I’m Skeptical About the ‘La La Land’ Oscar Love

Nominations were announced this morning! Let’s discuss.

01.24.17
LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 12: Actor Ryan Gosling and Actress Emma Stone attend the Gala screening of "La La Land" at Ham Yard Hotel on January 12, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)

Oscar noms are here! They’re a mix of refreshing (diversity!) and a little predictable (La La Land). Most notable is the former; this set of nominees is being reported as the more diverse spread in a decade. It’s an important and necessary departure from the last two years where the white-washed nominee lists were so jarring they sparked a national debate around diversity in Hollywood.

“[V]oters chose the largest number of black candidates ever. Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris each received a nod for their supporting work in Moonlight,” reported the Times. “Viola Davis (Fences) and Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures) were also nominated for supporting actress. Joining [Ruth] Negga [(Loving)] in the lead categories was Denzel Washington of Fences.”

Some other stats! With his Best Support Actor nom for Lion, Dev Patel became the third Indian actor to be nominated for an Oscar (ever). Viola Davis became the first black actress to earn three Oscar nominations with her Fences nom. (I’m still not over her Golden Globes speech.) Clearly we have a long way to go before Hollywood reflects the breadth and depth of diversity in this country.

While we’re talking about breaking records, La La Land received 14 Oscar nominations this year. That ties the film with Titanic and All About Eve for most noms ever. The movie stars two beautiful, young white people (played by two adorable famous white actors) who live in L.A. while they struggle — and then succeed at — carving out creative careers in Hollywood. I found the movie pleasant enough, if a little grating per the pseudo-progressive ending — but 14 nominations feels like a bit much. It’s hard not to draw a connection between the La La Land obsession on the part of the Academy — which, according to the LA Times last year, is 91% white industry people — with the patting-of-one’s-own-back often associated with Hollywood awards shows.

(I may be in the minority on this one. It’s not just the industry that loves La La Land; it was the highest-grossing limited release of 2016 and has gone on to kill it in 2017.)

Did you like La La Land? What Oscar noms have you most excited? (You can see the full list here!) Do you hate the Oscars and want me to shut up?

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  • Imaiya Ravichandran

    omg, i went into la la land thinking it’d be contrived and boring (plus, i don’t really like musicals) but i literally BAWLED during the movie’s last 20 mins. yes, its about these two insanely attractive white people going through white people problems…but i guess the romantic in me doesn’t give affffff ¯_(ツ)_/¯

    side note, that 91% stat is really terrifying and also makes no sense?? like…how…smh.

    • mara

      I don’t think that struggling professionally and romantically is white people problems. I think these problems are just human, no matter one’s colour, religion,sex, or origin. It could easily be two black people in this movie, or asian, or interracial, or whatever. It doesn’t make a difference and it shouldn’t.

      • Jus Grace

        If it were two marginalized ppl in the movie, they would have a whole other set of problems.

        For instance: Emma’s character not having as may roles to audition for in the first place, and the roles she is up for being one-dimensional and / or stereotypical

  • Holly Laine Mascaro

    I agree, I really enjoyed the movie and think certain aspects are Oscar nom worthy (production, set, music, director) but in many other ways I definitely didn’t find it groundbreaking. And as much as I am ALL ABOUT emma stone and gosling together, their chemistry, their acting…I didn’t think it was Oscar worthy for either. (SORRY RYAN I LOVE YOU)

    • Haley Nahman

      I know!!!

  • Beatrice

    I think there were plenty of films this year that were far more sophisticated, fun, emotional, important than LaLa Land. It just isn’t 14 Oscar noms good. Emma Stone was brilliant, as ever, but without her in a scene it didn’t sparkle.

  • Cristina

    Ok, the end was gorgeous, no doubt about that, but the rest of the movie… Am I the only one in the entire world who didn’t like it as much as I am supposed to? I mean, Am I a being without feelings? Im so in love with Ryan, though. God bless that face.

    • Amelia Diamond

      The end is what sold me the movie, too. I love Ryan, I love Emma more. I like musicals. I had trouble with Ryan Gosling’s wardrobe in that movie, and Emma’s. That was a mental block for me. The opening scene of the movie made me almost walk out, but I had candy, so I got over it. And I like jazz, so I liked the jazz bits. Then the ending came and I was like OH. OK. I like this movie. I’d see it again.

