La La Land is up for a total of 14 Academy Awards on Sunday. The film has two chances of taking home the best original song award: for Ryan Gosling's performance of "City of Stars" and for Emma Stone’s showpiece, "Audition (The Fools Who Dream)."
Damien Chazelle, who is nominated for best director and best original screenplay, says he always thought the movie would resonate with audiences.
"It was hard movie to get financed, and there’s always that question about who is the audience," Chazelle said. "But I've always thought that musicals, at their heart, are a populist medium and that it's about being in this theater with a big crowd seeing people break into song. I think that's what it's all about."
An EGOT for Miranda?
Grammy, Tony, and Emmy award winner Lin Manuel Miranda, whose musical Hamilton dominated last year’s Tony Awards, is up for his song "How Far I’ll Go" from the Disney animated film Moana.
Miranda says the song – often referred to as the "I Wish" song in Disney animated musicals – hits on universal themes.
"What's extraordinary about 'Moana' and her journey is that we all have that one thing," he said. "It's not necessarily a call to the sea and it's not necessarily I want to write songs, but it is... there's a voice inside all of us," he said. "And it talks to us whether we like it or not and that's what that song is about, being 16 and the distance between you and your dreams, it seeming impossible, but listening to that voice anyway."
If he wins, Miranda will have an EGOT: Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony.
Sting Nominated for 'The Empty Chair'
Sting and J. Ralph are nominated for “The Empty Chair,” from the documentary Jim: The James Foley Story. Foley – a photojournalist reporting on the Syrian civil war – was captured in 2012 and later beheaded by the Islamic State group in 2014. J. Ralph says Sting came up with the song while sitting at his Thanksgiving dinner after seeing the film.
"He looked around the kitchen table and had this concept of if there was an empty chair, what would he do for his family if someone was missing and he would leave an empty chair," J. Ralph said. "That was his way in, and in less than 24 hours he sent back the finished lyrics. And I said to him, 'You've gotta try to at least make this look hard, man!' And he just laughed and said, 'Well, when you find a way in, it's very easy.'"
'Can't Stop the Feeling'
The fifth nominee for best original song is “Can’t Stop the Feeling” from another animated film, Trolls. The tune was written by Justin Timberlake, Max Martin and Karl Johan Schuster and performed by Timberlake and the film cast members including Anna Kendrick.
The Oscars will be handed out Sunday night in Hollywood.