La La Land’s Oscar Nominations Ranked From Most to Least Likely to Win

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So, here’s the deal, La La Land got fourteen Oscar nominations last week (the most for any single movie, sharing the record with Titanic and All About Eve), which means it has the best chance in almost twenty years to break the record for the most Oscar wins by a single film. In order to do this, La La Land must win twelve Academy Awards. If it wins 11, it would still be one of the movies to win the most awards, but would have to share the record with three other movies: Ben-Hur, Titanic, and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, but honestly, where’s the fun in that?

So, what I’ve done is rank all fourteen of La La Land‘s nominations by their likelihood of winning, going from most likely to least likely to get an Oscar on February 26, trying to determine how likely it is that La La Land would be able to break the record.

Now, before we get into this, keep in mind that this ranking has nothing to do with my personal opinions about the quality of the movie La La Land, only with my assessment of how likely it is to triumph on Oscar night based on my experience studying the Oscars and other award shows. If you want to know my thoughts on La La Land, here’s my review. Otherwise, let’s get on with the show…

1. Sound Mixing
Musicals and music-related movies do extremely well in this category, especially musicals that are bout to win Best Picture. Similar winner in this category include Chicago, Ray, Dreamgirls, Les Miserables and Whiplash. I have the hardest time picturing any movie other than La La Land winning this category, which is ironic, since the sound mix has been one of the technical aspects of the film that has come into sharp criticism. I personally agree with those who think the mix was all out of whack and it was really hard to understand the lyrics (especially in the opening sequence), but I doubt Academy voters will care.
Likelihood of winning: extremely high

2. Original Score
This is, after all, an original musical. How crazy would it be for Oscar voters to love the movie in practically every category and not give it an award for its score? You can take this one to the bank.
Likelihood of winning: extremely high

3. Production Design
There is nothing particularly unbeatable about La La Land’s Production Design. This has more to do with the fact that none of the other nominees strike the balance of showy design and Best Picture front-runner that would be required to win. The closest to that is probably Arrival, but its design is so minimalist it probably doesn’t stand a chance.
Likelihood of winning: extremely high

4. Best Director
Even if there is a challenger to La La Land in the Best Picture category (and there’s not), director Damien Chazelle looks likely to prevail no matter what. And it makes sense, it is easy to see how anyone who loves the movie will see it as a triumph of a passionate director. It’s also the showiest and most technically impressive film in the category, which will surely help.
Likehood of winning: very high

5. Best Picture
I guess I can see a scenario in which the backlash starts to grow exponentially and a strong campaign allows for Moonlight or Hidden Figures to win, but who are we kidding? Oscar voters are in love with this movie.
Likelihood of winning: very high

6. Lead Actress: Emma Stone
Now that she’s won both the Golden Globe and the SAG Award, Stone is firmly on her way to winning an Oscar. Could she be stopped? The actresses most likely to challenge her with a “I’ve been nominated countless times and still haven’t won” type of strategy (a.k.a. Amy Adams and Annette Bening) didn’t even get nominated, Jackie‘s Natalie Portman is losing buzz, and a win for the wonderful Isabelle Huppert would be incredibly out of character for a group of people who like to avoid honoring foreign films as much as possible.
likelihood of winning: high

7. Editing
The last musical to win in this category was Chicago, and it was similarly a Best Picture front-runner. When you are going to win Best Picture, you most often than not also get the Editing award, so La La Land‘s chances here are good.
Likelihood of winning: high

8. Cinematography
Much like in the Director category, La La Land will benefit from being the “showiest” of the nominees. Complicated camerawork and the movie’s vision of Los Angeles as photographed during magic hour should be enough to win the Academy, who tends ot have a “more is more” mentality when it comes to the technical categories.
Likelihood of winning: high

9. Original Song: “City of Stars”
It only makes sense for La La Land to win the original song category, so why is it so relatively low in this list? Well, two reasons. The first is that two of La La Land‘s songs got nominated and could theoretically split the vote. The other is the fact that awards-magnet Lin-Manuel Miranda is also nominated in the category for his work in Moana. There is a bit of a push to get Miranda an Oscar as soon as possible, but Academy voters could as easily just wait until Hamilton is adapted into a movie, especially when they have their own pet project to shower with awards.
Likelihood of winning: more likely than not

10. Original Screenplay
This seemed like a likely place to give some love to Manchester by the Sea or even Hell or High Water, especially since people do not tend to single out the screenplay when talking about La La Land‘s virtues. Here’s a statistic for you, however: Every Best Picture winner has also won the Screenplay award for the past eleven years. Except for The Artist, but that was a silent film. Is a musical the same as a silent?
Likelihood of winning: more likely than not

11. Costume Design
La La Land‘s costumes are showy enough to take the award, but unlike other technical categories, this is one with some steep competition. I’m mostly thinking of Jackie, which isn’t nearly as beloved by the Academy, but does have the “historic lady” type of costumes that tend to win in this category. It falls in line with past winners such as Marie Antoinette, The Duchess, and The Young Victoria. I honestly could see either movie winning.
Likelihood of winning: toss-up

12. Sound Editing
Unlike in Sound Mixing, it’s extremely hard for musials to do well in Sound Editing (which used to be called Sound Effects Editing). In fact, not only has a musical never won this category, no musical has ever been nominated! (unless you count Aladdin, which maybe?). This is the technical category La La Land is most likely to lose (probably to a movie with lots of loud sound effects like Hacksaw Ridge), and yet, if voters get caught up in the sweep… there’s a clear possibility here.
Likelihood of winning: toss-up

13. Original Song: “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)”
Doesn’t this song kind of sound like “The Rainbow Connection”? Anyway, the marketing team for the movie is clearly positioning “City of Stars” as the song they want to see win, so it’s be a big surprise if “Audition” wins. A win for Moana (and Lin-Manuel Miranda) is probably more likely than a win for this song.
Likelihood of winning: low

14. Lead Actor (Ryan Gosling)
The lead actor race has turned into a bit of a free-for-all, with Gosling winning the Golden Globe for Comedy or Musical, Casey Affleck winning the Globe for Drama, and Denzel Washington winning the SAG. Any of these three could win the Oscar, but while Gosling could benefit from a La La Land sweep, it’s super rare for male romantic leads to win Oscars. I’m afraid it’s most likely than one with the actors with the more dramatic parts will take home the gold. 
Likelihood of winning:
 low

In conclusion, La La Land is in a very good position to break that record.

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