whiplash

Blind Dance: Damien Chazelle’s “La La Land”

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la-la-land-ryan-gosling-emma-stone.jpgAs Nick Pinkerton’s review notes, the musicals that have come and gone in the last couple of decades have – through form and, to some degree, theme – noted, “They don’t make them like they used to.” But La La Land does try earnestly and effortfully to make them like the used to, “they” being the likes of Jacques Demy or Vincente Minelli or Stanley Donen. I can’t help but wonder why Damien Chazelle, an incredibly proficient director, wanted to “make them like they used to”. Is he just a caustic nostalgist? Read the rest of this entry »

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I Do, But I Don’t: Caring About the Oscars

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“I don’t know whether I want to write about the Oscars on my blog, because I would hate to give the impression that I care.”

I tweeted this about a minute before I started writing this, and it made me realize something. I do care, at least a part of me does. I think we all do, whether we want to admit it or not. I think that there were so many vocal and vehement reactions to the nominees is indicative of that. For as much attention as I’ve been paying to the race the last few years, and that’s been almost none besides early scrolls through nomination lists and peripheral chatter about the nominees, I still care about the Oscars. I’ve certainly, at this point, come to terms with the fact that the Academy Awards are, by no means, the sole metric of worth or quality on which to judge any movie, but at the same time, there’s something that aches in me about the Oscars. It sounds kind of silly, I know, but at the core of where my heart should be, I’m a tried and true cinephile, someone who wants to share this art with the world and everyone I meet (I’m great at parties!). And the Oscars have been, for as long as I’ve been paying attention to them (since Crash won Best Picture), always extremely frustrating. Awards by their very nature, I suppose, are meant to be that way.

This year, on the one hand, it seems to have been an extremely conservative list of nominations, filled with white people and very few women. On the other hand, I’m kind of vaguely impressed that smaller and/or artier films like Foxcatcher, Boyhood, and Whiplash are getting recognition, as well as cinema like Two Days, One Night, Mr. Turner (hey dad!), and The Tale of the Princess Kaguya. But, nonetheless, there’s still the issue of representation. Such a blisteringly white year, and so male.

So, I care about the Oscars because I care about movies. It’s not the other way around. I know, the tedious methods by which people nominate and vote for the Academy Awards is a complicated affair (fun fact: we studied a bunch of voting methods in one of my university math classes; I thought one particular method was beyond ridiculous, only to discover that AMPAS uses it), and that old white people dominate the Academy. But, that won’t make me stop caring, at least partially.

So paradoxical is our, or rather my, relationship with awards: we dismiss them as worthless when the things that we love and admire don’t get support or recognition, but we root for the things we do care about or use things that have won as proof of greatness (sometimes). It’s a form of validation, to some degree, and there’s little reconciliation between the two.

As my friend David Neary said, to observe the Oscars is interesting to gauge what kind of taste the industry has and therefore what they’ll lean towards making in the future. But, I guess what I’m trying to say is that I want the Oscars to be better. More flexible and open and open-minded. And if the Oscars are somehow indicative of Hollywood as a whole, I want the industry to be more open and diverse. That many important works seemed to be overlooked, seemingly, is disconcerting, but I want those works to be elevated by other people (hey ho, critics!) and for audiences to pay attention to them a little bit. I want great filmmaking to be championed regardless of its Oscar chances and for audiences to recognize that the Oscars are not the sole metric of worth. I want audiences to expand their entertainment palettes.

I know I’m asking for a lot, something nary impossible. But, I just want the Oscars and viewers and the industry to be better. Because I love movies. Who doesn’t?