As we look back on the Golden Globes and ahead to the meat of awards season, the favorites are beginning to pull away from the pack.
As expected, “Moonlight” and “La La Land” both won their respective categories, squaring up for a rematch in February on Oscar night. Looking ahead, odds are good one of the two will take Best Picture next month, but there’s other things to look at going forward.
“La La Land”
While Best Picture will almost certainly be a horse race between “Moonlight” and “La La Land,” there’s speculation that “La La Land” will swipe the prize despite more universal acclaim for “Moonlight.” Hollywood loves movies about the creative process and musicals, and “La La Land” is both. The fact Damien Chazelle’s musical beat out Barry Jenkins for Best Director at the Golden Globes does not bode well for Moonlight, seeing as Chazelle is likely to beat him again at the Oscars. The fact that “La La Land” waltzed out with a myriad of other awards also speaks to a growing sense of momentum, with leads Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling winning their respective categories of best actress and actor in a musical or comedy.
To put it bluntly, “Moonlight” is just better than “La La Land.” The acting is better, the cinematography is better and the concept is better, and the story of a gay black man is more useful in today’s climate than a white guy mansplaining why white jazz is so much better than anything else.
“Manchester by the Sea”
Gosling probably won’t win at the Oscars thanks to Casey Affleck’s tour de force performance in “Manchester by the Sea.” Despite talk of continuing sexual harassment allegations against Affleck, he got his Globe. The buzz around his leading status aside, he seems primed to be the only big win for “Manchester by the Sea,” and rightly so. It was not a bad film, but it was also not a great one. Affleck was excellent, but the plot surrounding him was conventional to say the least. It’s reminiscent of “Brooklyn” from last year: a solid film, but not exceptional in any noticeable way. Much like the rest of 2016, a lot of the film industry was a tidal wave of crap, so the awards-worthy movie pool was pretty shallow.
Those films forgotten
Many of the early contenders, such as “Birth of a Nation” and “Jackie” were talked up for months, and then mostly fell under the radar. “La La Land” and “Moonlight” stole the spotlight from any other relevant Best Picture contenders, and they are developing into a “Birdman”/”Boyhood” rivalry. There’s actually a pleasing amount of parallels: A revolutionary coming-of-age story fights against an inferior movie about the performing arts, featuring Emma Stone.
In the long, checkered history of the Academy Awards and its peers, just being better is rarely a guarantee of winning. Just ask “The Social Network,” “Pulp Fiction” and, of course, “Citizen Kane.” Until the nominations come out and provide greater clarity, all we can do is speculate. Or curse Emma Stone if we like.