      • Cristina

        I will take this opportunity to say: I need your hair, Amelia

      • mara

        The end is what made me really love this movie and not just like it. I disagree with you on the wardrobe though. I really liked the outfits (especially emma’s) very much, they are quite memorable (I hardly ever notice what people wear in movies, but in this case I did!) and every time i think about this movie, the first thing that I see is color!!!

      • The worst is that the projector in the theater where I saw it was broken and choppy so I had to see the opening scene AGAIN after they fixed it. By far the worst song, like a parody of musicals.

      • Stephanie

        The clothes were suppose to resemble the golden ages of Hollywood

      • Andrea Raymer

        I honestly, I felt the same about the opening scene the first time i saw it and I absolutely adore this movie. I just think the modern cinema landscape doesnt allow you to go into this movie thinking you can root for the characters. I basically wasnt optimistic enough during my first watch and needed to go into it knowing i could be happy

      • Ché Hot Chocolate

        God, that beginning is horrible. I was wondering if I watching the wrong movie till the title showed up. But I really enjoyed the movie. I hope Moonlight takes all its noms, and I’m so here for Mahershala Ali and Octavia Spencer! There’s still a long way to go, but yay to diversity!

      • Has anyone listened to the opening song post seeing the movie? I understand it was a little aggressive as an opening scene, especially if you’re not expecting it or don’t really like musicals. I thought it was fun though and I enjoyed the big musical number since most of the music in the movie is pretty somber. But, I have listened to the soundtrack several times since seeing the movie and have grown to love Another Day of Sun, despite it being a little in your face in the theaters (if that makes sense). I suggest others do the same, IMO it’s a great song!

        Also, reading through the comments made me think others might enjoy this snl sketch if they haven’t seen it already!

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=abn6cPxrc5w

    • amycjes

      You are definitely not alone. After seeing the movie, I don’t get the hype. The opening was atrocious (was I the only one thinking that if someone randomly jumped on my parked car in a traffic jam that I would not be dancing and singing?! I would be calling the f***ing police!) but it did get better after that. I *liked* it overall, but I have absolutely no desire to ever see it again or listen to the soundtrack. I did enjoy the chemistry between the 2 main characters but they bring that to every movie they’re in together…

    • First part was so boring I had a micronap. The singing wasn’t that good too but, yes, the ending was solid.

  • Dominique

    I thought it was terrible and I’m a big RG fan

  • MG

    I enjoyed the movie and loved the ending. but I don’t feel like it was amazing.There must be a tiny bit of Hollywood narcissism at play. I felt like the casting of the two main characters could’ve been wayyyyy more interesting. I also felt like a misunderstood, brooding white dude who was really into jazz was a cliche and boring. I would’ve loved to see someone like Donald Glover in that role. Sorry, Ryan!

    • Haley Nahman

      totally!

    • am4

      I agree! I love RG but I found his character really uninteresting

  • Emma Katherine

    I liked the movie. I have recommended it and still will. But I ahve seen most of the other best picture nominees, and I think La La Land is an average movie when compared to the other nominees. The characters werent well developed, so the acting is not the best (and I am hoping that Stone and Gosling wont win). I am personally going to be rooting for Moonlight to win pretty much everything.

    • Jus Grace

      Yes! Moonlight for everything !

  • La La Land = “Basic AF, the Movie”

    I hope never to hear Ryan Gosling sing or man/whitesplain jazz again.

    • Haha I agree! And the whole movie is Emma supporting Ryan’s dreams and performances and he can’t even show up to her one frickin play.

    • Haley Nahman

      lol

    • doublecurl

      There’s a difference between mansplaining and actually just explaining something to someone who doesn’t know about the topic

  • So many em dashes in the second paragraph. I got lost a bit there!

    • kjrobot

      All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
      All em dash and excessive parenthesis makes an article hard to read!

      • Haley Nahman

        Lol omg someone stop me with the em dashesssss

        • kjrobot

          You’re such a good sport! I only noticed because when I write for bogs, I do it too! We always call out others for our own flaws.

