Lady Bird receives Oscar nomination for best picture and four other categories

“Lady Bird,” the “love letter to Sacramento” by the city’s new favorite daughter Greta Gerwig, was nominated Tuesday for five Academy Awards, adding fresh laurels to what is already the most successful movie set in the capital city.

Gerwig received a best director nod, becoming only the fifth woman ever nominated in that category.

“Lady Bird” received best picture and best original screenplay nominations. The film’s star, Saoirse Ronan, was nominated for best actress, while Laurie Metcalf was nominated for best supporting actress.

The film captured all five nominations for which Oscar prognosticators had suggested it was a strong contender. In the best picture category, “Lady Bird” will go head-to-head with “The Shape of Water,” a fantasy about the relationship between an amphibious creature and a mute woman, which received an Oscar-leading 13 nominations on Tuesday.

Other strong best picture contenders include “Dunkirk,” which received eight nominations, and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” which garnered seven nods.

Set in Sacramento in 2002, “Lady Bird” is loosely based on Gerwig’s coming-of-age experience as a senior at St. Francis High School. The movie takes place in Sacramento with cameos of several landmarks, including the Tower Bridge, Tower Theatre and Club Raven.

The film’s Oscar nominations touched off a celebratory vibe throughout the city on Tuesday, with Mayor Darrell Steinberg lauding Gerwig and her film at his State of Downtown address and Marquee Media devoting space on 11 electronic billboards around Sacramento to congratulate Gerwig.

As anyone who saw “Lady Bird” might suspect, Gerwig still has enormous pride in Sacramento despite leaving the city.

“I knew I wanted to make a movie that took place in Sacramento,” Gerwig said Tuesday in a phone interview with The Sacramento Bee, still buzzing from the early morning announcement. “I love Sacramento. I want to show it as being beautiful.”

Gerwig, 34, grew up in the River Park neighborhood of Sacramento and attended school at three high-achieving East Sacramento campuses: Phoebe Hearst Elementary, Sutter Middle School and St. Francis. After graduating, she left for Barnard College in New York.

Are more cinematic love letters on the way?

“I would like to make a quartet of films in Sacramento,” Gerwig said. “I have three more before the quartet is done.”

She said it was truly special to start the film’s journey with a screening at the Tower Theatre in Land Park. But she didn’t know how well the film resonated outside Sacramento until a screening in London.

“So many people say, ‘I’m not from Sac but I have a Sacramento in my heart,’ ” Gerwig said. The film in November set a record for positive reviews on the movie site Rotten Tomatoes.

At the Golden Globes this month, “Lady Bird” won two big prizes – best motion picture for a musical or comedy and best actress in the same genre. In her acceptance speech, Gerwig thanked the people of Sacramento, who “gave me roots and wings and helped me to get to where I am today.”

Some residents gave thanks back on Tuesday.

Jeff Joaquin, a co-owner of Marquee Media, said he and his wife loved “Lady Bird” and wanted to return the love she showed the city, especially after the Golden Globes speech. On 11 billboards, his company put into rotation an ad that congratulates Gerwig and “Lady Bird” on their nominations.

“We needed to do something with this – our way of saying thanks,” Joaquin said.

The billboards are located throughout the region on Interstate 5, Highway 50, Interstate 80, Highway 99 and near the Sacramento International Airport.

Gerwig said Tuesday she was proud to serve as the latest inspiration for other female directors.

“The women who have been nominated before me were such an inspiration,” she said. “What I hope is that women of all ages say, ‘I want to direct my film.’ I couldn’t be more grateful. I hope it is an inspiration.”

The nominations mark another notch in Gerwig’s rapid ascent into Hollywood’s upper echelon. She got her start through a film subgenre called mumblecore, largely improvised, low-budget films that emphasize dialogue over plot.

The 2012 film “Frances Ha” earned Gerwig her first Golden Globe nomination for acting. She also shared a writing credit on the film, which was partially filmed in Sacramento.

Besides the Academy Awards and Golden Globes, “Lady Bird” was nominated for awards from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, Screen Actors Guild, Producers Guild of America, Writers Guild of America and Broadcast Film Critics Association.

In early predictions, the analysis site FiveThirtyEight placed “Lady Bird” third in the running for best picture behind “The Shape of Water” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” based on other film awards and historical indicators over the last decade. It also pegged Gerwig third behind “The Shape of Water” director Guillermo del Toro and “Dunkirk” director Christopher Nolan.

The site noted that a spoiler is always possible, as the whims of Hollywood insiders are hard to predict.

The Academy Awards will air on ABC on March 4.

Ed Fletcher: 916-321-1269, @NewsFletch

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