I don’t know what to think anymore about La La Land. Fortunately, a number of think pieces tell me I should hate everything about it.
Dear family and friends,
I want to take this opportunity to say how much I love you and value our relationship. It’s been a wonderful, wild journey. I never envisioned the end coming so soon or for these reasons, but I want our last thoughts and words to be words of love and gratitude. Because in case you haven’t heard, La La Land is positioned to win the Best Picture Oscar® at tonight’s Academy Awards. And if you believe the headlines, the world as we know is going to end.
Because La La Land winning Best Picture represents everything wrong in the world. First Trump winning, then Beyoncé losing the Grammys. And now La La Land. At least, that’s what I’ve been told for weeks and weeks leading up to the Oscars® ceremony. At first the backlash was understandable, after setting a record for Golden Globe wins and especially given its record-tying fourteen Oscar® nominations. It was the clear frontrunner. So I expected the backlash that comes with any Oscar® favorite.
But then the reasons for the backlash became more and more absurd, vitriolic, and unfair. I get it if someone likes another film more than La La Land (which many people do). I get it if someone liked but didn’t love La La Land (which many people did). But many people are arguing that a La La Land win or a Moonlight loss is a larger commentary on our culture and values (and visa versa).
Here are just a few examples of some of the unfair or wildly absurd pieces on La La Land.
Amrou Al-Kadhi wrote an article for the Independent UK connecting a La La Land win to Trump’s policies of exclusion, hatred, and white mythology. He shares his frustrations as an Arab actor who constantly has to play terrorist roles, and declares “If La La Land cleans up at the Oscars®, I’m done.”
Paste Magazine, Wired, and Indiewire are just a few publications that criticized the film for its lack of racial and sexual diversity, accusing the film of racist undertones. I think there is a degree of legitimacy to this concern, but I would encourage folks to avoid these puff pieces and instead read Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s thoughtful and balanced article he wrote for The Hollywood Reporter.
But the biggest hack piece came from David Cox at the Guardian who wrote,
“The Oscar® favourite is a fake movie. Poke your finger through the sugary icing and you find no cake beneath – no heart, no soul, no joy, no warmth, no wonder.”
Not content to rag on the film Cox directs his disdain he shifts his focus to those who love and connect with the film.
“Still, La La Land is a film for our time. With our self-nurturing, self-promotion, clicktivism, Twitterstorms, sexts and selfies, we are all narcissists now. It is easy to see why the Academy’s voters have embraced La La Land. Many of them will have followed a path all too similar to Seb and Mia’s. Seeing their life-choices vindicated by the witchcraft of their trade must have been something of a comfort.”
You know you don’t have to hate La La Land in order to love another film. You can like Moonlight more than La La Land. You can like Lion more than La La Land. I’m not sure if you can like Manchester by the Sea more because it’s mostly about straight white people (but there aren’t any terrorists in the film). In fact, why not write more pieces praising the other noteworthy films? Because our culture loves to tear things down.
Now that I think about it, all the other nominated films should be sending the producers of La La Land boxes of bourbon and champaigne, because the backlash directed as La La Land has allowed other films to mosey along with very little negative buzz. But just think for a minute what the backlash might be should any of the other Best Picture nominees be the frontrunner. I had several for each film but I am not printing them because they are absurd and far reaching.
My biggest question about the La La Land backlash is whether or not Trump’s election had anything to do with a sudden reappraisal of the film? No, I’m not arguing like some conspiracy or interference from Russia (although I wouldn’t be totally surprised if an article suggested such a conspiracy).
No, I’m wondering if the climate of our nation and our Commander-in-Chief has suddenly made films and awards more important than they really are or should be. It hold a 93% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 93 rating on Metacritic. It’s one of the best reviewed films of the year. So what changed? Well, I keep reading articles suggesting that a Moonlight win would send a strong message to our President about inclusion and acceptance. Maybe it would. I also read that a La La Land win is further evidence of a narcissistic, entitled, self-congratulatory Hollywood culture. I have news for you. If Moonlight wins, Hollywood will be fawning over itself and will also be dripping with self-congratulatory entitlement and validation.
Think about it, a film about a gay black kid winning Best Picture. I can see how the Hollywood elite will be massaging each other’s shoulders and egos, championing themselves as the forbearers of progressiveness and inclusion. Doesn’t matter what wins tonight; Hollywood will be patting themselves on the shoulders.
So, in the event that La La Land doesn’t win big tonight at the Oscars®, or if the cultural commentators aren’t correct with their apocalyptic predictions, you and I will wake up tomorrow to the same problems and struggles that ail our nation – meaning whatever film wins the Best Picture won’t have done a damn thing to our nation’s struggles. May the best film win! And please be safe.
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