Unless you've been living under a rock or you just don't really care about the upcoming Academy Awards, you will know that La La Land is poised to win in a variety of categories, including the coveted Best Picture award. Â But as with every awards season, the best picture award isn't necessarily given to THE best picture of the year, and this season isn't any different.
Look, we loved La La Land as much as the next guy, but to say that it is the best film among the eight nominees is a bit too much.
I'm going to break down the four major awards that the film is in the running for (best picture, best director, best actor, and best actress). Ready?
Best Actress: Emma Stone
We're starting with a doozy here. I know a lot of people fell in love with Emma Stone's performance in La La Land and I can't blame any of them. The lady is as charming as hell and her natural, no-frills demeanor and glowing vibrancy instantly makes her likable in any film she's in. But in all honesty, she doesn't deserve the Best Actress award.
As charming and great an actress Emma Stone is, I didn't really buy into her character throughout the whole movie. She acted well enough but she didn't really look like a down-on-her-luck, waiting-hopelessly-for-her-big-break kind of girl. I could imagine more than a dozen actresses who could replace her in the movie and not once did I think that Emma Stone would be perfect for this role. Even though her chemistry with co-star Ryan Gosling is quite magical, she fails to transform herself to a level that I believe is worthy of a Best Actress nod.
In a category that has Isabelle Huppert (who was exceptional in Elle) and Natalie Portman (who gave one of the most amazing performances I've seen in a subpar Oscar film), Emma Stone's acting stint in La La Land feels lacking.
Regardless, barring a major, improbable upset, Emma Stone is your Best Actress this year.
(P.S. - Her Oscar-nominated turn in Birdman (which she rightfully lost as well) deserved a win more than her turn in this one. She's lucky this wasn't the year that Brie Larson's Room came out.)
Best Actor: Ryan Gosling
Here's the funny thing about Ryan Gosling's La La Land performance: it was fantastic.
The man delivered an extremely underrated performance which, in my opinion, carried the whole film to a special place. The man's charisma just naturally oozes out of him and spills over the whole film. When are we going to give this man the recognition he deserves? He does the heavy lifting in all the dramatic scenes with Emma Stone yet also has incredible comedic timing, all of which he does so effortlessly.
Maybe he dances a bit awkwardly, but that's fine - I think it adds more to the charm of his performance, to be honest. He isn't a one dimensional actor either (unlike one of the frontrunners in the award category). He not only sucks you in with his emotional scenes, he can also make you laugh with the snap of a finger. His eyes and smile melt every female's heart and his swagger is something every man would kill to have. The guy is a complete powerhouse.
Gosling made La La Land a must-watch, not Emma Stone. Somehow, I don't think that the film would have worked as well as it did if Miles Teller (who was originally slated to play the lead role) got the gig instead.
Sadly, Ryan Gosling has no chance whatsoever in winning the Best Actor prize. Weirdly enough, it looks like the general consensus is leaning towards more dramatic roles, where it is now just a two-headed race between Casey Affleck and Denzel Washington.
Best Director: Damien Chazelle
No arguments here; the man deserves the win.
Years ago when Whiplash came out, a friend of mine told me that Damien Chazelle was the next Paul Thomas Anderson. I laughed and said, "Woah there, cowboy; I don't think so". Fast-forward to after seeing La La Land, I hit up my friend with a message: "I'm on-board the Chazelle train."
The man is a film force of nature in the making. His potential is limitless and with a couple more films like La La Land, he will be an industry juggernaut.
The opening act of the movie alone screamed Boogie Nights to me, and to maintain that output from start to finish in a film gave me goosebumps.
The guy just has natural talent. You can just tell with the sensibilities he has when writing and directing his scenes; they are all executed at a level that a lot of veteran directors would kill to pull off. From amazing long takes to well-framed pans and sensible close-ups, the man is a technical prodigy.
His arsenal of skills is evident in La La Land's ambitious execution. It would have been all too easy for a lesser director to produce an awful film from the same script. Â I haven't seen a mix of smarts and intuition at his age since Paul Thomas Anderson (and maybe Quentin Tarantino).
Although Chazelle is in a category with a pool of extremely talented directors, the rumblings around the different Oscar circles is that only Moonlight's Barry Jenkins has the slightest potential to steal Chazelle's win. But even with a well-made Oscar bait film, I don't believe that Jenkins (or anyone, for that matter) will be taking this one away from Chazelle. Damien Chazelle is without a doubt the Best Director of the 2017 Oscar Awards.
Best Picture: La La Land
Finally, we get to the big one.
You're probably wondering that with all the positive things I've written about La La Land, why the hell did I say that it doesn't deserve the Best Picture Award?
Surely after having the best director, two critically-acclaimed actors, and a myriad of awards, wouldn't that mean that La La Land would be deserving of the biggest award of them all?
Not really. Even amongst the eight nominees, La La Land simply just isn't the best one.
I'm well aware that being the best is subjective. I understand that. But to me, the Best Picture Award should go to not only the best film, but also to one that matters.
Among the eight films, four of them are about the lives of minorities (a topic of great relevance today). A fifth film is based on an amazing war story. Another is one of the best science fiction movies to come out in recent years, while the seventh film is a seriously heavy slice of life drama.
Then we have a musical about people chasing their dreams.
In terms of quality, I can say that Arrival and Moonlight are definitely better films than La La Land. These two films pushed boundaries and tried to be more than what movies can be. I won't even get into the importance of films like Lion, Fences, Hidden Figures, and Manchester by the Sea.
If that's the case, then why is La La Land unanimously being acknowledged as the year's best film by Academy voters? To answer that question, we'll have to get into the problem with the Academy Awards.
To quote Captain America, "It's run by people with agendas. And agendas change."
Yeah, the inherent problem with the Academy Awards is the people who vote for them. The Academy Awards is filled with Hollywood narcissists who think that they matter way more than they really do. So they keep up their appearances by holding an annual "we-are-so-awesome" party and pretend to be the intellectual, socially-aware body that they quite obviously are not.
Most of the time they pull it off by giving the awards to films like Spotlight and 12 Years a Slave. But every once in a while, Hollywood can't help but give itself a pat on the back. The Academy's most glaring flaw is never missing a chance to shout out how awesome Hollywood is. Films like The Artist, Argo, and Birdman have proved that a good Hollywood-centered film is a shoo-in for a nomination these days.
Look, I know the Oscars shouldn't be taken seriously; only time will judge which pictures really are the so-called best. But the Academy Awards isn't an inconsequential body, and giving awards to the "best picture" does carry weight. They matter because they have a voice. Their collective body has the ability to stir and dictate which movies matter.
If a film like Arrival inspires just one kid to look at the world differently, shouldn't that be a good enough award?La La Land taught us dreams have a cost. If it fulfills its dreams (and it will), then what would that mean for the rest of us?