Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone) in La La Land. Photo: Dale Robinette, Lionsgate

La La Land leads the field at the Oscars with 14 nominations

The Hollywood love story ties with Titanic and All About Eve for the most nominations, and pundits believe it will probably net 10 awards

The Hollywood awards season reaches its glittering climax at the Oscars on Sunday with La La Land , a starry-eyed love letter to the glamour of Old Hollywood, tipped for glory.

Millions of viewers around the world will tune in for Tinseltown’s biggest night, with Damien Chazelle’s romantic musical pinning its hopes on 14 nominations, tied with Titanic (1997) and All About Eve (1950) for the most ever.

“When you mention those movies, it makes my head spin even more than it’s spinning. I’m a little speechless,” Chazelle, 32, told trade magazine Variety when the nominations were announced in January.

Director Damien Chazelle with his best director Bafta award for La La Land. Photo: Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP
With voting among the Academy’s 6,000-plus members closed since Tuesday, the frenzied and at times schmaltzy campaigning that perennially marks the awards merry-go-round can no longer affect the results.

Analysts are backing La La Land, which stars Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling as an aspiring actress and a struggling jazz musician who fall in love in Los Angeles, to win most of the awards for which it has been nominated. However, it is expected to fall short of the record 11 statuettes achieved by Ben-Hur (1959), Titanic and The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003).

Gold Derby, a site that collates the awards predictions of experts and members of the public, has La La Land as a clear favourite in 10 categories, including best film, director, actress, score and song.

Stone, who has dominated the awards season, is expected to bag her first statuette despite late momentum for France’s Golden Globe winner Isabelle Huppert, nominated for rape-revenge thriller Elle.

“I think [Stone] will win but if she doesn’t, it’s because she makes it look so easy and because you don’t see her putting on an accent, putting on a fake nose, all those things,” said Stephen Galloway, editor-in-chief of trade paper The Hollywood Reporter.

“People like to see the acting. You don’t with her. That is actually why she is so great.”

Natalie Portman in a still from Jackie.
Stone also faces competition from Natalie Portman ( Jackie ), Ruth Negga (Loving) and Meryl Streep, 67, who earned her record-breaking 20th nomination for Florence Foster Jenkins .

Gosling is expected to lose out in the best actor category, however, to Casey Affleck ( Manchester by the Sea ) or Denzel Washington (Fences), who are seen as neck and neck.

“I really don’t know which way best actor will go,” says veteran film critic Anne Thompson, awards editor for movie blog IndieWire. “I keep changing my mind. And production design and costumes are also hard to call. If La La Land wins both, it gets 10. If it wins one, it gets nine.”

Crews rolled out plastic sheeting on Wednesday to protect the red carpet, with intermittent rain showers expected to hit Los Angeles on Sunday.

Michelle Williams and Casey Affleck in a still from Manchester by the Sea. Photo: Amazon Studios/TNS
La La Land – buoyed by a record seven Golden Globes in January – will vie for best picture with eight films including Arrival , family drama Manchester by the Sea and Moonlight , the coming-of-age tale of an African-American in Miami.

This year’s nominees reflected a push by the Academy to reward diversity after the #OscarsSoWhite controversy of the past two years that prompted calls for a boycott of the annual bash.

Black actors Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris are first-time nominees for Moonlight, while Fences hopefuls Washington and his co-star Viola Davis are both old hands, with 11 nominations between them and two wins for Washington.

From left: Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae), Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson) and Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) in aa still from Hidden Figures. Photo: Hopper Stone, Twentieth Century Fox
Also nominated is past winner Octavia Spencer, a best supporting actress candidate for Hidden Figures .

She, Davis and Harris compete against past Oscar winner Nicole Kidman ( Lion ) and Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea), who has been nominated three times previously.

For best supporting actor, Ali is leading the betting, ahead of Dev Patel (Lion), Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water), Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals) and Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea).

In the directing category, Mel Gibson’s surprise nomination for the critically acclaimed second world war biopic Hacksaw Ridge marks his comeback a decade after being ostracised by Hollywood for an anti-Semitic tirade.

Barry Jenkins (Moonlight) and Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester) are also in the running, but Chazelle is expected to go one better than his losing nomination in 2015 for writing Whiplash, to become the youngest best director winner ever.

Televised live by ABC and shown around the world, the 89th Academy Awards will be held at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre, and hosted by late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel.