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Monday, 24 April 2017

Hollywood set for Oscars picks with no big surprises

AFP , Monday 23 Jan 2017
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La La Land, expected to be nominated for an Oscar this year (Photo: still from La La Land)
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All eyes will be on Hollywood Tuesday as the list of nominees for this year's Oscars is unveiled with critical darlings "La La Land," "Moonlight" and "Manchester by the Sea" set to fare well.

But beyond the suspense surrounding the batch of nominees, the announcement is also expected to address the long-running #OscarsSoWhite controversy that cast a shadow over last year's awards ceremony because of its lack of diversity.

The nominated films, actors and filmmakers will be unveiled at a pre-dawn announcement which for the first time will be streamed online.

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 also triumph at the February 26 Oscars bash with possible golden statuettes for best movie, best actor and for 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 the seven to "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."

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 staggering 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.

"After a very surprising Golden Globe win earlier this month, we not only expect Isabelle Huppert to receive an Oscar nomination on Tuesday but to be a strong contender to even win in February," said Chris Beachum, managing director of awards prediction website Gold Derby.

French actress Marion Cotillard won the award in 2008 for her performance in "La Vie en Rose," a biopic about the life of legendary singer Edith Piaf.

As for diversity, the word on everyone's mind ahead of this year's Oscars, Beachum said he expects the upcoming nominations to reflect efforts by the 6,000 plus members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to be more inclusive.

Last year the Academy came under scathing criticism for its overwhelming bias toward white nominees -- and vowed afterwards to double by the year 2020 the number of women and people from minority backgrounds among its voting members.

"With films like 'Fences,' 'Hidden Figures,' 'Lion,' 'Moonlight' all set for major nominations, it seems like diversity will thankfully win the day for this year's Oscar nominations," Beachum said.

But the woman behind the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag, April Reign, said although Hollywood has made progress, it was still too early to cancel the hashtag.

"One year does not fix a problem that has been going on for over 80," she told National Public Radio in a recent interview. "There has been an increase in the number of films that reflect the black experience."

"However with respect to people of color overall, with respect to marginalized communities -- which is what #OscarsSoWhite is all about -- it's still been a relatively poor year."

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