Oscars: ‘La La Land’ Sets Its Sights on the Record for Most Wins

Oscars: Can 'La La Land' Break
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Honestly, I didn’t see 14 nominations coming for “La La Land” and I was pretty vocal about it. I couldn’t really fathom the sound branch defaulting to a musical in the sound editing category, but they did, and the movie tied the all-time record for Oscar nominations.

Now that the landscape is set, though, it’s hard not to expect Damien Chazelle’s unbridled success story to charge through to another milestone: the 11 win record currently shared by “Ben-Hur,” “Titanic” and “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.” It could even break it.

We’ll have a little more data to go on after the Producers Guild and Screen Actors Guild Awards this weekend, but at the moment, it’s pretty clear that “La La Land” is the frontrunner for picture and director. And while Isabelle Huppert (“Elle”) and Natalie Portman (“Jackie”) have dominated the critics’ circuit in the lead actress space, the smart bet is on Emma Stone waltzing out of the Oscars with a statue in hand. (I’ll change my tune if she somehow drops the SAG honor to someone else on Sunday.)

Original score is a given, and unless the film’s two nominated songs split the vote and allow for Lin-Manuel Miranda to surprise in that category, you can chalk another one up there. And musicals almost always walk away with the sound mixing prize, particularly when they’re this dominant.

We’re already at six Oscars, the most won by a best picture victor since “The Hurt Locker.”

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Throughout the various crafts categories, it’s hard not to check off almost every single one for “La La Land.” I’m not seeing any of the other nominees putting up much of a fight in cinematography, costume design and production design. Now we’re at nine, zipping past “Slumdog Millionaire” and the most won by a best picture since “The Return of the King.”

Perhaps “Arrival,” given the nature of its structure, could swoop in and grab the film editing prize. But it’s difficult not to expect a popular musical to take that as well. Then again, previous best picture musicals like “An American in Paris,” “My Fair Lady” and “OIiver!” deferred to other films, so it’s not an exact science. A tentative yes puts us at 10 wins, on the doorstep of tying the record.

Which brings us to perhaps the movie’s toughest fight in the major categories. Assuming Casey Affleck is going to cruise on through to a best actor win for “Manchester by the Sea,” and that the Academy will go a different direction for sound editing — perhaps that will go to beloved war film “Hacksaw Ridge,” though we’ve already seen this category surprise us this year — then original screenplay is the battlefield. And Kenneth Lonergan is absolutely a threat with his “Manchester” work, the most awarded screenplay of the year. It’s another place for the Academy to honor a film they clearly loved, and with “Moonlight” likely winning the adapted screenplay prize and probably best supporting actor, too, it allows them to give multiple awards to the three hottest films on the circuit this year.

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Many are averse to picking “La La Land” here because musicals, historically, don’t fare well for best screenplay. But I feel like they’re typically thinking of the adapted musicals, like “Chicago” and “My Fair Lady” and “The Sound of Music” (not even nominated), which did indeed lose the prize. But original musicals such as “An American in Paris” and “Interrupted Melody” have won. I frankly thought original screenplay was a solid bet for “La La Land” way back before I expected it to be this year’s best picture winner. But still, it’s a tight race with “Manchester,” and perhaps ultimately, the difference maker.

We’ll see how things shift and slide, if they do at all, over the next month. But the path is pretty clear above. If “La La Land” does claim 11 Oscars, it and “Titanic” will then share the nomination and win records. I know some people might find that boring, but I think it’s kind of exciting. And interestingly enough, I wrote about that very phenomenon back in May after “Hamilton” dominated the Tony Awards.

“These kinds of thunderclaps are extraordinary and rare,” I wrote at the time. “[‘Hamilton’s’] dominance today left me longing for another such display on the big screen. After all, the last film to win at least eight Oscars was ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ seven years ago. That was also the same year as ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’s’ 13-nomination tally. It feels like we’re increasingly due.  Then again, if the ‘All About Eve’-to-‘Titanic’ stretch is any indication, we’re not even halfway there yet. That’s what makes this kind of thing so special.”

Little did I know what was lying in wait.

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  1. Shamil says:

    It will win many Oscars 11 or more with Emma stone I think because anything is possible n I wish it does

  2. Dex says:

    Nevermind overhyped spectacle “La La Land.” Many will be watching to see whether Lin-Manuel Miranda makes EGOT history.

  3. BarryMo says:

    But…the #Backlash!! Moonlight is the underdog! All the major publications writing anti-LLL pieces….Zzzzzzz. To quote Cecily Strong from SNL, “It’s ok to like both movies!”
    Liked Moonlight but pulling for LLL all the way.

    • BarryMo says:

      Sasha Stone was saying LLL winning would be Crash levels of disastrous in terms of pushback towards the Academy and Chazelle should hope he doesn’t win Director because of the negative effect it would have on his career…i mean, wow. It’s amazing the narrative some people are trying to put out there. Moonlight should come away with Sup Actor and Screenplay, maybe it surprises in another category, too. If that’s the case and LLL wins 9+ I don’t see why a fan of either movie should be upset.

  4. Jacqui says:

    I don’t understand all the hype for this movie. It was a good movie, but not a great one. Are we used to all the nonsense that is produced today that we go crazy for a good movie? There are at least three movies nominated that were better than LaLa Land.

  5. John G. says:

    When has a contemporary movie ever won Best Costume Design? La La Land could be a precedent-breaker, and there’s no other heavyweight in the category, but it still seems a bit odd.

  6. cadavra says:

    I can’t see it winning Screenplay, Editing and Costumes; completely pedestrian in all three categories. Actor ain’t happening, either, and Actress is iffy. So IMHO, that’s eight or nine at best. Still impressive, but hardly a record.

  7. JimG. says:

    Unless something goes haywire La La Land will win anywhere from 7-12 Oscars. P, D, C, FE, PD, Score, and SM are givens. As you said Song if they don’t split, and a lot of people prefer Audition. LA, OScr, CD, SE are iffy; there was the same rumbling for Costume as there was Sound Editing. Best Actor it’s losing either to Manchester or Fences depending on SAG although even if Washington wins there I still think Affleck could take the Oscar; Washington has never won an Actor but has 2 Oscars.

  8. Never in a million years could ARRIVAL win best editing.

  9. Richard says:

    I read somewhere that while it received tons of nominations the fact that there are nine ( ?) nominated best pics might indicate that it’s support might not run that deep being that you must score at least five percent of the votes to win a nod so a lot of love is being spread around and members might feel the need to spread the awards also.

  10. Jiminy Critic says:

    Nominations are not “wins”. La La Land just might be the Hillary Clinton of award seekers…

  11. Sara says:

    Moonlight is way better. Hope it picks up best picture and director.

  12. Edkargir says:

    I love la la land but Moonlight is the best picture of the year and should win best picture director , cinematoraphy , editing , adapted screenplay and supporting actor. Ok la la land will win editing and cinematography. I”llbe happy if moonlight wins the other 4 .

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