Can ‘La La Land’ Become the New ‘Silence of the Lambs’?

In a few weeks time, Damien Chazelle‘s ravishing musical “La La Land” is all but certainly going to take Best Picture at the 89th Academy Awards. It already has the top Producers Guild of America prize as well as the Golden Globe for Best Musical or Comedy on the mantle, to go along with a fair amount of early critics awards, including Best Picture from the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Now, it can set its sights even higher, which would be to have a history-making Oscar night. Specifically, can “La La Land” match the feat achieved at the Oscars by a very different film – “The Silence of the Lambs“?

For those unaware, Jonathan Demme‘s classic film took home Oscars in Best Picture, Best Director for Demme, Best Actor for Anthony Hopkins, Best Actress for Jodie Foster and Best Adapted Screenplay for Ted Tally. It was only the third film ever to pull off this feat, after both “It Happened One Night” and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” did so as well. Could “La La Land” be just the fourth and the first since “The Silence of the Lambs” to sweep the big five categories?

The big prize on Oscar night is, of course, Best Picture. This seems likely to belong to “La La Land” without much fuss. Sure, there’s the fact that it wasn’t nominated at the Screen Actors Guild for Best Ensemble, but with “Hidden Figures” taking that as opposed to presumed main competition “Moonlight,” that road appears paved with gold, as it were. Only a major upset would prevent it from taking this Academy Award. Previous wins at the BFCA, Golden Globes and PGA are real feathers in its proverbial cap. So far, the film is one for one.

Assuming the Oscar for Best Picture is in the bag, we have to look slightly down ballot to see if “La La Land” can become “The Silence of the Lambs” for the 21st century. There are four other places where Chazelle’s movie would need to match Demme’s movie, and none of them are considered locks.

Barring an upset at the Directors Guild of America awards, Chazelle should be on the way to winning Best Director with the Oscars. Barry Jenkins from “Moonlight” is the only rational competition, but even with a DGA upset, Chazelle would still seem like the Academy Award frontrunner, armed with BFCA and Golden Globe wins. In that realm, he’d match Demme and make his film two for two, well on the way to matching this particular feat.

Similarly, Best Original Screenplay could be tilting Chazelle’s way and away from his main competition. Here, it’s Kenneth Lonergan of “Manchester by the Sea” fame. If Lonergan beats back Chazelle at the Writers Guild of America awards, that complicates matters somewhat, as they’ve been close all season long, precursor wise. That WGA win probably will put either Chazelle or Lonergan in the driver’s seat. This is the other big remaining precursor to watch out for. If it goes the way of “La La Land,” that’s another hint that the film is potentially in for a record-setting evening at the Kodak Theater. For what it’s worth, “The Silence of the Lambs” won in Adapted Screenplay for Tally who wasn’t the director. Make of that what you will.

Going off of her SAG win over the weekend, Emma Stone is probably in the lead right now for Best Actress. She still has to fend off Isabelle Huppert for “Elle” and Natalie Portman for “Jackie,” but the odds are very much in her favor. The British Academy of Film and Television Arts awards will be the last stand for Portman against Stone. If the latter wins there too, she’ll have BAFTA, Golden Globe and SAG awards, which is a pretty unbeatable combination. Thusly, she’d win at the Oscars, much like Foster did years back. Then, it would bring us to four for four.

Here is where it gets really interesting. All of the above is reasonable to expect/predict. However, to pull this off and make “La La Land” into “The Silence of the Lambs” 2.0, it will need to upset in Best Actor. Now, Ryan Gosling is a well respected actor and in line for a win one day, but can he pull ahead of both Casey Affleck for the aforementioned “Manchester by the Sea” AND Denzel Washington for “Fences“? Even with a Golden Globe win, he’s behind both of them right now, post-SAG, where Washington has caught up with Affleck. Gosling’s final chance will be with BAFTA, since Washington isn’t nominated. If he upsets Affleck, there’s a small possibility he could do the same with Oscar. If not, he won’t do for “La La Land” what Hopkins did for “The Silence of the Lambs” about two and a half decades ago.

Most rational analysts would put the odds pretty low at this whole thing being pulled off. However, should you want to hold on to something, hope-wise, it’s that “La La Land” has continually exceeded expectations all season long. Hell, even without matching “The Silence of the Lambs,” Chazelle’s movie could break or tie the all-time wins record of 11 Oscars. That’s currently held by the trio of “Ben-Hur,” “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” and “Titanic.” The best possible day for this one is 13 giving it some room for error, even with a probable Gosling loss.

Essentially, it’s a long shot for Chazelle’s film to match Demme’s, but we’ll have to stay tuned to see what happens. In a way, it could even end up doing better, as mentioned above. After all, it’ll probably dominate the technical categories, where “The Silence of the Lambs” came up empty-handed. Tech love will determine how far it’ll go, but there’s no question that “La La Land” is poised for a special Oscar night in a few weeks.

Can “La La Land” match “The Silence of the Lambs”? Share your thoughts in the comments!



What do you think?

Film Lover

Written by Joey Magidson

When he’s not obsessing over new Oscar predictions on a weekly basis, Joey is seeing between 300 and 350 movies a year. He views the best in order to properly analyze the awards race/season each year, but he also watches the worst for reasons he mostly sums up as "so you all don't have to". In his spare time, you can usually find him complaining about the Jets or the Mets. Still, he lives and dies by film. Joey's a voting member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.


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