“La La Land” won best picture at the 87th Oscars! Or so we thought. After a mix-up in the best picture category, “La La Land” was mistakenly announced as the winner, but half way through the producers speech, “Moonlight” was announced as the true winner. I’m here to tell you why they got it right the first time.
Since “La La Land’s” rise to praise world wide, including 14 academy award nominations, and five wins including best director and best actress, it has caught some criticism; a classic issue with movies that become “too popular”. It has received criticism with it’s portrayal of blacks and jazz, with Keith (John Legend) the only lead black actor, being a sell out, while Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) stays true to the roots of Jazz. Another issue critics saw is the movie seems to glorify the breakup, portraying a negative message of love to kids.
Keith seems to be a black man selling out, and compromising jazz, while Sebastian is a white man defending the true roots of jazz. That, however, is not the case. There is a scene where Keith tells Sebastian that it is purists like him that are killing jazz, and that is the reason Sebastian decided to join his band. Keith, as a black man, becomes progressive and creates jazz that people under the age of 70 actually listen to. The movie does not portray Keith as a sellout, it shows him as a man that loves jazz enough to evolve and save the genre. It portrays Sebastian as a man who loves true jazz. The conflict between the two characters isn’t an issue of selling out vs staying true, it is only two different versions of a deep affection for jazz. Those who have an issue with race in the film reveal the deeper issue of race in American culture; everyone looks for color. The view that “La La Land” is “bigoted” because of Keith, is an ignorant view point. If one goes into the film color blind, and just appreciates it as a work of art, it will be obvious the true message deals not in race, but in the love of jazz. This years Oscars showed how inclusive the industry has become. “Black people saved NASA and white people saved jazz. That’s what you call progress,” host Jimmy Kimmel said.
Another issue is the glorification of the crash and burn at the end. The break up is romanticized, and that sends a negative message of love to kids. It shows that individual ambition trumps love. Again, that is not the case. Despite the stereotypes, “La La Land” is not a love story. It is a look into the lifestyle of struggling artist in Los Angeles. Love is nothing but the lens used to look into this world. Sebastian begins the story as a jazz pianist without work, because of his stubbornness and refusal to play “boring” music. Mia begins the story as a struggling actress who works as a barista. Mia’s audition scene when the director picks up the phone in the middle of her audition is actually a true story from one of Ryan Goslings actual experiences. Mia works on the grounds of a studio, but is an actress without work; how ironic is that. So, love is not the central theme of the movie; starving artists are.
The way the film shows love, is actually a realistic look into the true nature of love. Mia and Sebastian meet with a chance encounter and really do not like each other at first. It is not until the pool party that they even become interested in one another; even then they are still reluctant, as shown in the song “A lovely night.” They have bumps in the road the whole way, but truly love each other. When Sebastian missed Mia’s performance, and she broke things off with him and went back home, he still drove to Nevada to encourage her to audition. After years of them being apart, Sebastian still names his club “Seb’s” like Mia wanted. Despite the fact that they don’t end up together, they still share a special silent moment in Sebastian’s club. That message of love is more powerful than any happily ever after. The idea that two people don’t have to end up together to be soul mates. The message that sometimes love doesn’t triumph, but circumstances and dreams take precedent, is more realistic than them ending up together in the end. It is also a mature view on love; its’s not about lasting forever, but about how good it is while it last.
The character development also astounds. Sebastian’s character is developed mostly through the plot and Ryan Gosling’s acting, earning him a nomination for best actor. He becomes very impassioned when speaking, and that’s what reveals his characters ambition and motivation. Mia’s development is a bit more subtle, as it comes mostly through the songs, earning her the Oscar for best actress. Also director Damien Chazelle became the youngest to ever win the Oscar for Best Director, so be sure to look out for more great work to come.
We have still yet to mention the incredible soundtrack; it is, after all, a musical. The music is what makes the film. It swings the emotion back and forth. It reoccurs at all of the right spots. It is perfect for the film, and the academy agreed. Composer Justin Hurwitz won the Oscar for best original score and also for best original song in “City of Stars.” Ryan Gosling and Emma stone deliver astounding performances as triple threats; acting, singing and dancing. Gosling also learned how to play the piano specifically for the film. Although he fell to Casey Affleck for best actor, he still gave the performance of a lifetime.
“La La Land” deserves all of the praise it has received, and also deserves the “oh so close” Oscar for best picture. It delivered in every aspect, and has become an instant classic.