Gold Standard: Oscar analysis: Can ‘La La Land,’ with its record-tying 14 nominations, go the distance?


“La La Land” passed its first audition Tuesday — and then some, earning a record-tying 14 Oscar nominations.

Now, the question is: Can it go on and land the role it has seemed destined to win since debuting at film festivals this fall? Can it take the Oscar for best picture?

For those not wanting next month’s ceremony spoiled, you should probably skip ahead a couple of paragraphs. In fact, you might want to skip ahead to next year’s Oscars.


Because no movie is going to beat “La La Land” this year.

This morning’s Oscar nominations also contained a number of other newsworthy developments. #OscarsSoWhite won’t be trending on social media, with several actors of color — Denzel Washington, Octavia Spencer, Mahershala Ali, Viola Davis, Naomie Harris, Dev Patel and Ruth Negga — earning acting nominations.

But the promise that anyone can realize their dreams in Hollywood remains elusive. Last year, four women earned nominations in the screenplay categories. This year, there was just one — Allison Schroeder, who co-wrote “Hidden Figures” with Theodore Melfi.

And no women were nominated for director, which probably goes without saying if you saw the findings last week from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film’s latest study. (Women made up just 7% of all directors working on the 250 highest-grossing domestic releases in 2016, down 2% from last year.)

You know who was nominated for director? Mel Gibson, for “Hacksaw Ridge.” Gibson’s war drama earned six nominations, including nods for picture and lead actor Andrew Garfield. The recognition for Gibson, who had been ostracized from Hollywood for anti-Semitic comments he made several years ago, represents one of the biggest comeback stories of recent years.

Nine movies earned nominations for best picture, returning the category to the robust number it enjoyed in the first three years that the academy went to a variable number of nominees.

The group isn’t full of commercial hits, though “Hidden Figures” and “La La Land” are both expected to blow past $100 million at the box office, and “Arrival” is inching its way toward that mark. But it does include three of the year’s most critically acclaimed movies — “Moonlight,” “Manchester by the Sea” and “La La Land” — films that tell personal stories (yes, dreamers, even “La La Land”) in ways that make us understand our humanity just a bit better.


And if voters couldn’t recognize every worthy performance this year, they did an admirable job of highlighting compelling turns like Ruth Negga’s in “Loving.” That powerful, patient film, the story of Richard and Mildred Loving’s historic legal fight to have their interracial marriage recognized by the state of Virginia, is one of the year’s best — and, in its own way, one of the great movie love stories of recent times.

Most people — myself included — feared it would be shut out this morning. Negga’s nomination showed that voters can sometimes look beyond the casts of best picture nominees and find worthy work.

Twitter: @glennwhipp