Opinion Piece: La La Land and the Great Oscars Robbery

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone made for quite the double act in La La Land

Piece by Eddie on 07/04/2017

While it became the “it” thing to do towards the later end of awards season this year to say how La La Land is overrated and didn’t deserve the hype, I am one that is a firm believer that Damien Chazelle’s loveable and entertaining modern day take on the musical is a film that will not only stand the test of time, but will go down as one of the most unfortunate Best Picture runner’s up of all time, made even more notable due to the fact it was a winner, for a minute or two at least.

Pipped at the post in spectacular fashion in February’s Academy Awards ceremony by the low budget yet critically adored Moonlight, many had pencilled La La Land in as a sure fire winner of the Academy’s biggest gong and while many cheered on the Oscar voters for going against the grain with Moonlight’s win, I can’t escape the feeling that La La Land was robbed of an award it deserved.

But please understand, I’m certainly not saying that Moonlight is a bad film. Far from it.

Moonlight’s a fine drama, but is it really a film that will be discussed in the coming years?

For a film of its ilk and budget, Barry Jenkin’s impressive effort and well-acted tale is an above average production that just so happens to touch on many a key subject that the Academy had been accused of ignoring over the years (is it likely that this influenced voters? You’d be silly to think not) and really after the years previous controversies, it was always going to be that the Academy would be looking to showcase to the world that it was rewarding a diverse range of productions, evidenced by its eclectic range of nominees.

While I have issues with the Academy’s recent rewarding of different Best Directors to the film that wins Best Picture, the problem I have with Moonlight’s win is, is that it doesn’t come across (or didn’t strike me) as a film that will be discussed and spoken about in the years to come, like it seems La La Land will be.

La La Land is a magical movie, a reinvigorating of a mostly dead genre and a technically marvellous example of how wit, heart and energy can transform an on paper cookie cutter idea into something else entirely and having personally seen Chazelle’s film on the big screen 3 times during its cinematic run (the film really was tailored made for the sights and sounds of the big screen) I can say with assurance that the film loses none of its beguiling charms over multiple viewings, should you allow yourself to be taken away by its seemingly simple, yet layered power of dreaming big and giving life your best shot.

Ryan Gosling, star of La La Land reacts to the Oscar’s night Best Picture madness

Chazelle’s passion project will be the type of film that budding filmmakers turn to for inspiration in years to come, Moonlight will to (and other Best Picture nominees like Hacksaw Ridge and Arrival in different ways) be a film that also inspires young up and coming filmmakers but La La Land’s mix of magically constructed moments that are filled with pitch perfect acting turns, instantly classic musical scores and numbers and a genuine affection for its medium is the type of fully formed filmmaking that stands the test of time and will be perfect fodder for film lovers studying the art form to delve into and take notes on.

At the end of the day, yes, La La Land is nostalgic, formulaic in certain aspects and absolutely not for everyone (especially those that don’t like their films with added musical cues) but I for one know that Chazelle’s breath of fresh air came at the perfect time for a film fan like me, who felt rather battered and disinterested with many recent outputs, to all of sudden witness one of those rare films that reminds you why you feel in love with movies in the first place.

Considering the Academy Awards are all about expressing the best of what movies have to offer, the escape, the out of the ordinary, the artistry on display and most importantly the lastingly memorable, it really does feel as though La La Land was robbed this year from its rightful award, even if those that jumped onto the free ride the hate train provided would have you believe otherwise.

How did you feel about Moonlight’s Best Picture Win? What are your thoughts around La La Land? We’d love to hear from you so join the conversation below!

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44 responses to “Opinion Piece: La La Land and the Great Oscars Robbery

  1. I completely disagree. I also thought both movies were very good. As was Manchester by the Sea, by the way! I thought it was actually an excellent year for movies, 2016. But I really don’t see LaLa Land being talked about for years. What will people say? I can’t see them saying much other than, oh wow, that was really fun!
    Moonlight on the other hand….
    I think it was a small film with a giant artistic heart. No gimmicks, but just pure art.
    I think it will be studied in film classes along with the greats. It made very creative choices in music, fusing hiphop with classical music, in cinematography, how each shot was framed, in the way the story was told. I really think Moonlight is one of the most amazing films I have ever seen.