          It’s all the callback links (and the time crunch) killing us, I swear. OMG. I just did it! No need for my parenthesis there. haha!

        • Jus Grace

          I get aroused every time I type an em dash — I feel you

        • LOL! I’m the same with parentheses. So many tangents, so little ways to work them into articles.

  • libs

    I got an email from my grandma saying she thinks Ryan Gosling is ‘very good’ and she is excited to go see the film soon, because it’s showing in her tiny town at the end of this month, instead of six – twelve months afte; even stuff like Les Mis and Slumdog Millionaire wasn’t shown there for ages. La La Land just feels very inescapable – not in a bad way, for me, because I enjoyed it and I like the occasional pop culture phenomenon of all generations of my family being at least aware of the same thing, even if we don’t all love it.
    But personally I’m looking forward to seeing 20th Century Women because I’m Indie Basic and love Greta Gerwig.

  • Bobbi Whitney

    I’m with you on this one. I thought the movie was just okay, but definitely not Oscar worthy. Although, it is nice to see a movie that isn’t a heavy drama be nominated.

  • Jessica Eikenberry Paullus

    Saw the movie. I was very disappointed in it and feel it does not hold a candle to Singing in the Rain and other musicals with significantly better singing/dancing/choreography. Not to mention I feel there were much better movies that were overlooked, Nocturnal Animals being one of them. Popularity at the box office does not make something an Oscar worthy and great movie. Also I feel #Oscarssofake.

    • Haley Nahman

      Yep with you

    • am4

      Yes! Nocturnal Animals was a far better movie

  • Samantha Lee

    The hype over La La Land is BLOWING MY MIND. As an actress in LA/theatre major/movie lover, and someone who this movie was, quite literally, made for, I thought the movie was disappointing in almost every possible way. I could relate to everything Emma’s character went through and still didn’t like it. I could go on and on about what was wrong with this movie (again, almost everything but the cinematography and Emma’s acting – her singing/dancing not so much), but I’ll just say this – if it wins best picture I SWEAR TO GOD.
    http://www.wonderlandsam.com

    • Haley Nahman

      Agreed agreed agreed

    • Cherryblossomgirl08

      yes yes yes

  • Bria

    I love Ryan Gosling and I love Emma Stone for giving us the last great American teen movie (Easy A!!!!), so I wanted to walk out of La La Land pleasantly surprised. Instead I was like “That was it?” Besides the fact that it wasn’t that great, I literally can’t remember any of the songs from this alleged musical.

    Anyway, I hope Moonlight sweeps.

    • Haley Nahman

      SAME

  • I haven’t seen La La Land and don’t particularly want to… it’s just another nice story about a nice cishet white couple. Glad to hear there was more diversity at the Oscars though!

  • Lindsey

    Ahhh ok I’ll be the person to stand up for La La Land amidst the sea of dissenters. 😉

    TBH, I understand why people are annoyed at the amount of Oscar noms. That is prettttty excessive, I agree. I love Ryan, but I didn’t think his role warranted a nom. However, I do think the movie as a whole, and Emma both deserved the noms they got. I kept watching Emma and being blown away by her nuanced expressions. Her singing? Not my fave, but we can’t all be World’s Best.

    I think the reason people are so gaga for La La is that it was just *fun* to watch. To me, it really felt like I was being taken back to a golden age of Hollywood, but in modern times. OBVIOUSLY there were a lot of problems with Hollywood is the 40s and 50s, what some consider its heydey (hello whitewashing!), but ultimately, I think the film was trying to capture the best aspects of its (subjectively) best era. I’ve had the opening number, her audition song, and “city of stars” stuck in my head ever since I saw it. There are so many moments that stuck with me like photographs. I was thrilled, heartbroken, upset, and starry-eyed by so many different moments. It felt refreshing to see something that was so fun and light and wasn’t a fucking Marvel movie/remake/part of a trilogy.

    I don’t know man. That’s just me.

    • Fezzers

      Emma was definitely my La La Land selling point.

  • I forget who said it but, hollywood loves nothing more than a film about itself. I do think la la land deserved a few nominations, but 14 seems excessive (I also think this about Titanic).

