Is La La Land seeking an award for best escapist film?

In these troubling times, sometimes all we want is to go to the movies and escape the real world for a while. La La Land, a nickname for the bright and shiny city of Los Angeles, takes its audience on a colorful trip to what appears to be the 1940s but is actually modern day Hollywood. The film’s two protagonists are none other than the ever-charming Ryan Gosling, who plays a self-promoting jazz pianist and the always-lovely Emma Stone, an aspiring actress working as a barista. These two actors not only possess magnetic charisma alone, but they have undeniable stage chemistry. Stone and Gosling have been cast as romantic leads in two other films, Crazy, Stupid Love (2011) and Gangster Squad (2013).

A career in music or theatre may bring unusual work schedules, quirky colleagues, endless competition and rejection. In terms of aspiring stardom, La La Land does artists justice. However, it does so with some flaws. Sebastian (Gosling), a straight white male (classic) eventually seems to “save jazz,” a genre created and maintained by the black community. His role as the apparent savior of jazz implies that white people are needed to convince the world, or at least Hollywood, of the value of black culture.

In real world Hollywood, this film has been very well received. It won all seven Golden Globes it was nominated for and is nominated for 14 Academy Awards, tied for most nominations of all time.

One of these nominations includes “Best original song” for the song “City of Stars,” another clever pun in reference to the city of Los Angeles. While the song includes a catchy duet between Gosling and Stone, even the charms of the actors cannot hide the fact that the singing is sub-par and the song does not tell much of a story.

Colby Theatre and Dance Major Kaylee Pomelow ’19 said, “The music in La La Land neither forwarded the plot nor revealed anything about the characters. It seemed like it was used as a filler.” Still, “City of Stars” won the Golden Globe for best original song.

Despite La La Land’s charm and visual appeal, its reception and inside jokes about Los Angeles demonstrate that Hollywood loves nothing more than itself. Yet, directors know their audience and they deliver.

However, narratives like Hidden Figures, a movie about three black women who contributed integral mathematical data to NASA in the 1960s and allowed for the world’s first successful space mission,  have been swept under the rug to make room for more glitzy films about actors, or even to see Chris Pratt’s butt in space (as seen in Passengers). It will not be surprising if this escapist film wins Best Picture at the Academy Awards, as it offers an escape many  seek in a time where the real world seems too much to bear.

However, it is especially necessary in these times to tell the stories of those who have had less of a voice in history. La La Land is dedicated to the City of Stars, high above the rest of us in its own little bubble. At least we get some cutesy tap numbers.

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