Will voters embrace escapism or realism this Oscar season?

If you follow the awards race, you’ve probably heard in some regard that Best Picture is sewn up, with La La Land already engraved on the statue. Now, I absolutely love that film (more on that soon) and see it as the odds on favorite, but there’s a chance that the Oscar season isn’t quite that cut and dry. Especially considering the turn that the election took, we might see voters respond to that in some way. As such, today’s article will be me sort of thinking out loud about if there’s going to be a twist in the Best Picture race. Read on to find out what I’m musing about below, and just keep in mind, lots can still happen…

Basically, members of the Academy can either go with escapism or realism when casting their ballot. The suddenly dark state of the world, and in particular, the United States, might have voters opting to put their head in the sand, honoring something that transports them away for a few hours. I don’t mean that in a derogatory sense either. We all need to escape at times. That being said, they might also choose to face reality head on and honor a more “issue” driven film. There are options for both, though the current frontrunner decidedly falls into one category way more than the other. No points for guessing which one.

Nicole Kidman LION
Should voters opt to escape from reality, La La Land is sitting rather pretty. In some ways, Lion benefits from this as well. The musical romance, however, is just tailor made to whisk you away for a little over two hours. Besides just being one of the absolute best films of the year so far, it makes your heart soar. There are definitely people who need that right now, including within the Academy’s membership. Prior to the election, it was looking like a cake walk for Damien Chazelle’s musical, with Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone dancing their way to the stage. Now, it’s no less likely, but there’s just a debate to be had about what voters have in their minds right now.

moonlight two
Now, if reality seeps in, there’s an avenue for Fences or Moonlight to perhaps make a run. I still don’t think they suddenly become the frontrunner, but there’s a case you could make. Moonlight especially might do as well, if not better than, La La Land during the early precursor season. Critics groups likely will flock to it. That could set up a situation where the Guilds have a choice to make. If they opt to embrace realism and try to make a statement, Barry Jenkins could see his movie shoot up in odds for a Best Picture win. I wouldn’t call it incredibly likely, but you can’t dismiss it either. It just has to make the necessary moves.

Don’t get me wrong, La La Land is very much in the driver’s seat. Anyone not betting on it to win right now is probably kidding themselves. Now, if the precursors deliver something different, then we can re-evaluate. While there will be competition from things like Fences, Hell or High Water, Jackie, Lion, Manchester by the Sea, Moonlight, etc, they’re all behind La La Land. That’s not even including other contenders like 20th Century Women, Arrival, Hidden Figures, Live by Night, Loving, Miss Sloane, Passengers, Patriot’s Day, Silence, Sully, and more. Time will tell, but just keep all of this in mind. La La Land is in the pole position, but other cars heading potentially towards that final straight away might try and pull the upset, especially Moonlight. Sit tight…

Stay tuned to find out how voters end up seeing things this season!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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