  • Leandra Medine

    Guys, I love Emma Stone with every bone in my body. Her performance was incredible and IMO, oscar nomination season is always a cool litmus test that speaks to where we are culturally, societally, politically, etc. It’s been a really weird 3 or so months and this movie swept in in the nick of time espousing the old glamour and fantasy of Hollywood, depicting a world that so clearly doesn’t actually exist but can feel real enough, if only for a couple of hours, to pull us from the depths of reality/our lives and play make believe. LA LA LAND FTW

    • Alexia

      I agree. The movie, to me, is about something magical we can all relate to: chasing our dreams. That’s why I think it swept the nominations. And although the film starred two white actors, John Legend had a pretty big part too and played a large role in the film’s production. Plus that ending goes down with “We’ll always have Paris,” for me:)

    • Marion

      I didn’t mind La La Land as a form of escapism for today’s political realities, but I felt that Moonlight was a stronger movie overall. It is hard comparing the two and then comparing the films with all the other amazing Best Picture nominations. I think Haley put it best in her article that Hollywood does tend to reward itself for lovable movies like this. There were truly beautiful moments in La La Land and I am glad to see it is nominated for some of the categories but Moonlight, to me, was spectacular from start to finish.

    • I haven’t seen the movie because I don’t really enjoy musicals. But that made me think that you’re right in that it is a reflection of our current societal climate. Yet in many ways, it represents that nostalgia we’ve been hearing about the “gold old days”. So it is no surprise that while plenty of minority actors were nominated, it almost feels like an attempt to escape from Hollywood’s still close-minded (the nicest way I could put it) mentality. Ultimately, the movie that has received most nominations is the movie about the past, about white young people, and about Hollywood itself.

    • Ap4rna

      I completely agree. I am usually not one to like this sort of movie (I am a self-proclaimed musical hater – strange, I know). There was just something about the performances that I could not shake. And the ending, my God. I was literally bawling in the theater through the entire epilogue. It was so beautiful. It was just what I needed at the end of last year.

  • Nancy

    Completely agree with this, it was great and I’d watch it again but that’s about it. Everyone loved it and would rave about while I just couldn’t relate

  • belle

    Couldn’t even make it through the trailer.

    Hollywood loves seeing stories about itself…personally, I don’t see how yet another insufferable movie about white people “chasing their dreams” is Oscar-worthy. And yes, Whiplash sucked too.

    Signed,
    bitter white person

    • AbsintheWithoutLeave

      DING DING DING. You win. Insufferable is right.

  • I think one of the appealing aspects of this movie is the way it really gut punches you in the feels when you start thinking about your own dreams and passions that you aren’t pursuing even if you are doing well. Like, when Sebastian is in John Legend’s band and experiences a lot of success, he still feels unsatisfied because that wasn’t his dream. I think this is something so many people relate to – you may be in a job that supports you financially and allows you to have a comfortable life, but are you really living out your dream? Sometimes yes, but for many, no. Listening to Emma’s audition song gives me a lump in my throat for the same reasons. While we don’t all have the luxury of leaving our jobs to pursue our dreams, that feeling of dissatisfaction can be difficult to shake off.

    Also, it was distracting to me at first that Emma and Ryan’s singing and acting weren’t perfect, but as I’ve come to learn, that was the point. It was supposed to be just regular people trying to “make it” which then made me start to enjoy it more as it felt a little more down to earth.

    tldr; Overall, I really loved La La Land because I left feeling a lot of feelings about my own dreams and passions.

    • grace

      i 100% agree with your point about the movie stirring up feelings on foregone dreams and passions.

      the movie, to me, had a very melancholic undertone. i left the theater quiet, with a sad sense of nostalgia. the most memorable songs, mia and sebastian’s theme and city of stars, are firmly set in minor keys, and they thread a tinge of sadness throughout the film.

      i know this isn’t the most common criticism people have on la la land, but i was surprised by how sad i felt after watching what has been lauded as a “feel-good” movie. maybe i’m just a little depressive, but i’d be curious if anyone else felt this way.

      • I agree! I felt sad coming out of the movie because it stirred up a lot of questions about what my dreams and passions are over what I am just settling for.

