ByEmefa Setranah, writer at
A 20 year old English and Film student from the UK.
Emefa Setranah

Let's all be honest here for a moment — in any other year La La Land would most definitely have won the Oscar for best picture. The whole debacle with the announcement mix up at this years proves in a way that they were favored (and even expected) to have won. However, this presupposition of La La Land’s victory did not come to pass. The downside of the mistake is that the focus has been taken away from Moonlight (a truly deserving winner) as the internet does what it does best — producing a plethora of parodies and memes about the incident.

For example, James Corden's funny sketch on The Late Late Show:

Now that the glitz and glamor of award season is over, the gowns have been put away and the star dust is beginning to settle, let's take an in-depth look at and examine why this once acclaimed and much loved film is experiencing a decline in popularity.

Jazz: Gosling As The White Savior Of A Black Art Form

The term "whitesplaining" has been coined to describe the way in which Ryan Gosling’s character Seb is a jazz expert who forcefully projects his ideas about the genre onto others without any regard for its cultural background. In Damien Chazelle’s previous work, Whiplash (2014), there is again evidence of jazz being used as a narrative focal point without homage being paid to its blatant black history and cultural significance. Gosling is put on a heroic pedestal in which jazz is dying and he, a white man, is the only true jazz lover left who can save it.

Ira Madison III, senior writer at MTV News, said:

“If you’re gonna make a film about an artist staying true to the roots of jazz against the odds and against modern reinventions of the’d think that artist would be black”

Ryan Gosling 'La La Land' [Credit: Summit Entertainment]
Ryan Gosling 'La La Land' [Credit: Summit Entertainment]

Racial Politics: John Legend Isn’t Enough

A new dawn has risen in Hollywood in which films that do not adequately represent the world as it is in terms of inclusivity and diversity open themselves up to criticism. The latest victim of this is La La Land. The film heavily features white, privileged people talking about their white, privileged hopes and dreams. The meager supply of diversity comes in the form of Mia’s black housemate and Seb’s sister, who is married to a black man. These characters have only a pocketful of lines between them and the black musicians in the movie who actually play the jazz are rarely given an opportunity to even speak.

The only prominent black character is Keith (played by John Legend) who isn’t even a likable personality. He takes on the role of the villain, as he tries to lure Seb away from his artistic integrity. Keith is depicted as a sellout who knowingly makes bad pop music for his own financial gain. You’d think in a film about jazz the only prominent black character would be portrayed more positively.

Rostam Batmanglij is an American songwriter, composer and producer for the indie band Vampire Weekend. He took to Twitter to share his thoughts on the film's portrayal of jazz music and lack of diversity:

John Legend. 'La La Land' [Credit: Summit Entertainment]
John Legend. 'La La Land' [Credit: Summit Entertainment]

Lack Of Talent: Does Mediocre Singing And Dancing Deserve Critical Acclaim?

La La Land is a love letter to the city of angels, and it is Los Angeles that one would think the most talented actors, singers and dancers would be located. However, in his casting choices, Chazelle has neglected the talent pool at his finger tips in exchange for the names of big stars such as and . Neither of these actors appear to be particularly proficient in either singing or dancing, yet they were cast in the lead roles of a musical.

Sam Twyford-Moore, the CEO and director of the Melbourne Agency observed that:

"Debbie Reynolds — a 19-year-old unknown with no performing experience — held her own against the legendary Gene Kelly in 1952's Singing in the Rain by practicing non-stop for three months before shooting. On set, she danced until her feet literally bled. In 'La La Land,' the leads awkwardly shuffle and fling their limbs — there's no exhilarating sense of wonder at seeing performers achieve near-impossible movements."

This reflects a classic case of Hollywood nepotism in which casting big names regardless of their capability is favored over taking a chance on an unknown who may have the talent, but doesn’t have the fame. I am in no way suggesting that either Stone or Gosling are untalented, but there are probably even more accomplished performers out there who perhaps could have done a better job as Seb and Mia.

In defense of their dancing, Mandy Moore (the film's choreographer) said:

"It's by no means perfect, but it was never supposed to be perfect. And I think it would have lost some of its charm and also its accessibility to those who watch it if it had been absolutely perfect."

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling 'La La Land' [Credit: Summit Entertainment]
Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling 'La La Land' [Credit: Summit Entertainment]

The Prius Pandemic: Unrealistic Portrayals Of Wealth

Throughout the film we are made to buy into the representation of Mia as a broke, aspiring actress who makes ends meet by working as a Starbucks employee. How is it that she lives in a nice apartment and owns a Prius?

La La Land is most definitely the best Prius advertisement of all time. They were literally everywhere in this film. In fact, the first dance sequence between Seb and Mia wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for Mia being unable to locate her car in a sea of identical vehicles.

The fall from grace that La La Land is experiencing seems to be a case of the film being a victim of its own success. Many people may be changing their opinions about the film because it has become too popular. Usually when films reach a high level of notoriety, there is a critical reassessment to pick holes and find problems. La La Land has changed from being a film heralded as a new classic to being regarded as too white, heteronormative and unrealistic. In a year where diversity is the key word on everyone's lips, the film now appears too backwards and therefore its popularity has waned as a result.

What do you think about the sudden turn against La La Land — have these judgements changed your opinions of the film?


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