Culture Vulture: Time to Leave La La Land

Graphic by Casey Linenberg '19 

Graphic by Casey Linenberg '19 

BY DEMETRIA OSEI-TUTU ’17

Finally — the 2017 awards season has come and gone. Although “La La Land” didn’t pick up Best Picture (despite an awkward but satisfying moment in which it was mistakenly announced as the winner), it dominated the Oscars with six wins and a record-tying 14 nominations. The film also did well in other award shows like the Golden Globes and the SAGs. And after seeing the film, along with other nominated films like “Hidden Figures” and “Moonlight,” I’ve been trying to figure out why.

First things first: “La La Land” was an aesthetically beautiful film. The awards it won for best cinematography and best directing made sense. The movie had striking cinematography and was directed beautifully with Chazelle’s tracking, panning and 360 degree camera movements.

But musically, the film didn’t deserve its best score or best song awards. If you’ve seen any great musicals before watching “La La Land,” you’ll understand how lackluster the singing was. All of the songs sounded the same — and the actors didn’t sound great. If you create a musical, it’s imperative to cast actors who can sing well. Truthfully, “High School Musical” had better music.

While Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling have great chemistry and are great actors, their work as Mia and Sebastian was definitely not superior to the performances of their peers. When Emma Stone kept winning Best Actress at various award shows this season, you wonder, what film were people watching?

It’s been said that “La La Land” did so well because it’s a love letter to Hollywood — and Hollywood loves hearing how great it is. If that’s the case, then maybe we should reconsider how prestigious these awards shows are. It’s important to note that films campaign to be put into consideration — and according to the Hollywood Reporter, nearly 6 percent of Academy members did not watch all of the nominated films when making their decision for best picture in 2015.

While “La La Land” had a cute storyline, the plot reuses a concept that we are all familiar with. Perhaps I could give it to “La La Land” if POC (who could sing) were cast as Mia and Sebastian — or if it were a queer love story. But as it stands, it feels shallow to give these awards to “La La Land” when there were other films that were much more powerful, raw and meaningful. It was a small victory in an unjust awards season that the Oscars for best picture and best original screen- play didn’t go to “La La Land.” Instead, those awards went to a film that was challenging and innovative.

Barry Jenkins’ “Moonlight” absolutely deserved its historic best picture win. It was an important and relevant film that touched on toxic masculinity, homosexuality and homophobia in the black community in a masterfully poetic and visually stunning way. How many films, especially coming of age films, are made with this level of artistry? How many films are made by a black director, black cinematographer, black screenwriter and a black editor? When does an all-black cast get to be nominated in a film in which we are not portraying slaves, maids and other stereotypical tropes?

All in all, it would have been frustrating to see another example of white mediocrity winning over black excellence. Thankfully, at least for this year’s best picture award, that was not the case.

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