I spend a lot of January and February each year running around to various cinemas, watching all of the films nominated for the best picture award at the BAFTAs and Oscars – it’s a fun challenge which takes me to locations all over London and to see films which I may not otherwise have watched.
La La Land was arguably this year’s runaway success even though it didn’t (or did briefly) win the Academy Award for Best Picture. However, talking to lots of people about it, I have noticed that it wasn’t the triumph with audiences that the press would have us believe. Broadly my friends fell into two camps: my actor and big theatre going friends tended to love it. Everyone else was a bit more “meh”.
I think the reason for its success at the awards is twofold. Firstly, Hollywood loves a bit of navel gazing. There were so many times during La La Land that I was wryly laughing to myself but no one else around me was. I could really empathise with Emma Stone’s character – I’ve been in those castings! My friends in the “meh” camp didn’t dislike the film, they just didn’t have the same gut reaction to it that I did or probably the people on the voting panels who decide the shortlists.
Historically, Hollywood has favoured similar films – winners of Best Picture include That Broadway Melody 1929, All About Eve 1950 and even Argo 2012 where Hollywood saves the day. Nominated films include Singin’ in the Rain 1952 and Sunset Boulevard 1950. Also, let us not forget that the Academy loves a musical: previous Best Picture winners include West Side Story, The Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, Gigi, An American in Paris, Oliver! Chicago and The Artist - double whammy – it’s about Hollywood and kind of a musical!
The other big reason I think that La La Land did so well is because it was a little light relief. Let’s face it, 2016 was a bit of a fiasco. La La Land was a touching, beautifully made, brightly coloured, all singing, all dancing film full of pretty people – a little bit of escapism. And who doesn’t need that?