    • To be honest if Manchester by the Sea or Arrival were to of won I would’ve been extremely happy.
      One of my biggest problems with Moonlight was for myself not feeling any connection to the main character and for a film that had a very strong first 2 acts, the final act with an older Chiron felt completely unengaging.
      Thanks for joining the discussions. It’s the great things about quality films like these. In that it inspires such debate and passion.
      E

      • It’s hard for me to understand how people can feel no connection to the main character in Moonlight. Have you never felt like an outsider? Have you never been in love? I don’t know, the main character in this movie is to me the essence of what it is to be human or I guess what it is for ME to be human. But I grant that some people’s experiences have not included these things, or that they have not experienced them in the way that Chiron experiences them. I have gushed about this movie to many people, and some good friends have come away unimpressed. But the ones who loved it as much as I did, have all without fail been people I have shared intense emotional connections with. Like the ones in the movie.

      • I certainly can understand the feelings of feeling different or afraid to be who you are but just because of those elements it doesn’t make a character likeable or engaging, I found personally unlike you to not deeply care about Chiron and his travails, even though I appreciated the artistry and many acting turns in the film itself.
        I do believe truly though that both La La Land and Moonlight aren’t films that everyone would love, even though I loved La La Land and did enjoy Moonlight, even though I found it a film I wouldn’t of again “personally” choosen as last years Best Picture.
        E

  2. Read your piece while currently listening to the “La La Land” soundtrack. “Moonlight” was a phenomenal film and I loved it, however I completely agree with your thoughts and have nothing more to add.

    Great read, Eddie!

    • What a soundtrack! Happy to hear that you agree. I to cerainly appreciate Moonlights artistry but just don’t feel it was the film that at the end of the day screamed all time classic.
      E

  3. I think Moonlight and Manchester by the Sea were better movies. My fear about LaLa Land was that neither of the leads can properly sing or dance, so no fear of Fred Astaire or Ginger Rogers being outdone. The first 10 minutes and the last 20 minutes were terrific, but the rest was lousy singing and adequate dancing (and okay piano playing). Emma Stone deserved the Oscar for Birdman but didn’t get it, so I am fine with her getting it for LaLa Land. Actually, I think Janelle Monae was robbed as she should have got an Oscar for either Moonlight or Hidden Figures. She was amazing in both those movies. Thank you for provoking a great discussion!

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts Greercn. I think this topic will provide much discussion in the years to come, I mean even as stated in another reply I think Arrival deserved the gong in many ways to.
      E

  4. I for one thought that, though La La Land was fun and beautiful and the acting was great, the story was pretty shocking.
    It may be down to my personal experiences but I really just did not understand some of the characters choices during the film and the way they acted.
    Whereas Moonlight was all ticks all across the board, definitely a film that sticks with you.
    I can’t honestly remember a single song from La La Land but I can remember the slightest subtle glances and looks from chiron that spoke volumes.

    • I found it really hard to connect with Chiron I must admit, particularly that latter stages of the film that really felt rather cold overall if you ask me, bar some particularly strong dialogue that showcased some truly deep seeded character truths. I think at the end of the day this debate will always remain 50/50 until 5 – 10 years down the track where it will be interesting to see how people still talk about these films.
      E

  5. I can’t agree with you I’m afraid. I think Moonlight is the film that will look stronger and stronger as the years go on, every time I watch it I notice new things in it – it’s so beautifully made, written and acted. La La Land was reasonably enjoyable but in the future it will start to be compared with the (better) musicals of the past: Top Hat, Singin in the Rain, An American in Paris, Gigi, Cabaret etc. etc. Just my two cents!

