Philadelphia will have a strong showing at the Academy Awards Sunday night. Not only are there many nominees with Philly-centric ties, but a bunch are even favored to take home the coveted bald, gold statuette.
If you want fill your Oscar pool ballot with local picks, its best to put your money on La La Land. Our movie critic Gary Thompson even says it's a shoo-in for Best Picture.
Friends' Central grad Benj Pasek wrote the lyrics to many of the songs in La La Land and is nominated twice in the Best Song category — along with composer Justin Hurwitz and writing partner Justin Paul — for "City of Stars" and "Audition (The Fools Who Dream)."
Pasek took home the Golden Globe for best original song for penning the lyrics to "City of Stars." "We never thought we'd be a part of an original movie musical," Pasek said on stage in Los Angeles while accepting the Golden Globe. "This is for musical theater nerds everywhere." It’s a good year for Pasek. He also has a well-reviewed show on Broadway, Dear Evan Hansen, based on a troubled kid he knew of in high school. Toby Zinman called the show "heartrending and gorgeous."
Penn grad John Legend, who also co-starred in and executive produced La La Land, will sing Pasek's songs during the Oscars telecast. Legend's longtime (and local) friends, Wynnewood's Mike Jackson and Ty Stiklorius, who he met at Penn, executive produced La La Land as well. Fun fact: Jackson was a Daily News Sexy Single.
But that's not all…
Legend won't be the only Penn grad onstage. If La La Land takes home Best Picture, producer Marc Platt, a 1979 Penn alum, will help accept the statuette.
And Damien Chazelle was nominated for best director and best original screenplay for La La Land. He took home the Golden Globes last month for both of those efforts. Chazelle spent a few nursery school years in Haverford before his academic parents decamped the family to Princeton. This is his second film after the well-received Whiplash, which netted Chazelle his first Oscar nod for best adapted screenplay at the 87th annual ceremony.
But La La Land isn't the only place Philadelphia is repped.
Hébert Peck produced potential Best Documentary I Am Not Your Negro about the great writer James Baldwin. Peck, whose brother Raoul directed the film, is a profession at Rutgers and lives in Voorhees.
Joe's Violin, the 24 minute short documentary nominee, was backed by Peter Kenney, a Philly ad man-turned-producer. The doc is about the relationship formed between a Holocaust survivor and a young inner city girl through music.
Sidney Kimmel, the Philly philanthropist (hence, the Kimmel Center), also has a presence at Sunday's awards. His production company backed Hell or High Water, the neo-Western that netted an award for Best Original Screenplay, Best Editing and Best Picture. While it has no shot of winning, film critic Gary Thompson says, it would be his pick to take home Academy's biggest award.
See whether these Philly guys take home the gold at 8:30 p.m. Feb. 26 on ABC. Jimmy Kimmel is set to host.