Oscars 2017: Will Singaporean Ai-Ling Lee make history?

The streets around the Dolby Theater, where the ceremony will take place, are cordoned off.
The streets around the Dolby Theater, where the ceremony will take place, are cordoned off.ST PHOTO: JOHN LUI

LOS ANGELES - In a few hours, it will be seen if a Singaporean will win an Oscar, or perhaps two. And if Ms Ai-Ling Lee wins, she might be making history along the director of the film on which she worked, the musical La La Land.

The film's director, Damien Chazelle, is expected to bag the Best Director Oscar, and if that happens, he will become the youngest-ever person with that award.

Ms Lee, 38, is nominated in two categories - Best Sound Editing alongside Mildred Iatrou Morgan, and Best Sound Mixing with Andy Nelson and Steve A. Morrow.

She and Morgan are also the first all-female team to be nominated in their category.

If Ms Lee wins, she will not be the first Singaporean with an Oscar. In 2013, Nickson Fong, an animator, won a Scientific and Technical Achievement Award for a technique that revolutionised visual effects.

The momentum on Sunday (Monday, Feb 27, Singapore time) will be behind La La Land, which at 14 nominations, gives it a tie with Titanic (1997) and All About Eve (1950) for the most nods. With its global box office of over US$360 million (S$505 million), it is also the most commercially successful of the Best Picture nominees.

This will also be the first Academy Awards held since Mr Donald Trump became President of The United States.

His recent immigration bans have kept out guests from places like Syria and Iran.

 

The evening's host, comedian Jimmy Kimmel, will likely stick to safe, non-political topics. But if recent Golden Globes are anything to go by, a few stars will be tempted to use the podium, with its televised reach into 225 countries, to condemn his actions.

Or, if they prefer to be more positive, they might lean heavily on how their film teaches inclusivity and the acceptance of those who are different.

The streets around the Dolby Theater, where the ceremony will take place, are cordoned off, but at 10am on Sunday, fans hoping to catch a glimpse, or perhaps even get an selfie or autograph of a star, could be seen waiting by the fenced-off zones.

Most of the Los Angeles natives that I spoke to were scornful of the Academy Awards. They tend to see it as a gathering of the elites eager to congratulate themselves. The Academy's love of La La Land, a film that celebrates the Hollywood dream factory, is proof of that sentiment, they say.

But on the street, there are less cynical out-of-towners such as teenager, Ms Sierra Charles, who is hoping for a Best Picture win for her favourite film, Hidden Figures. It is a biopic about the contributions of African-American women to the American space programme in the 1960s. With Trump-style conservatism is at its height, the film's message is inspiring, she says.


Ms Sierra Charles is hoping for a Best Picture win for her favourite film, Hidden Figures. ST PHOTO: JOHN LUI

"It's just so powerful. It's a good movie to come out during this time."

The 89th Annual Academy Awards airs on HBO (StarHub TV Channel 601) on Monday at 8am Singapore time, with an encore telecast the same day at 7pm.