Oscars: DGA and ASC Weigh In and Shake Up the Double Digit Race for ‘La La Land’

With two big guilds weighing in this weekend, the Directors Guild of America and American Society of Cinematographers, the race has evolved into a few more question marks.

While it’s been all but determined that “La La Land” and its director Damien Chazelle will be winning Best Picture and Director at the 89th Oscars ceremony, the question about how many trophies the musical will take home is still lingering. A recent Variety awards panel that included Tom O’Neil (Gold Derby), Anne Thompson (Thompson on Hollywood), Pete Hammond (Deadline), and Tim Gray (Variety), had a 50,000-foot overview of the race and included ranges from seven to 12 predicted wins for the Lionsgate release.

Gray, who predicted seven, was criticized by many casual awards followers on social media platforms, but may have been on to something as proven by “Lion‘s” surprise win at the ASC this weekend. The last few Best Picture winners have not been unanimously embraced by the Academy as a whole. Since the Best Picture expansion, “The Hurt Locker” has netted the most wins with six, while just last year, “Spotlight” pulled in a mere two. With that said, multiple films have pulled in many trophies without winning Best Picture. “Gravity” won seven of its nominations while “Mad Max: Fury Road” picked up six. Where does “La La Land” fall on the spectrum?

Nicole Kidman and Sunny Pawar star in LION Photo: Mark Rogers © Long Way Home Productions 2015

“Gravity” won DGA and PGA, missed out on SAG Ensemble, and managed to pick up one major prize for Best Director. The film missed an Original Screenplay nomination. “Mad Max: Fury Road” only won its tech prizes, also without a screenplay mention. “La La Land” comes in with considerable strength, tying the all-time record for nominations as set by “All About Eve” and “Titanic.” In the case of the former, the 1950 film won six of its awards. Granted, five of its nominations were in acting categories. “Titanic” lost three of its major nominations in the acting categories (Kate Winslet and Gloria Stuart) and missed out on screenplay.

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The definition of the “sweeper” has been up for debate, as films like “Slumdog Millionaire,” “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” and “Titanic” are undisputed in the ever-growing discussion. With “La La Land” poised to take the top two categories, the questions still loom surrounding its prospects below-the-line and how many it can really win. Over the next three weeks, Art Directors (Feb. 11), BAFTA (Feb. 12), Cinema Audio Society (Feb. 18), Motion Picture Sound Editors (Feb. 19), and Writers Guild (Feb. 19) will all make their choices with AMPAS ballots in hand.

With ACE, ASC, SAG, DGA and PGA weighing in so far, Chazelle’s film has topped with 3 out of the 5.  It missed out on the SAG Ensemble nomination, becoming the first film to win the coveted Producers Guild without the nomination.

With all this said, does “Lion” have a shot to nab its own prize on the night? The Weinstein Company has been campaigning the film hard, with TV spots and Academy Q&A’s. Does the film have muscle to push past a few films in categories like Adapted Screenplay and Cinematography?

And then there’s the focus on the screenplay prizes. Original Screenplay is a dead on two-horse race between “La La Land” and “Manchester by the Sea,” but in the case of Adapted, honestly, any five of those films can win. While “Moonlight” remains a favorite among many, it has no opportunity to win any “ADAPTED” prizes between now and the Oscar ceremony. “Arrival” leads the pack in critics prizes, while “Hidden Figures‘” SAG win indicates strong support. And then there’s “Lion” coming on strong, while “Fences” stands a very good chance at possibly winning the USC Scripter award, which matches up with Oscar more frequently than not. With “Fences” poised to win two of its four awards, is it going for a “Traffic”-type night where it wins nearly everything, just losing Best Picture?

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Other categories in flux still are Costume Design (a race between “Jackie” and “La La Land”), Film Editing (“Arrival” vs. “La La Land”), and Production Design (while “La La Land” has the edge, old Hollywood (“Hail, Caesar!“) and period and fantasy pieces (“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” and “Arrival”) could sneak by.

Oscar Predictions have been updated accordingly. Include your own in the comments below.

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About Clayton Davis

Clayton Davis is the esteemed Editor and Owner of AwardsCircuit.com. Born in Bronx, NY to a Puerto Rican mother and Black father, he’s been criticizing film and television for over a decade. Clayton is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association where he votes and attends the kick off to the awards season, the Critics Choice Awards. He’s also an active member of New York Film Critics Online, International Press Academy, Black Reel Awards, and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association. Clayton has been quoted and appeared in various outlets that include The New York Times, CNN.com, Variety, Deadline, Los Angeles Times, Bloomberg Television, AOL, Huffington Post, Bloomberg Radio, The Wrap, Slash Film, and the Hollywood Reporter.
  • John

    But we all know La La Land doesn’t have chance for Best Picture because it missed the SAG ensemble right Clayton?

    • Didn’t ever say that. Simply stated people just ignored a SAG Ensemble miss (as well as now an ASC loss) and just saying “doesn’t matter. it’s sweeping”

      Simply saying for everyone to hold their horses.