Over the weekend I wrote up an Oscar preview for Towleroad - which you can consider a companion to our current Best Picture Chart and updated Oscar predictions. Here's what I wrote about La La Land, which I realize I didn't capsule review for you at TIFF:
This musical from the young writer/director Damien Chazelle (Whiplash) won the coveted "Audience Award" at Toronto. That prize nearly always aligns with a Best Picture nomination in January. But the nomination will be the least of it - it has "winner" written all over it. La La Land is a total bliss-out, a colorful two hour romance with song and dance numbers about an aspiring actress and her jazz musician boyfriend. This is the third movie to co-star Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling and their onscreen chemistry is even better this go around and it was tremendous to begin with in Crazy Stupid Love five years back.
Here's a shocking statistic for trivia buffs: If La La Land is nominated for Best Picture it will be the first original live-action musical to do so since All That Jazz (1979). The musical nominees inbetween them were either animated (Beauty & The Beast), adaptations of pre-existing shows (Chicago) or used pre-existing music for their songs (Moulin Rouge!). If La La Land wins it will be the first original movie musical to win the Oscar since Gigi (1958).
In addition to these general notes here are a few slighter more specific ones...
I think you'll be pleased to know that the movie has the best aspect ratio joke since Mommy. Damien Chazelle's third feature is a total beauty on all craft fronts, too. I was particularly enamored of the costumes by Mary Zophres who is best known for her work with the Coen brothers. Modern work rarely gets nominated but there are so many smart colorful choices here. The moody movie-mad cinematography by Sweden's Linus Sandgren is also special. Sandgren is fairly new but he shot American Hustle and Joy and the forthcoming Emma'Stone picture Battle of the Sexes. And when you see Emma Stone's "Audition" sequence in full you'll understand all the Best Actress buzz.
Sky-high expectations can be a danger for any movie so please ignore everything you just read. Ha! Here are three expectation dampening nitpicky responses I've heard from other critics that are all kind of true if you need to use them to wet your own blanket:
- The movie is too long (just over 2 hours) as it doesn't have much tonal range.
- Yes the beginning and the ending are superb but the middle sags.
- Why are the songs all so funereal minor-keyed?
La La Land opens in limited release on December 9th (pushed back one week alas) and goes wide on December 16th, just after the Golden Globe nominations which we can safely expect it will have a lot of in the Comedy or Musical category. I'm guessing as many as it could manage there, which is seven: Picture, Director, Screenplay, Actor, Actress, Song, Score, But it won't break any nomination records because there aren't any substantial supporting roles to zhoosh up the nomination count. We're currently predicting double digit Oscar nominations for it here though that might be overestimating it.