Award Season is something I look forward to every year. I make it a challenge to see as many of the potential winners as possible before the Acadamy Awards (aka the 'big one') at the end of February, and am always on the edge of my seat when they finally announce this year's nominations. This year, La La Land has taken on the role of favourite, having been labelled as the best film of the year as soon as its release date was announced. This, of course, leads to huge expectations and here's me talking about whether it lived up to them when I finally got to see it. Curious? Well then, fellow film fanatics, read on!
First thing's first: I love the film. I really do. The reason I'm telling you this is because as you read this blog post, you might think I don't. Here's the thing, though, there's a difference between loving a film because it's a fun and lovely watch, and thinking it's the best film of the year in all those 14 (!) categories. The minute I saw the nominees list yesterday, I actually lost a bit of that first love for La La Land, as my mind just exploded with arguments I didn't even know I had in me. Telling you that my thoughts are quite scattered on the subject is a pretty big understatement, so I'll try to put them in paragraphs as best as I can.
The first scene of the film is amazing. It's a big song and dance number with a huge crowd of people, and I was immediately smitten and ready to see more of that throughout the film. Truth is, what followed actually seemed a bit slow to me in contrast. I really found it difficult to stay invested in the story and its characters as they developed, and I was actually already one hour and a half in (which only leaves about thirty minutes) before it all really clicked into place and I decided to love it.
How they told it, however, with all those bright colours and pretty sets, really was a treat to watch, and it didn't take me long to conclude that La La Land's biggest strength is that it plays on the heartstrings of dreamers. Now, we all know there are a lot of those these days, and while Emma Stone was belting out a song at her final audition I certainly realised I was one of them.
Both Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are nominated for a Best Actor/Actress Academy Award, and are probably going to reel it in, too. Now, this is where they totally lost me. While I like their work, and their chemistry on screen is something you can't possibly deny the existence of, it didn't feel all that special to me. I've seen it, you know? I've seen their chemistry, I've seen puppy Gosling (be honest, you have too), and the characters they play are not that exceptional in my (very humble!) opinion. Having seen Andrew Garfield in Hacksaw Ridge and Ruth Negga in Loving, I'm already pretty sure that they had to delve a little bit deeper for their performances, and I haven't even seen the other nominees do their thing.
I will say this, however: what I did like is that Stone and Gosling are not the best dancers and singers, which made their performances more endearing, human and relatable.
On the other hand: was I the only one totally bummed out by Mia's (Emma's character in the film) housemates, in particular? I mean: does everyone in LA really have to look perfectly groomed and sculpted ALL the time? I thought we were sort of passed all that.
If there is one award La La Land truly deserves, were it all up to me, it's definitely Best Score. The soundtrack is wonderful (really, I've been listening to it all day) and a perfect match for a film so obviously full of odes to old Hollywood. It sets the mood brilliantly, despite the fact that I maybe expected a tiny bit more of it, seeing as they were so set on selling it as a musical. Don't get me wrong, it definitely IS a musical, but for those hesitating to go see it because of that: really, you shouldn't. It's not Les Mis or Hairspray, or any other 'I'm singing what I'm thinking' sort of film.
The songs are catchy as well, but we all know Lin-Manuel Miranda should snatch that one for Moana's 'How Far I'll Go', don't we? ;-) No matter how many chills I had during Audition (The Fools Who Dream): I just saw Disney's latest beauty and that moment at least tripled those chills.
So, there you go! To repeat myself AND in conclusion: I love La La Land, I really do, but I fear the over-excited critics and their reviews are ruining some of the magic for me. Look at all those stars on the poster on the right... They just get me so excited for a film and send my expectations through the roof by setting words like 'Best' in stone even before we get to see these films. I'm noticing that over the years, I've grown more reluctant towards hypes and taking the critics' word for it, and I find it more and more difficult to see The Academy Awards as 'the big one'. You know what? I actually like that, because I truly enjoyed penning this down and developing an own opinion on something we usually leave up to the pros. The only thing I'm left with to do now is to emphasise that that's exactly what it was: a very personal opinion by someone who just loves films and the whole shebang surrounding it, and now I am so SO curious to hear yours!
Have you seen La La Land? What did you think?
P.S.: I'll be watching the film again after I've seen the other nominees. Perhaps things are not always set in stone, after all. ;-)