Los Angeles (AFP): Romantic showbiz musical “La La Land” topped the Oscars nominations list on Tuesday with a whopping 14 nods, tying an all-time record, as black actors were honored in all acting categories for the first time.
Damien Chazelle’s whimsical tribute to Hollywood’s Golden Age of musicals scored nods for best picture, best director and for its two stars, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. Its 10 other nominations came in nine categories.
The haul ties the film with “Titanic” and “All About Eve” for the most nominations ever.
“When you mention those movies, it makes my head spin even more than it’s spinning. I’m a little speechless,” Chazelle, in Beijing to promote his film, told trade magazine Variety.
In second place were sci-fi thriller “Arrival” and coming-of-age drama “Moonlight,” tied at eight nominations each.
The 89th Academy Awards will be held on February 26 — the climax of Hollywood’s awards season, to be hosted by late night funnyman Jimmy Kimmel.
With a record six black actors nominated, this year’s crop clearly reflected a push by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voters to show more diversity after the #OscarsSoWhite controversy of the past two years that had prompted calls for a boycott of the annual bash.
Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris are first-time nominees for “Moonlight,” while two-time winner Denzel Washington and multiple nominee Viola Davis are in the running again for their performance in “Fences.”
“I hope I wasn’t nominated because I was black. That has no relevance,” Ali told The Hollywood Reporter. “I hope I was nominated for my work.”
Also nominated are past winner Octavia Spencer, a best supporting actress candidate for “Hidden Figures,” and Ruth Negga, in the best actress category for “Loving.”
“This is not necessarily a message,” Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs said about the list of nominees.
“It really has to do with the talent. Each year, we recognize talents and films of a particular year. And this year has been just fabulous.”
– Nine best picture nominees -Industry watchers had predicted that Chazelle’s “La La Land” — buoyed by a record seven Golden Globe awards earlier this month — would triumph at the nominations, but few thought it would tie for the all-time record.
“Titanic” went on to win 11 Oscars, while “All About Eve” — starring Bette Davis — won six.
“La La Land” will vie for best picture honors with eight other films, including “Arrival,” grim family drama “Manchester by the Sea” and “Moonlight,” the coming-of-age tale of a black man in Miami.
Others in the coveted top category are the film adaptation of August Wilson’s play “Fences,” Mel Gibson’s bloody WWII drama “Hacksaw Ridge,” the western crime drama “Hell or High Water,” the real-life tale of NASA’s black female mathematicians “Hidden Figures” and Garth Davis’s family drama “Lion.”
– Streep dancing for joy -For best actor, Gosling will battle for a golden statuette with Golden Globe winner Casey Affleck (“Manchester by the Sea”), Andrew Garfield (“Hacksaw Ridge”), Viggo Mortensen (“Captain Fantastic”) and Washington.
In the best actress category, France’s Golden Globe winner Isabelle Huppert was nominated for her performance in the rape-revenge thriller “Elle,” along with Stone, Negga, Natalie Portman (“Jackie”) and Meryl Streep, who earned her record-breaking 20th nomination for “Florence Foster Jenkins.”
Streep’s nod delighted social media users, who called it a fitting rebuke to President Donald Trump, who described her as “overrated” after she denounced him at the Golden Globes.
The 67-year-old actress — who broke her own record as the person with the most acting nominations — reacted with a GIF featuring her dancing for joy.
– Comeback for Mel Gibson -In the best supporting actress category, Davis, Spencer and Harris will compete against past Oscar winner Nicole Kidman (“Lion”) and Michelle Williams (“Manchester by the Sea”), who was nominated three times before.
In the best supporting actor category, Ali will take on Jeff Bridges (“Hell or High Water”), Lucas Hedges (“Manchester by the Sea”), Michael Shannon (“Nocturnal Animals”) and Dev Patel (“Lion”) — a British actor of Indian descent.
The foreign films nominated are “Land of Mine” (Denmark), “A Man Called Ove” (Sweden), “The Salesman” (Iran), “Tanna” (Australia) and “Toni Erdmann” (Germany).
In the best director category, Gibson’s surprise nomination for the critically acclaimed WWII biopic “Hacksaw Ridge” marks his comeback a decade after being ostracized by Hollywood for an anti-Semitic tirade captured on tape.
Tuesday’s nominations were also notable in that they marked the first time a streaming service — Amazon Studios — earned a best picture nod, for “Manchester by the Sea.”
Also noteworthy was Patel’s nomination, which marks only the third time that an actor of Indian descent has received an Oscar nod.