There was a time not too long ago when almost anyone and everyone who went to see La La Land absolutely loved it to bits. However, most of the backlash surrounding La La Land today only popped up after it equalled the record nominations for an Academy Award – 14 to be exact. Detractors started to question how a film like La La Land, essentially a tribute to the old-school Hollywood, could possibly tower over the likes of Moonlight, Manchester by the Sea and Arrival, pieces that have opened the floodlights on the human spirit and the difficulties minorities face in today’s society.
Well the thing is, Hollywood adores movies about itself and Hollywood loves nothing more than that. They are pretty transparent about that topic without actually saying anything explicitly. Just take a look at the history of winners in the last few years. In 2012, The Artist, a French romantic-comedy drama stylized in the form of a black and white silent film won over the likes of The Help and War Horse; films which focused on racial themes and war respectively. In the same line of thought, this year’s Oscar is basically a repeat of 2012.
So when La La Land, a movie about Hollywood, with its glitz and glamour is presented before The Academy’s eyes, it becomes an automatic shoehorn for multiple nominations. You can’t really shy away from that when The Academy themselves are unashamed about that.
And then came the big bold word plastered over the headlines of virtually every article about La La Land – ‘overrated’. But the truth is, La La Land is anything but. Yes, that is a big pill to swallow for the ‘overrated’ apologists. This desperate attempt to jump on the hype train is especially apparent when some journalists accuse La La Land of being overrated, citing reasons like ‘when Sebastian is not whitesplaining jazz, he is mansplaining it to Mia’ as a glaring flaw in the movie. It doesn’t make any sense since the film doesn’t contain anything remotely discriminatory, offensive or even controversial. None of this hate was present before La La Land equalled the record nominations. It is as if anything that goes mainstream is immediately bestowed upon infinite waves of hate by the ‘cooler alternative clique’.
Ironic as it may be, I am certain that many of the people who despise the film haven’t actually seen it. I have self-proclaimed ‘lovers of film’ say straight to my face how I am a pretentious piece of shit for enjoying La La Land when they haven’t heard of Manchester by the Sea when I asked them out for a viewing. It is pretty bewildering to say the least, but people hate what they don’t understand.
Contrary to popular belief, La La Land is more than just a beautiful, soaring old-school romantic musical. Sure La La Land doesn’t have the best singing, the best dancing or the best jazz. But you can’t ignore the lovely chemistry between the two leads, the enchanting story and the bittersweet ending to top everything off. Not to mention the addicting soundtrack (which I have been listening to pretty much every day). La La Land offers an optimistic breath of fresh air in the desolate wasteland that is the genre of classic musicals and it truly is a gift to The Academy who values its storied traditions. People simply don’t appreciate how mesmerizing the film is in an era where musicals are a thing of the past.
One of the biggest reasons behind the massive backlash is the fact that La La Land doesn’t appear to be as important a film as the likes of Moonlight, Manchester by the Sea or Arrival. Because frankly to the common man, La La Land doesn’t seem to possess any intellectually stimulating themes on the surface. Moonlight offers a glimpse into an identity rarely seen. Manchester by the Sea delivers a full-bodied story about regret. Arrival celebrates philosophy and inquiry. So what does La La Land have to offer to be on par with the rest of the politically heavy films? Well, if you look real closely beyond the chirping and tapping, La La Land has an underlying story of an obsessed artist looking for success in an unforgiving industry. The huge sacrifices he has to make in his relationships and his craft eventually translates to the ultimate success of a distinguished artist.
Such a narrative should be able to strike a chord with most viewers as it depicts a realistic scenario that almost everyone goes through in life; where they may put on a seemingly unyielding attitude towards achieving their dream against all odds but end up deciding to ditch their dreams in order to pursue a different kind of happiness.
If it hasn’t already dawned on you, I am a firm advocate of La La Land’s nomination. It is most definitely not overrated in any sense of the word. Filmgoers have to understand that in this turbulent political climate, not every Best Picture frontrunner has to be based on real-world events, inconvenient truths, or more specifically, showing people of colour rising above the great white saviour. It is perfectly fine to have a film while not possessing an equally thought-provoking theme, sweep you off your feet, more than what other films do.