The Culture Movies

Oscar nominations: Could 'La La Land' actually win?

Oscar nominations will be announced on Jan. 24. The movie musical, starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, lacks a connection to a widely known stage play but still managed to become a surprising box office success. 

'La La Land' stars Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling.
Dale Robinette/Lionsgate/AP
|
Caption

As the announcement of the 2017 Oscar nominations approach, the musical “La La Land” is expected to receive nods in multiple categories. Could the movie win Best Picture as well?

“La La Land,” which stars Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, tells the story of an aspiring actress and a jazz pianist who meet and fall in love in Los Angeles. The film is directed by Damien Chazelle of “Whiplash.” 

It's already succeeded with audiences. The film continues to do well financially, with “La La Land” ranking at No. 5 domestically for the weekend after having debuted in limited release in early December. 

Variety writer Brent Lang wrote in December, after the film began setting records in limited release, “In this atmosphere of post-election malaise, ‘La La Land,’ an ebullient, big-hearted romance, seems like an antidote.”

Mr. Lang points out the film's success was far from a sure thing. “Ever since the Woodstock era, however, musicals have faced an uncertain box office reception,” he writes. “More recent releases such as ‘Les Miserables’ and ‘Chicago’ have scored with audiences, but they’ve been helped in part by Oscar love. They had another point working on their behalf: those movies were adapted from widely known stage shows," whereas  "La La Land" "was a leap of faith."

Yet audiences responded.

The movie has already been honored many times by those behind film awards, with “La, La Land” setting a record for the amount of Golden Globes received by one film. Mr. Gosling and Ms. Stone are also nominated for best actor and actress at the Screen Actors Guild Awards. 

It will be a surprise if the film doesn’t receive various Oscar nominations on Tuesday. So as the big night approaches, does it have a good chance of winning the big Best Picture prize? 

The film’s genre may in fact work against it. Movie fans may remember some musical films that at least received Best Picture nominations within the past couple of decades – “Les Misérables” (2012) and “Moulin Rouge!” (2001) were nominated and “Chicago” (2002) won – but historically, Hollywood Reporter Gregg Kilday writes, the genre can have a tough time at the Academy Awards. Mr. Kilday points out that the 1952 classic “Singin’ in the Rain” received just two nominations, one for best score and one for best supporting actress for Jean Hagen.

“Oscar's never been much of a song-and-dance man,” Kilday writes. “Why has Oscar so often given musicals and musical performers such short shrift? Possibly because they make it look too easy. Or maybe because they look as if they simply are having too much fun.”

Out of the 88 movies that have won Best Picture, nine are musicals. 

However, one of the likely advantages the film has is the fact that it takes place in Los Angeles and much of the story is about the entertainment business, with Stone as hopeful actress Mia going on auditions. 

Awards often highlight movies that depict the business, writes Los Angeles Times writer Susan King. “Hollywood has always loved Hollywood during awards season,” Ms. King writes, citing examples such as 2011’s “The Artist,” which took place during the silent film period in Hollywood and won Best Picture, among other prizes.