  • Kyle

    Homegirl. The statement “fourteen nominations feels like a bit much,” lets your readers know that you are no voice worth listening to on award show nominations. I was so into the praise of the diverse nominations toward the beginning of this write-up. Not two seconds later, this writer’s blithe disinterest paired with the supremely surface-level analysis of “La La Land” is so lazy. Do better, Man Repeller. Let’s make comparisons to other original musicals from the past where you can then have permission to make accusations about the credibility of this film grabbing as many noms as it has. Musicals, like La La Land, are rooted in being jacks-of-all-trades from costume design to original score. They’re set-up to get this many nominations–it’s in filmmaking blood. And when you pair that fact with some killer screenwriting that has viewers so freaking engaged (whether their fans or not), you would know to give that film a chance when you decide to use a click-bait headline without even he slightest contemplation of analyzing film beyond a wannabe Wikipedia plot summary.

    • Anonymous

      I agree. Awards are very political, and in a way you have to “campaign” for your nomination — they need to build momentum (This can be seen in Silence coming in late and not being nominated, etc). A ton of amazing films lose momentum / support in the long run to the Academy Awards. Emma Stone has been appearing at tons of premieres for La La Land, places where Academy voters will be. And a lot of awards (for example Deadpool being nominated at the Golden Globes) make it also about how the film got to screen (ex. Deadpool spent a very long time in pre production, almost didnt get made, and they want to in a way reward/nominate something that did so well after a lot of doubt) as that can sway academy/HFPA voters. Damien Chazelle wrote La La Land before he wrote/directed Whiplash, tried to get it made, couldn’t (people wouldn’t fund a musical) so he made Whiplash to sort of establish himself, and then made La La Land. Yes, like all films, it definitely has its problems. But the story of not giving up on your dreams parallels Chazelle’s own experience in the industry, and the experiences of many in the Academy, so I don’t really find the nominations unexpected.

      • JESSICA

        Thank you. People who actually know what they’re talking about

  • Kyle

    Homegirl. The statement “fourteen nominations feels like a bit much,” lets your readers know that you are no voice worth listening to on award show nominations. I was so into the praise of the diverse nominations toward the beginning of this write-up. Not two seconds later, this writer’s blithe disinterest paired with the supremely surface-level analysis of “La La Land” is so lazy. Do better, Man Repeller. Let’s make comparisons to other original musicals from the past where you can then have permission to make accusations about the credibility of this film grabbing as many noms as it has. Musicals, like La La Land, are rooted in being jacks-of-all-trades from costume design to original score. They’re set-up to get this many nominations–it’s in filmmaking blood. And when you pair that fact with some killer screenwriting that has viewers so freaking engaged (whether their fans or not), you would know to give that film a chance when you decide to use a click-bait headline without even he slightest contemplation of analyzing film beyond a wannabe Wikipedia plot summary.

    • ValiantlyVarnished

      Did you really just call her homegirl??I stopped reading after that.

    • doublecurl

      ugh sit down

  • Martina Spiteri

    I loved it and hated it at the same time!
    Hated the first part of the movie, but the rest sent me on an emotional rollercoaster.
    It broke my heart because i had just come out of a very very veryyy similar relationship and so I went through all the emotions again – what i loved was the colours, the scenes, the way it was shot – and the fantasy element of it ; where a situation that was pretty bad was painted pretty and in a “fantasy world” style

  • Alyssa

    I think i’ll be one of the opposing arguments in this discussion, but I LOVE La La Land. So much so that I have seen it two times already. I just love the fact that theres something so beautiful about it and has that old Hollywood feel about it while also being modern and not to in your face. I think that its an escape from the monotony of everyday life, where you can have a dream and just give it all you’ve got. Also just that its a really well done musical that has amazing cinematography (and Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling can do NO WRONG in my eyes).