    • Some great thoughts of which I am sure many will agree with you on. I must admit to never having seen many of the “classic” musicals so in a lot of ways La La Land felt quiet fresh to me and in particular a nice reminder as to what can be done with that genre and with feel good films.
      E

      • If you ever get the chance I’d recommend watching The Umbrellas of Cherbourg – Chazelle cited it as a huge influence on La La Land and it has quite a similar theme of how real life can get in the way of romance. Every line of dialogue is sung which is unusual! I think you’d like it. The other films I’ve listed too are great. Thanks for sparking this discussion anyway 🙂

  6. In my opinion Manchester by the sea was horrible. Too pretentious and hyperbolic. But I agree with you on La La Land. It will be remembered for its contradictive depiction of today’s generation. And of course, it will be looked back as a classic due to this.

  7. You mention how La La Land is “a reinvigorating of a mostly dead genre”, which was praise similarly awarded to The Artist when it was release five or so years back. It had a lot of hype, but in the years since that has died down dramatically – almost nobody sings its praises anymore. I’m thinking the same thing will happen to La La Land.
    Also, I found it interesting how you failed to connect with Chiron’s character – I’m a straight, white, middle-class male, and even I felt a connection to Chiron.

    • I think the artist was an imitation not a reinvigiration personally and I think its one of the worst Best Picture winners in the history of the Awards.
      As stated a few times Moonlight is a fine film but I’m fairly sure I’m not alone in some people’s failure to really connect with Chiron even though so many did. I particularly felt his adult incarnation was a weak take compared to the child and teenage incarnations.
      E

      • How would you differentiate between imitation and reinvigoration? I am assuming that you would argue that a reinvigoration doesn’t merely copy but brings something new to the table. What did you feel was original about La La Land? To me, La La Land felt far less original than Moulin Rouge, despite the fact that the story of Moulin Rouge borrows heavily from the plots of La Boheme and La Traviatta. Even so, visually, I had never seen a movie musical that looked like Moulin Rouge before, so even though I didn’t love it as much as everyone else, I respect it’s daring and originality.

        In contrast, La La Land felt very much like the movie musicals of the past, especially in scenes like “A Waste of a Lovely Night.” It was still a beautiful scene, though it also reminded me of scenes in Singin’ in the Rain.

    • I agree with your connection to “The Artist.” La La Land felt a lot like The Artist to me.

      The opening scene and Someone in the Crowd were amazing, but then the film slowly forgot that it was supposed to be a musical, only to remember at the end. (The ending was brilliant, I will say.) Plus, the subject matter is pure Oscar bait, people trying to make it in Hollywood, remembering the great days of Hollywood yesteryear, etc.

      And as for reinvigorating the movie musical, let’s not forget we have been down this road before with Moulin Rouge and Chicago. Both of those films were successful and Chicago won Best Picture in 2002. (The scene in La La Land when they were floating in the observatory actually looks a lot like the scenes between Christian and Satine in Moulin Rouge.) After those films we did get movie versions of The Phantom of the Opera, Mama Mia, Rent, and Les Miserables, which met with mixed success and mixed reviews. (Disney’s Beauty and the Beast live version was also in production before La La Land was released.) So, if we see more movie musicals in the future, I don’t think La La Land deserves credit for resurrecting the genre. That credit goes to Baz Luhrmann and Moulin Rouge; La La Land just picked up the torch where Moulin Rouge and Chicago left off.

      In summary, a Facebook friend of mine saw La La Land and called it a great film, but noted that her husband thought it was a Hollywood jerk off film. I replied, “You are both correct. La La Land is a great Hollywood jerk off film.”

      I haven’t seen Moonlight yet, so I can’t speak to that film.

  8. Great article and very well argued points in regard to La La Land/Moonlight. I think it was a very strong year and I enjoyed pretty all of the Best Picture nominations. Thematically I felt Moonlight was a very powerful cinematic experience but it’s structure was fascinating. However, in terms of an overall cinematic experience La La Land, Hacksaw Ridge, Manchester By The Sea and Arrival were ‘bigger’ in presentation and in my humble opinion more deserving winners from that perspective. So too Silence; no nomination at all!!

