No song, no dance

Do films really have to be la la larger than life? Actually, no

It stands as tragedy somewhat that the only way the Oscars could reinvent itself into momentary relevance was to trip and fail embarrassingly. But fun we did have, at the expense of the organisers, and to a lesser extent, Warren Beatty, who probably did not need the bright lights in his twilight anyway. After all, why send a man to do a boy’s work?

When the dust eventually settles on this flub, we would come to recognise this as a tepid, ‘hands-up surrender’ Oscars. One where no one was bold enough to reward a 128-min tinseltown pat-on-the-back movie a clean sweep, while at the same time awarding the most prestigious award of the night to the most leftist film on the list. Given the 2016 we had, where a woman was denied office at the White House by an archetypal male supremacist, we can probably all understand. In many ways, Moonlight was the perfect silver bullet that the Academy hoped would put to bed the notion that it lacks diversity. But really, that we are having this conversation in 2017 is what is gob-smacking about this whole situation. It doesn’t dilute the fact that Moonlight is a remarkable film of course, but then again, so were at least seven out of the nine movies nominated. In the end, perhaps everyone got what they wanted, without anything being given really.

The negative backlash in those crucial minutes between the announcement and its subsequent retraction was telling. Many people felt La La Land did not deserve the award. These things are of course, never unanimous, different shoes fit different people after all, but I find it somewhat perplexing regarding the ‘deserving’ bit. Why wasn’t it deserving? It was a fantastically directed film that was inclusive in its plot, featuring two likable characters that were expertly brought to life by two unquestionably talented actors. And there was song and dance to boot. Is it because it was not tragic enough? Or maybe it does not have an inspiring plot that involved the salvation of the fabric of humanity? Why exactly was it not deserving really? Is it because it had a little too much fun at the start and the rug pull at the end was not quite violent enough?

What I loved about La La Land, and its subsequent nomination was that it never felt like it needed to have a larger narrative. There seems to be an awful conception that for a film to achieve critical acclamation that it needs to have a comparably large narrative. And if it doesn’t then it needs to have at least a heavy one. The Damien Chazelle-directed film has neither. The characters practically cake walk through their existence, one being able to afford cute primary colored dresses despite having to waitress her way to her eventual acting dreams while the other was able to immediately hit the music pay dirt the moment he decided to drag his well-manicured mop out of his musically fascist derriere. Even the tragedies contained within the story was largely self-wrought and were ones that happened as a result of undershooting to the stars, not being boot-licked off the bottom of a grease bucket. Are these characters even worth our tears by the end?

Perhaps the lack of a supersized narrative was what hurt Sing Street’s nomination chances. The movie’s snub at the Oscars is a personal pet peeve. The John Carney directed musical drama features a largely Irish cast, about a boy in the 80s who got a band together to impress a girl, was universally loved by critics. Yet it did not receive a single nomination, not even in the ‘Best Original Song’ category, which it most certainly deserved. My personal take is that it suffered firstly from a far too light narrative and the fact that it had neither Emma Stone, nor Ryan Gosling in it.

I think it’s been awhile since the Oscars allowed itself to have a little fun, six years at the very least. The King’s Speech’s subject was hardly a laughing matter but it at least gave us some decent laughs, although watching Colin Firth’s bewitching performance as the word-swallowing Duke of York at times was akin to being choked, slowly; while heart-in-hand romantics would probably retort that La La Land’s ending ensured that any fun it allowed itself to have at the start was sufficiently flushed out by the end. But most of us would have offered it a bittersweet nod at the very least, even in light of its less than ideal ending.

After all, who hasn’t encountered the right love at the wrong season or fallen in love with a good person who was in a bad moment? We love the romance in our existence to fit a linear, monochrome prose but the unlucky ones among us know better. A more fitting analogy would be akin to walking through a waist-high mud lake and then being whisked off in your dirty rags into a blazing white well-lit room and expected to make no mess whatsoever when you move. We don’t like our jilted heroes to have a day in the sun and we don’t want our heartless sirens to have a relatable back story. Much like the movies, we love our heroes and tyrants to be properly demarcated in our existences as well, so we clearly know who to shoot, and who to spare.

Me, I’m still amazed that I can love a musical this much, given that I usually can’t stand them. That has to count for something right?

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