Oscars: Contenders Make Closing Arguments Throughout Stressed-Out City of Stars

THR's awards analyst summarizes where and how nominees are courting votes in the final days before Oscar ballots are due.
Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty
(l-r) L.A.-Italia Film Fest founder Pascal Vicedomini, Mel Gibson, Sylvester Stallone and Mark Canton

I keep above my desk an article with the headline: "Stars become cooperative as Oscar fever strikes." It was published in 1961, but it is truer than ever today, as I was reminded this weekend. The 89th Oscars ceremony still is a week away, but ballots are due by 5 p.m. PT on Tuesday, and several categories still are too close to call, all of which explains why some very big names are showing up in some unexpected places during this homestretch.

Like many of his fellow nominees, La La Land's writer-director Damien Chazelle has been spending more time in his tux than out of it of late. On Saturday night, he attended the Cinema Audio Society Awards downtown at the Omni Hotel, not to present anything, but merely to support — through a very long show — his film's sound team, which ended up winning this strongest predictor of the best sound mixing Oscar category, in which musicals often do well.

When Chazelle arrived at The Hollywood Reporter's offices Sunday afternoon to record an episode of the "Awards Chatter" podcast with me, he was donning a monkey suit yet again, this time because he planned to head right from our meeting to the Beverly Hilton for the 69th Writers Guild of America Awards, at which his script was nominated for best original screenplay. It ended up losing to Barry Jenkins for Moonlight in the best original screenplay category, while Arrival won the WGA's adapted screenplay award. Moonlight's win was an encouraging show of support for that film on the heels of its win at last weekend's USC Scripter Awards. The silver lining for team La La Land: Unlike at the WGA Awards, Moonlight is Oscar-nominated in the best adapted screenplay category screenplay at the Oscars, where it won't go head-to-head against La La Land, which is nominated for original screenplay.

The Sunday before Oscars Sunday also brought, for the 12th consecutive year, the opening ceremony of the LA-Italia Film, Fashion, & Art Festival — one of the more colorful award ceremonies — to the TCL Chinese 6 Theatre. Every year, a bunch of nominees agree to accept a predetermined award in-person, not least because virtually every Italian and Italian-American in Hollywood turns up for Pascal Vicedomini's brainchild, including dozens of Academy members like actor Franco Nero, writer Bobby Moresco and songwriter Tony Renis (as well as non-Italian Academy members like producer Mark Canton, a Vicedomini friend who long has served as the event's honorary chair).

Among those lured to the event this year: Mel Gibson, who, for his work on Hacksaw Ridge, accepted the fest's Director of the Year Award from old pal Sylvester Stallone (who was given an award of his own, as well); Justin Hurwitz, this year's only triple Oscar nominee (he's up for La La Land's original score and original songs "City of Stars" and "Audition"), who accepted the Song of the Year Award for "City of Stars" from Academy members Renis, Mike Stoller, Charles Fox (one of the Academy's music branch governors) and William Goldstein, who heaped praise on Hurwitz before Vicedomini convinced him to play the tune on the piano; and, accepting the Film of the Year Award from Nero, Moresco and others, Lion distributor Harvey Weinstein (who said Italian neorealism greatly influenced the first hour of the film), child star Sunny Pawar (who received a Child Performer of the Year Award as well) and Oscar-nominated screenwriter Luke Davies and cinematographer Greig Fraser.

Also on Sunday night, downtown at the Westin Bonaventure, the Motion Picture Sound Editors presented its 64th annual Golden Reel Awards. And Monday night, just under the wire, the Costume Designers Guild will present its 19th CDG Awards. You can be sure that several Oscar nominees from higher-profile categories will show up to help in the celebration.

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