LOS ANGELES: Hollywood was on tenterhooks Tuesday for the unveiling of this year’s Oscars nominations, with critical darlings “La La Land,” “Moonlight” and “Manchester by the Sea” leading a crowded field of contenders.
The nominated films, actors and filmmakers will be made public shortly after 5 am (1300 GMT) during an announcement which for the first time will be streamed online.
This year’s crop is expected to reflect a push by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to show more diversity and avoid the social hashtag #OscarsSoWhite that has dogged the awards for the past two years.
Industry watchers are predicting that Damien Chazelle’s whimsical, romantic musical “La La Land” — buoyed by a record seven Golden Globe awards earlier this month — will triumph at the February 26 Oscars bash with possible golden statuettes for best movie, best actor and in several other categories.
But the movie starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling is facing stiff competition from “Moonlight” — the coming-of-age tale of a black man in Miami — and “Manchester by the Sea,” about a depressive loner played by Casey Affleck.
Both films also received nods at the Golden Globes, though far fewer than “La La Land.”
Other frontrunners for best picture are Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi thriller “Arrival”; Mel Gibson’s bloody WWII movie “Hacksaw Ridge”; Garth Davis’s family drama “Lion”; and Theodore Melfi’s biographical comedy-drama “Hidden Figures.”
“I suspect ‘La La Land’ and ‘Hidden Figures’ will get a lot of nominations, because the movies impressed people in both above-the-line categories as well as behind the camera — costumes, production design, music, et cetera,” Tim Gray, awards editor for trade magazine Variety, told AFP.
‘Extraordinary outreach to diversity’
In the lead actor category, Affleck, Gosling and Denzel Washington, who plays an African-American father trying to raise his family in the screen adaptation of the Broadway hit “Fences,” are leading the pack.
Other contenders are Andrew Garfield, who plays an army medic in “Hacksaw Ridge” and Viggo Mortensen who plays a father trying to raise his six kids in “Captain Fantastic.”
The field is also crowded in the best actress race, where Stone is expected to vie for an Oscar opposite Natalie Portman, who plays a grieving JFK widow in “Jackie”; Isabelle Huppert, for her performance in the rape-revenge thriller “Elle”; Amy Adams, who plays a linguist able to communicate with aliens in “Arrival”; and Meryl Streep, who stars in the comedy biopic “Florence Foster Jenkins.”
Huppert — often described as France’s equivalent of Streep — scooped the best actress award at the Golden Globes for her performance in “Elle,” which also won for best foreign film.
Industry pundits say the 63-year-old could very well walk away with an Oscar next month, becoming one of the rare actresses to win for a foreign language performance.
Tom O’Neil, editor of awards prediction website Gold Derby, said the 6,000-plus Academy voters are sure to address head-on last year’s outcry over the overwhelmingly white nominees.
“I expect Oscar voters to make an extraordinary outreach to diversity with gads of nominations for ‘Moonlight,’ ‘Hidden Figures,’ ‘Fences’ and others,” he told AFP, referring to movies with African-American actors.
He added that two black actors — Viola Davis (“Fences”) and Mahershala Ali (“Moonlight”) — have a real chance of winning in the best supporting actor/actress categories, while “Moonlight” could scoop the award for best picture.