Not that the backlash needed more fuel for the fire. But the record-tying 14 Academy Award nominations garnered by La La Land surely will generate a fresh round of interest and, yes, skepticism regarding writer-director Damien Chazelle’s rapturous ode to the movie musical genre, and to a city long mythologised as dream-crusher as well as land of artistic fulfillment.

Even before the nominations announcement, La La Land had positioned itself as this year’s best picture front-runner. It previously won the top prize (in musical/comedy) at the Golden Globes, as well as top prize from the New York and London film critics’ circles.

The Oscars nominations also glad-handed La La Land for best actress (Emma Stone, fully deserved), best actor (Ryan Gosling, less so), original screenplay and direction (Chazelle, and Chazelle) and, in the most predictable and deserved of all this year’s nominations, best original score (Justin Hurwitz).

Only All About Eve (1950) and Titantic (1997) scored as many nominations, 14, in the academy’s 89-year history. And if La La Land goes the distance and wins the best picture Oscar on Feb 26, it’ll be the first original musical (not based on a Broadway show) to do so since director Vincente Minnelli’s 1958 Gigi.

Best actor Oscar nominees for the 89th annual awards (from left) Casey Affleck, Andrew Garfield, Ryan Gosling, Viggo Mortensen and Denzel Washington. Photo: Reuters

Best actor Oscar nominees for the 89th annual awards (from left) Casey Affleck, Andrew Garfield, Ryan Gosling, Viggo Mortensen and Denzel Washington. Photo: Reuters

One of Chazelle’s key inspirations for his bittersweet musical romance La La Land, An American In Paris, was cited by the academy as Best Picture of 1951.

If Chazelle himself wins, he’ll be taking one for the team — the team comprising such beloved Oscar-ignored musicals across the decades as Singin’ In The Rain, The Band Wagon and, from France’s Jacques Demy, The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg and The Young Girls Of Rochefort. Ideas, visual and otherwise, from these and other films float through La La Land.

Arrival, director Denis Villeneuve’s elegant alien visitation drama starring a conspicuously un-nominated Amy Adams, tied with writer-director Barry Jenkins’ coming-of-age reverie Moonlight with eight nominations apiece, including Best Picture nods. Hacksaw Ridge, Lion and Manchester By The Sea tied with six.

Last year’s #OscarsSoWhite controversy, a viral phenomenon stoked by the latest, largely monochromatic nominee slate, has given way to a more diverse group.

Though Casey Affleck remains the man to beat in the best actor category (for Manchester By The Sea), Denzel Washington was nominated for Fences, which he also directed.

Best actress Oscar nominees for the 89th annual awards (from elft) Isabelle Huppert, Ruth Negga, Nalie Portman, Emma Stone and Meryl Streep. - Reuters

Best actress Oscar nominees for the 89th annual awards (from elft) Isabelle Huppert, Ruth Negga, Nalie Portman, Emma Stone and Meryl Streep. – Reuters

Viola Davis is the other Fences acting nominee, in the supporting actress category; her fellow nominees are Naomie Harris (Moonlight), Nicole Kidman (Lion), Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures) and Davis’ most likely competition, Michelle Williams (Manchester By The Sea).

In addition to Affleck, Washington and Gosling, the Best Actor slots were filled by Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge) and Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic).

Many were disappointed with the exclusion of Adams in the actress roster, just as many were disappointed Annette Bening was shut out of the same category, for her role in 20th Century Women.

Those who did get nominated, alongside Stone for La La Land: Isabelle Huppert, in her first-ever nomination, for the twisted rape revenge saga Elle; Ruth Negga (for Loving); Natalie Portman (Jackie); and in her 20th nomination, the “overrated” Meryl Streep (according to Donald J. Trump, US President), for the comedy Florence Foster Jenkins.

Streep’s nomination was no shocker. But this year, neither was the general recognition of the quality of smaller, intimate dramas, chiefly the gorgeous Moonlight and Manchester By The Sea.

Let the arguments, backlashes and backlashes to the backlashes begin. – Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service/Michael Philips