    On a slightly separate note I felt Isabelle Huppert was robbed of the Oscar. Emma Stone’s performance was great but too candy floss for me; but hey she still did a great job. Btw I like candy floss; just not too much.

    • Some great thoughts right there mate. I think you make some very valid points.
      I felt all of the best picture nominees this year were all worthy of being there. It was far from an easy task picking the standout but for me La La Land just provided a wonderful experience even if it wasn’t as “deep” as a film like Moonlight.
      E

  9. I liked Chazelle’s Whiplash very much. In truth, I haven’t seen La La Land yet or Moonlight. Personally, I am more interested in seeing the Arrival and Manchester by the Sea. There is something about films that generate huge hype that end up turning me off for whatever reason. I didn’t get on the hate wagon, just indifferent.

  10. La La Land was not my favorite among Oscar nominees, but you have built such an excellent argument I am almost inclined to agree! =P

    So, great write-up!

  11. Hmmm. La La Land is entertaining but I highly disagree that the musical was dead. I mean just in 2016 we had you could argue 6 musicals. It’s just that animation for some reason doesn’t count to people. Unlike Moana the music in La La Land I found highly forgettable. And my other problem was with the character of Mia. She needs to take a big girl pill and realize that whether it is music or acting at a certain point it is a job. Sebastian understood that being in the band was part of growing up while she clinged to childish notions. And why didnt they fight for their relationship? The idea that dreams are more important than a relationship I take issue with. Let’s pretend her dream was to be a partner in a law firm. Her giving up on Sebastian would be seen as a total jerk but because it’s couched in the language of a creative dreamer it’s praised…
    My favorite of the nominees was Hacksaw Ridge because it made me want to be a better person and really inspired me. La La Land left me cold. Moonlight was my 6th favorite so one spot higher. I didnt think the final act worked or felt authentic to the character but the first 2 acts I loved and was deeply moved by. It was a chance to walk in the shoes of a person I will never meet and that’s what great movies do for us.

  12. Thank you Eddie, for putting into words what I have been thinking for the past two days, however curse you for putting out in the world before me lol. I whole heartedly agree with you on this topic. As moving and artistic as Moonlight was, I just wonder if the film won due ONLY to social topics that are running rampant in our world right now and not on it merits as a film. Moonlight was beautifully filmed and wonderfully acted, however I agree that there was little empathy for Chiron. I felt bad for him, but I didn’t think there was enough development of his character to sympathize with. As much as La La Land was a good ‘Hollywood Jerk Off film’, as so eloquently put, Damien Chazelle reminded people what it was like to go to the movies from a time when people dressed up to go the theater. That will have lasting power.

    • Absolutely agree Nerd. Certainly my biggest problem with Moonlight was that I never actually invested into Chiron and it had nothing to do with his preferences it was purely because he just wasn’t that likeable or engaging.
      And as you stated I fully believe the Academy was swayed due to the films topic over anything else.
      E

    • I certainly did wonder if anyone would back up my thoughts but glad to see there are a few out there! I kept finding myself thinking about the awards and just thought surely I wasn’t the only one.
      E

  13. I was one of the killjoys who thought that La La Land was overrated and didn’t deserve the hype, so I was happy that Moonlight won. I do agree though with the point that Moonlight probably won’t be discussed much in the coming years, other than in the context of the mix-up.

  14. Personally, I think the Oscars are a bunch of self congratulatory virtue signalling crap, for the most part. When Oscar season arrives, I wait for the post Oscar films to be released in March. Of all the best picture nominees, the only one I’ve seen or intend to see is Arrival, and I thought is was highly overrated, dull, and unbelievable. I intend to see Kubo and the Two Strings. At least my favorite film of last year, Rogue One, was nominated for special effects.

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