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Perspective: 2017 Academy Awards movie nominees

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BY FRANK CALO

The 89th Academy Awards will be airing Feb. 26. The granddaddy of all the awards shows, it’s Hollywood’s biggest night where they award the best in the film business. Each year, one movie always seems to have the momentum and seems to be the overwhelming favorite for many awards. Last year, it was Spotlight who had the momentum for Best Picture and the year before that it was Birdman. Both of those films won. This year is no different as there is one film above the rest that is the overwhelming favorite to win most of the major awards from Best Picture to Best Actress in a Leading Role. That film is La La Land, directed by Damien Chazelle and starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. It has won Best Picture and racking up the awards at every award show it has been nominated from the Gold Globes to the British Academy Awards.

The film was nominated for a whopping 14 awards.  It’s a record that is shared with Titanic and All About Eve. So going into Sunday’s awards show, many  believe it will take mbook in Vegas have the odds of  La La Land to win Best Picture at 1/12 meaning if you bet 100 dollars, you win 8 dollars. Other betting sites and sportsbooks had La La Land also as the favorite. The lowest I saw was 4/1 odds.   It’s a shame, however, because it doesn’t deserve to win. Don’t get me wrong, La La Land is a very good movie. It’s no Crash–and I recommend if you haven’t seen it that you do– but it still does not deserve all the awards it is expected to receive on Sunday..  

Before I get into why it shouldn’t win most of the awards it is nominated for, I will say there is one that it definitely deserves: Best Directing award. Chazelle is a fantastic director who debuted with the markedly better Whiplash two years ago. It was another film that was up for Best Picture when it came out and more deserved to win that year than La La Land is this year.  As it was much tighter film with a more original story and better performances. However, Chazelle should win Best Director as the film is shot beautifully and the directing is what makes the film standout.  Without Chazelle’s direction, this film would have been your run-of-the mill musical.  Despite Chazelle’s guidance, I don’t believe La La Land deserves any other major awards.

The biggest reason, however, that La La Land doesn’t deserve the awards it is expected to win is that the competition it’s going against in most of the categories is just stronger. For the best acting categories, Stone is the favorite for actress and Gosling, while not the favorite for best actor, wouldn’t surprise anyone if he clinched the win.. Both should not win because of the people and performances they are going against.

They both give fine performances. I enjoy Stone very much in the film, but Ruth Negga (Loving) and Natalie Portman (Jackie) both deserve it more than Stone. Both Negga and Portman tackle important historical figures with Portman taking on Jackie Kennedy and Negga portraying Mildred Loving. They both give a performance of reverence and bring everything they have to their roles, something that Stone doesn’t do for La La Land. She gives a fine performance and makes the most out of her role, but doesn’t reach the levels of Portman or Negga. The worst part of the nominations, however,  is that the actual Best Actress Performance isn’t even nominated, most likely because Meryl Streep had to get her annual nomination.Amy Adams gave a great and emotional performance that is much better than Stone, and I would argue better than any other nominee, in Arrival.

For Gosling, he has an uphill battle because of Casey Affleck, who should win for his reserved, but emotional performance in Manchester By The Sea. However, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Gosling wins, though his performance is the weakest of all the actors nominated, especially with Washington giving a great performance in Fences.

The one category that La La Land deserves to win the least, but most likely will win because of the hype, is Best Original Screenplay.  It’s coming off winning the same award at the Golden Globes, but the script is probably the weakest part of the film. It’s a story we have all heard before about two people in Los Angeles down on their luck that fall in love with each other. The only thing different, without giving it away, is part of the ending, but doesn’t really make up for the rest of the script.

 

It’s a story told many times before and essentially the movie just says “look how great Los Angeles and Hollywood are.” The Academy loves to award themselves, which is another reason why the film is likely to win so many awards. The film’s completion is going against much tighter and original scripts. Manchester By The Sea should claim the award for its dark, but original story. It also has the best written and acted scene of the year between Affleck and Williams. That scene alone is written better than anything from La La Land.

For the biggest prize of the night, Best Picture, again, La La Land, is likely to take home the crown because it has won in every award show it has been nominated for. It’s not the best picture of the year, and by a long shot. For the nominees, Manchester By The Sea, Moonlight and Hell or High Water are all much better written, acted, original and deserving films for the award. The only thing that La La Land has over these three is the directing and score, but it’s very close. Moonlight should  win for the great performances (there is not one bad performance in the film) and tells the story of a  young African American kid growing up and dealing with a drug addicted mother while living in the slums of Miami, but takes that story in a much different direction.

La La Land is not even the best musical of the year. That award goes to a little Indie film out of Ireland and my favorite film of the year, Sing Street. It’s a shame that it wasn’t nominated for one award. The story is something original set in Ireland in the 1980s, and follows a young kid in high school who starts a band. The music is much better in Sing Street than La La Land.

Sing Street is also an actual musical, where it has music throughout the film, while La La Land goes a good hour or so without a musical number. But, La La Land is the throwback to 1950s musicals like Singin’ In The Rain and Oklahoma. So people love it and Hollywood loves it. If there is one thing that Hollywood likes to do more than award films that shows that dreams really do come true in Hollywood and makes them feel important, is award films that pay homage to what came before them. That’s exactly why The Artist won back in 2012 and beat out much better films like Hugo and Moneyball, because of it’s homage to silent film. La La Land does the same thing with the musicals of the ‘40s and ‘50s.

La La Land will most certainly come away with the most awards on Sunday. It will win Best Picture, and if it doesn’t, and the Academy decides to surprise us, no one will be more shocked than me. Don’t be mistaken, La La Land is a well put together movie and enjoyable, but, the competition it’s up against in most categories are just better films and performances.

Frank Calo can be reached at frank.calo@spartans.ut.edu

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