Moonlight, LaLaLand separate from award season pack
In Hollywood’s early but rapidly solidifying awards season, two films radically different in tone and tune have separated themselves from the pack: Moonlight and La La Land.
Moonlight, Barry Jenkins’ lyrical coming-of-age tale, added to its already hefty haul on Sunday, taking best picture from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. The group also gave best director to Jenkins, best supporting actor to Mahershala Ali and best cinematography to James Laxton.
Those three awards mirrored the picks last week by the LAFAA’s East Coast corollary, the New York Film Critics Circle. But the New York critics ultimately chose Damien Chazelle’s La La Land as the year’s best film, whereas the LA critics had La La Land, a colorful ode to the group’s hometown, as runner-up for best picture and best director.
Which film will have the edge in the coming weeks when the more crucial industry groups begin ringing in with their awards is an open question. Moonlight, which also triumphed at the Gotham Awards, is perhaps the year’s most critically celebrated film. Across three chapters, it follows a boy growing up black, gay and poor in Miami.
But La La Land, starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, is only just hitting theaters. (It opens Friday.) It has widely been seen as the best-picture frontrunner since winning the audience award at the Toronto International Film Festival. While Moonlight is bracingly intimate, the song-and-dance La La Land is a starry, show-stopping crowd-pleaser.
La La Land is also likely to dominate in sheer number of nominations, thanks to its lead performances, high-level of craft and original songs. It was honored by the LA critics for the musical work of Justin Hurwitz, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul.
The only film that has rivaled either in the early awards is Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea. The National Board of Review bestowed its top award on the New England drama, and the film’s star, Casey Affleck, has been the most common pick so far.
And despite a crowded bestactress field, including Stone for La La Land and Natalie Portman for Jackie, the early favorite has been French actress Isabelle Huppert, star of both Elle and Things to Come. She was the choice of the LA and New York critics, as well as the Gotham Independent Film Awards.
Next week, the Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild nominations will be announced, likely giving the current favorites additional momentum.