Jason’s Jottings

by Jason Strangis

La La Land deserves to win big at the Oscars

When it comes to going out to see movies I mostly stick to superheroes, science fiction epics, and fantasy films. On rare occasions I might check out a drama, comedy or sports picture, but let’s just say I’m very picky when it comes to finding the right films. It seems that so many movies these days aren’t very good and it’s difficult to find that rare gem.
Last month, I found one in the wonderful romantic musical “La La Land.” Who would have thought that a modern-day musical could turn out to be so great? It’s a story about two dreamers — aspiring actress Mia (Emma Stone), and a struggling musician named Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) who wants to own his own jazz club someday. It shows how tough it can be trying to make it big in Hollywood as Mia has to go through endless auditions and Sebastian has to face the practical realities of trying to make it as a musician.

Yes, Hollywood can be a land of heartbreak and broken dreams, but that doesn’t stop the ambitious young performers in trying to break through. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are both terrific in the lead roles. Perhaps Stone was drawing on her own personal experience of hundreds of rejections trying to land movie roles. And Gosling may not have aspired to be a musician in real life, but he certainly looks and acts the part of a supremely talented jazz performer.

Stone and Gosling have fantastic chemistry in the film giving this romantic musical a big boost of star presence. This movie has many magical moments with catchy songs like “City of Stars” and dance numbers in the old Hollywood style. It’s such a fresh and original concept, brilliantly written and directed by Damien Chazelle. It’s the feel-good movie of the year and a great escapist film during a tense political climate where there seems to be so much cynicism and negativity.
“La La Land” has received rave reviews and has already won numerous prestigious prizes leading up to the Academy Awards, which will be broadcast on Sunday night, February 26. I haven’t seen the other movies nominated for Best Picture, but I really believe that “La La Land” should get the top awards at the Oscars. It would be richly deserved and a nice tribute to a movie so many people seem to love. Many times in the past Academy voters have often favored serious, depressing dramas, but this year would be a good time to go in a different and more uplifting direction.

Now that an unconventional romantic musical/drama is likely to be the big winner at this year’s Oscars, there may be more hope for superhero movies and science fiction films to be recognized for top awards down the road. Believe it or not, while movies about comic book characters are super popular and bring in billions of dollars at the box office, as of yet there has not been a single superhero movie nominated as Best Picture at the Oscars. The closest to getting an Oscar nod was the 2008 Batman epic “The Dark Knight,” a mega-hit with fans and critics alike. But at least the late, great Heath Ledger won a very deserved posthumous Best Supporting Actor for his chilling portrayal of the Joker.

Interestingly enough, when “The Dark Knight” was overlooked as Best Picture the fan backlash was so great that the next year Academy leaders decided to expand the list of top movie nominees beyond the standard five picks. So far it’s proved to be a smart decision, because all genres are now being seriously considered instead of just dramas.

As for this year’s telecast of the Oscars, I’ll be watching as usual and pulling for “La La Land” to win. Yes, the telecast always seems to run long, although the show producers have been doing a better job of moving things along in the past few years. Here are a few of my suggestions to make the event more viewer-friendly:

1) Some of the “less important” awards can be handed out before in a separate ceremony and acknowledged during the show. And only a few songs performed from movies; this year of course you have to go with “City of Stars.”

2) Show the results of the Oscar voting. This is something that has long irritated me. In sports, they always show the results of the Heisman Trophy voting. So why not the Oscars? At the very least give movie fans the rundown of Best Picture voting. Showing the results of the main categories would be interesting as well as informative.

3) Make sure there are plenty of film clips paying tribute to classic movies and beloved stars of the past. One of the highlights of the night is when current celebrities show appreciation to legendary screen stars of the past. That’s one tradition that needs to be kept. And if there’s a clip of “Singin’ in the Rain” during the Oscar telecast, that might be a good sign for “La La Land” to have a big night.