LA LA LAND will win Best Picture

14 Oscar Nominations ensures Damien Chazel’s musical a place in history

LA LA LAND came at the perfect time. 2016 was a bad year socially, politically and at the box office. Everyone needed to end their year on a high note, and this whimsical modern musical did that.

The award season’s competition? Not so much.

MOONLIGHT brought about social points and a well crafted film, even if its parts are greater than the sum. MANCHESTER BY THE SEA gave audiences a gut wrenching story about self torture and the inability to rise above guilt. Both films are real. Both films are depressing. Neither were about escapism. The rest of the horses in the Oscar race are too far behind to matter in regards to this argument.

Don’t get me wrong, drama will always be king. However, the real life drama of 2016 has proven to affect everyone, including voters.

On the blogosphere, many have called LA LA LAND “not my LA.” In other words, it’s all inclusive to white people. Trying to attain a dream can be difficult for ANYONE, especially in Hollywood. Can you sell it? That’s all Hollywood cares about. Jobs at the executive level are put on the line daily, and LIONSGATE took a huge risk putting this film out for the masses. It’s a musical and this is not the MGM heyday of the 1930s and 1940s. The last main stream musical to get a notable theatrical release, plus critical acclaim was SWEENEY TODD. TODD came out a decade ago and starred at the time the biggest movie star in the industry, Johnny Depp. Though Ryan Gossling and Emma Stone were both nominated for Best Actor and Actress respectively, neither can claim the A list star power that Depp once had.

Director Damien Chazel has crafted a self indulgent piece about what he loves: music and film. People complain about how paper thin the characters are, specifically Ryan Gosling’s Sebastian, and the reason for that is simple. Sebastian is Chazel. When Sebastian explains jazz to an unenthusiastic Mia, he’s basically being Chazel explaining jazz to the audience. This is not the first time an “auteur” has done this in cinema. One just needs to look at the works of Fellini, Hitchcock or Allen to notice that every director more or less finds an actor to represent them in the story they are attempting to tell.

MOONLIGHT is also self indulgent, because the originator of the story Tarell Alvin McCraney is a gay black man telling a gay black man’s story. Just because a film deals with real issues, it doesn’t mean it’s a better film. A more important film? That’s a different question entirely, but the award doesn’t say MOST IMPORTANT FILM, it says BEST PICTURE. That’s where things get subjective.

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA is two plus hours of life in a certain part of New England, with a couple of scenes that act as pillars for the whole story. At times it seems more like a documentary than a narrative work. Unlike MOONLIGHT, which is carried by an outstanding cast top to bottom, this film is more of a character study, which is why Casey Affleck is currently the runaway favorite to win Best Actor. He is the film.

Two dramas about real places, take on a dream like world that is the idea of Los Angeles. However, like any dream, eventually you have to wake up.

***SPOILERS AHEAD****

LA LA LAND is a film about two individuals, with individual goals and dreams, that find each other, shape each other, and then go about their lives. This is a universal archetype. Anyone can relate to this narrative, and in a world built on facade, this through line is everyone’s reality.

We all have hopes and dreams and goals as people. Most of us won’t realize our dreams for an assortment of reasons. Mia finds herself in a world where competition is stiff, and the chances of making it as an actress is slim to none. Sebastian is an idealist and a purist, who wishes to be recognized for playing jazz from the heart like many musicians before him.

Mia hears Sebastian’s song. She hears his call to freedom and is moved deeply by it. Mia won’t allow him to sell out. Sebastian tries to support Mia’s goals by taking on the job instead of pursuing the dream of owning his own Jazz club. After an argument, resentment is found just beneath the surface and the relationship ends. So I ask you, the reader, can you relate to this?

Perhaps you can’t relate to the struggling actress or the idealistic musician, but you can relate to that love story, and if you’re old enough you can relate to the one absolute truth in existence: everything ends. It’s a movie that lives in magic hour, but in the end, as it does everyday, the sun sets. The characters captured that magical moment together and it shaped them both for the better. The bittersweet nature of the story and its basic relatability is what will lead this film to multiple Academy Awards including Best Picture.

Never mind the naysayers who speak to the film’s pandering to an older and predominately white Academy. A membership that grew up on musicals and have lived enough life to relate to this story in a lot of ways, including the simple fact that they’ve lived in LA or still do.

The Oscars have a history of rewarding LA or Hollywood based stories, especially recently. CRASH told the story of how Los Angelinos deal with each other in a melting pot of cultures and belief systems, and how conflict seems to be the only form of communication. THE ARTIST told the story of a silent film actor coping with the end of the silent film era, and eventually learning how to swallow his pride and evolve with the industry. ARGO told the story of a US secret agent who uses Hollywood and a fake film as a means of rescuing American embassy workers from a hostile Iran. BIRDMAN told the story of a once famous Hollywood actor looking to be accepted as an artist with his new Broadway play, all while fighting inner demons and his own sanity. And now, LA LA LAND enters the fray, having checked off several Academy boxes.

To be completely honest, I haven’t agreed with every one of these Best Picture winners, but that’s to be expected. Voting is a subjective choice, as the country has come to learn within the last few months.

That’s why LA LA LAND succeeds. It’s for the dreamers. People who dream of a better place. A better time. Even if some troubles seem trivial when compared to others.

Some would argue the ending wasn’t what it should have been, but you can’t have it all. That’s not how life works. Mia and Sebastian will go on loving each other, knowing that pursuing their dream was a part of their DNA. Sacrifices are made in life. One can only hope that Mia doesn’t live in her liquor, as her aunt did. One can only hope that Sebastian is able to keep his jazz bar afloat in an apathetic world.

This wasn’t a happily ever after. It was an I’m happy to have met you. That’s all life really is, just a series of encounters.

LA LA LAND has tied the record of 14 nominations, including Best Picture. The reason being is it’s lauded by every department. A film doesn’t receive this level of recognition unless the body of voters deem it worthy. There’s a very good chance that it takes most of the awards home.

To the naysayers, I say brace yourself. The 2016 plaque outside the Dolby Theater will read LA LA LAND come March, and the film deserves it. It sings to the Academy and somewhere deep down in that broken heart, it speaks to you.