    • Emily Grobler

      I’m with you on this one – in fact I’m quite surprised how little support the movie is finding here! Yes, it isn’t an original story, but it’s execution was work of art like nothing I’ve seen before! Over and over, the script echoes the same bittersweet message, a portrayal of the ebbs and flows of life in all is non-spectacular ruggedness. Yet there is not a trace of cynicism, just a beautiful heartbreaking message. And to me, La La Land is not just about the movie industry – it’s about ordinary life. xx

  • Anonymous

    I felt like the message of the film was less about getting the singing and dancing done perfectly than telling a story about following your dreams regardless of the hard path to success and the odds of making it in Hollywood (which Damien Chazelle definitely has experience with). He isn’t trying to remake Singing in the Rain — He had his own story to tell. And while there are DEFINITELY some faults/problems with it (ex. RG’s performance doesn’t really seem at the same level as Mahershala Ali or Andrew Garfield — it felt more like Emma’s film)) there are with every film.

  • Áine Hegarty

    I liked La La Land but the classic heterosexual white love story felt obviously unoriginal. How many times have we seen a white man and woman fall in love in a movie? I’m feeling kind of over it. More diversity!

    • Lucille

      Especially when they’re bonding over a traditionally black art form in city with very many people of color. But it’s like Leandra said & this movie is a film about Hollywood for Hollywood, then I guess this makes sense.

      • Lucille

        Although, my comment isn’t much a critique of the storytelling, which, “inclusivity aside”, was so unoriginal. Not having seen all the noms yet, I’ve found this to be the least compelling of all. :/

  • Cherryblossomgirl08

    This movie is basically a collage of much, much radder musicals. It’s only getting Oscar buzz because it’s what the Academy likes. It’s a cute movie. That’s about it.

  • lychette

    I think the world needed the escapism that La La Land allows for. I have not seen it myself yet but I am currently too swept into the realness of this very changing world these days to appreciate what this movie has to offer. Working as a sustainability consultant to UN agencies and am still coming to terms with the implications that the Keystone permission will have on the environment and local communities; those of the Mexico City Policy to thousands, thousands and thousands of women across the world; the UK’s recent shale gas go-ahead, and so on and so on. Not to say that a lot of good things aren’t happening in parallel as well, but I am overwhelmed by the fact that these decisions are made in full consciousness of their hazardous effects in countries with the means and capacity to choose better, greener, socially responsible alternatives. Sorry about the outburst, and back to topic: Emma is wonderful, and very much like Ryan too but have the feeling that below that super-studied ‘refined’, almost stiff surface there is a more relaxed and fun guy.

  • I loved Lalaland! Definitely one of the better films I’ve seen in a while 🙂 A. x

  • Nikk

    I agree unfortunately. Ryan Gosling shines and saves the experience, but as a lover of Musicals I was underwhelmed. The opening scene sound mix was underwhelming, the actress who starts it off was so blah. I was disappointed. I really wanted to love it and I found Emma Stone to be relatable but was left wanting more whenever she would sing and dance. I wondered throughout……what would this have been with Anna Kendrick or someone else in general. And then there is the fact that this is part love story about the death of Jazz Music for Ryan’s character, and he is being woo’ed into a watered down “popified” (yup – just coined that term) jazz industry by a Black Musician……oh the irony? This was a stretch for me.

  • AbsintheWithoutLeave

    A good musical should have good music. This one did not. The end.

  • doublecurl

    I’m just trying to figure out what the heck happened with RG/ES from their off the charts chemistry in Crazy Stupid Love to the flat, friendzone-ness of La La Land

  • pia_k

    BUT MOONLIGHT GUYS

  • The Faceless Book

    Hey! Well, I’m not a huge fan of musicals, but for sure the musics of La La Land are much better than many other musicals, I mean, jazz is jazz. However, I don’t think the problem is because there’s only white people in the movie, talking about some white people story in Hollywood, for white people. I think that the problem is that ok, La La Land is a good musical, I like Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling is getting better during the years as an actor, but the movie is that much better compared to the others?
    I mean, every time there’s a story about Hollywood and the cinema, there’s always at least one nomination for the Oscar. The story is not bad, but is it really a highlight? Everything is so politic around the academy that I don’t know for sure how to deal with the nominations and winners every year…

    https://thefacelessbook.wordpress.com/

  • Ok so I watched La La Land yesterday. And the only two things I enjoyed about the whole experience was: (1) watching Ryan Gosling whilst in a bored, mind numbing trance; and (2) the sound track. I seriously cannot understand the hype about this movie.