land” for best picture: “Moonlight,” “Manchester by the Sea,” “Arrival,” “Lion,” “Fences,” “Hell or High Water,” “Hidden Figures,” and “Hacksaw Ridge.”
Along with “La La Land,” the year’s two other awards season juggernauts – “Moonlight,” a coming-of-age film about a gay African American boy growing up in Miami, and “Manchester by the Sea,” a wrenching drama about a man dealing with unimaginable grief – each had strong showings. “Moonlight” had eight nods in total, while “Manchester” pulled in six.
After two consecutive years of all-white acting nominees, seven actors and actresses of color earned nominations, including Mahershala Ali (“Moonlight”), Denzel Washington (“Fences”), Dev Patel (“Lion”), Ruth Negga (“Loving”), Viola Davis (“Fences”), Naomie Harris (“Moonlight”) and Octavia Spencer (“Hidden Figures”).
In response to the #OscarsSoWhite controversy that roiled last year’s awards season, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences took dramatic steps to diversify its overwhelmingly white and male membership ranks, inviting 683 industry professionals to join the institution in its most recent class, 46% of them female and 41% of them people of color.
The nominations capped a noteworthy comeback for Mel Gibson. The one-time megastar-turned-industry-pariah picked up a nomination for best director for his World War II epic “Hacksaw Ridge,” which earned six nominations in total.
Rounding out the directing category were Barry Jenkins (“Moonlight”), Damien Chazelle (“La La Land”), Kenneth Lonergan (“Manchester by the Sea”) and Denis Villeneuve (“Arrival”).
Breaking with tradition, the Academy announced the nominees with a live-streamed, prerecorded video featuring past Oscar nominees rather than the usual press conference.
But with a crowd-pleasing Hollywood confection like “La La Land” dominating the nominations and the #OscarsSoWhite controversy abated for now, the awards ceremony itself promises a return in many ways to the old-school and the feel-good.
“We want to inspire people with memories of what a best friend the movies have been over the course of their life, and we want to have a lot of laughs,” Oscar telecast co-producer Michael De Luca told the Times in November. “Get in, get out. No homework. All joy.”
The Academy Awards will be handed out on Feb. 26, with Jimmy Kimmel hosting.
This story will be updated.