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‘Lady Bird’ gets snubbed at the Oscars, and that’s so Sacramento

For many native Sacramentans, "Lady Bird" was the quintessential coming-of-age story: a young girl dreaming of brighter lights in a bigger city, only to realize what she was missing once she left the nest.

"Lady Bird" cost $10 million to assemble and earned $48.5 million at domestic box offices, the most of any movie from A24 film studio. It was directed by Greta Gerwig, a St. Francis High School alumna. The film set a record for the most positive Rotten Tomatoes reviews before a negative one appeared.

And on Oscar Sunday, it ended the same way so many other Sacramento stories seem to: Falling just short of the ultimate prize.

"Lady Bird" went 0-for-5 on Sunday night, missing out on Academy Awards for best picture, best actress (Saoirse Ronan), best supporting actress (Laurie Metcalf), best director and best screenplay. The final outcome wasn't a huge surprise to Oscar insiders and didn't derail the St. Francis watch party, but wasn't the ending Sacramento was rooting for.

This oft-overlooked, perennial underdog city shouldn't feel too bad for itself, though. Gerwig has already said she wants to direct three more films here, giving Sacramento a few more shots at Oscar gold.

The same "close, but no cigar" narrative has played out several times over the last few decades, though not all these chapters have closed for good.

2001-02 Western Conference Finals

Kings fans know this tale by heart. Robert Horry's shot. The Los Angeles Lakers taking 18 more free throws than the Kings in the fourth quarter of Game 6 to eventually win by four points.

And just like Mike Bibby's nose meeting Kobe Bryant's elbow, the Kings' title hopes were busted. Chris Webber tore his ACL in the conference semifinals the following year and wasn't the same in 2003-04. The core of Webber, Bibby, Doug Christie, Peja Stojakovic, Bobby Jackson and Vlade Divac began departing one by one through trades and free agency, and replacements such as Bonzi Wells and Ron Artest weren't able to replicate their success.

Know what film did win an Oscar on Sunday night? An animated short titled "Dear Basketball," written and narrated by a certain recently retired Lakers shooting guard.

Push for Amazon's HQ2

What started as an economic development pipe dream gained traction when several media outlets pegged Sacramento as a dark horse candidate for Amazon's second headquarters.

Sacramento-area cities offered $500 million in job grants, land donations and infrastructure financing to the Seattle-based company, which has promised a $5 billion investment and 50,000 high-paying jobs to whatever city can curry its favor.

Los Angeles was the only California city to make Amazon's list of 20 finalists for HQ2, to Greater Sacramento Economic Council president/CEO Barry Broome's surprise. In the end, Sacramento's package was eye-popping by local standards but fell in the middle of finalist cities such as Dallas, which has not openly offered financial incentives, and Newark, N.J., which is prepared to shell out $7 billion should Amazon come there.

The Sacramento Raiders?

When Al Davis' relationship with Los Angeles soured in the late 1980s and early 1990s, he came darn close to moving the Raiders into the Central Valley.

The Sacramento City Council unanimously voted to offer Davis $50 million to move the team. Davis would have become the Kings' managing partner and kept majority ownership of the Raiders, former Kings owner Gregg Lukenbill said on a podcast earlier this year, in which he described the agreement as "a done deal."

Davis was slow to commit, though, and then-Mayor Anne Rudin later pulled the offer in March 1990. That left Oakland as Davis' only other viable option, and that's where he moved the team in 1995.

Lukenbill also inquired about buying the Oakland Athletics and moving the team to Sacramento in 1978, when Charlie O. Finley's tight-fisted habits had effectively disintegrated the championship core he assembled at the beginning of the decade. But Lukenbill balked at Finley's $10 million asking price, which ended up being $2.7 million below what the owner got for his ballclub in 1980.

A hole in the ground

"The tallest residential project on the West Coast" was supposed to transform Capitol Mall's western end. Twin 53-story buildings would have 400 condominiums apiece as well as a 200-room hotel and upscale retail shops. Despite minimum prices of $360,000, nearly half the condos had down payments on them before serious construction began.

There were two problems with developer John Saca's proposal, though: infrastructure and timing. Faulty concrete pilings contributed to an extra $70 million in unanticipated costs, which hurt especially hard as the housing crisis and subsequent recession began taking shape in 2006's latter half.

CalPERS cut off Saca's funding in January 2007 and ultimately spent $60 million on the project and its associated debts. An empty plot nicknamed "hole in the ground" has sat at Third and Capitol for the last decade.

The agency and CIM Design Group. announced a new, 30-story proposal for the site in 2016, which would rank among the tallest downtown buildings but fall well short of the previously advertised skyscrapers. Construction on the mixed-use building, which is expected to include about 600,000 square feet of office space as well as 100 apartment units, could start later this year.

MLS flirtation

The verdict's still out on this one, but things don't as look good as they once did. Sacramento Republic FC came out of the gate strong in its bid to become Major League Soccer's 26th franchise, and fans cheered outside the league's New York office in December as team owners and civic leaders delivered a pitch Mayor Darrell Steinberg said "couldn't have gone better."

MLS execs had their eyes on bigger fish, though. The league announced Sacramento's bid had considerably less funding than its competitors', leading former Hewlett Packard CEO Meg Whitman to withdraw from her investment.

Nashville has already been selected for one of the two expansion slots, and Cincinnati and Detroit – both backed by billionaires – want next-level soccer as well. At the end of February, MLS commissioner Dan Courtemanche said the league had made the most progress in talks with Cincinnati, the only second-tier soccer franchise with a fan base rivaling Republic FC's.

Sacramento leaders have reportedly seriously talked with at least three billionaires about bankrolling a railyard stadium and paying the $150 million expansion fee. If Sacramento doesn't come up just short again, it will be because of those whales' pocketbooks.

Benjy Egel: (916) 321-1052, begel@sacbee.com

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