Dear Oscar Voters,
I love La La Land. I LOVE it. I have a different appreciation for it versus other film bloggers because of its profound message of alienation that plagues our generation. However, if it wins a record-breaking number of Oscars come February 24th, it will be an embarrassment to the Academy and the industry that will blemish your reputation for years. However, it’s a very likely outcome at this point.
2016 has been a rough year. That’s no secret. Hate, misogyny, racism, xenophobia, and other troubling issues have come to rise. I understand that La La Land is a wonderful escapist movie. But when we look back at the list of Best Picture winners, will we really want remember 2016 as the year that La La Land won? Race, in particular, has been at the forefront of our minds and discussion. #OscarsSoWhite, which has been an issue for far too long, finally had its effects this year with a record 7 acting nominees of color. Other barriers like Joi McMillon becoming the first African-American woman to be nominated for Best Editing or Bradford Young being the first black cinematographer nominated were also broken. Would a sweep of a movie about “champagne” problems really encapsulate the year?
Especially when many movies that emulate our current environment have been recognized. Of course, there’s Moonlight, which turns its attention to a completely marginalized group of people. Hidden Figures talks about female empowerment and that no matter the race or gender of a person, they can get the job done. Then, or course, there’s a Fences, which literally is about the barriers that are put in the way of some people. You could even say Lion talks about compassion and love no matter the skin color. Not even giving a chance to properly recognize these movies would be irresponsible.
Then, there’s the perception of Hollywood. I don’t know if you noticed, but about half the country believes that you’re out of touch rich people who like to self-congratulate. Well, La La Land would essentially be that kind of winner. You are telling the half of the country that looks at the gorgeous political and progressive speeches by Meryl Streep, Mahershala Ali, and David Harbour as over-the-line that you are exactly what they think you are. Out of touch.
But let me get to the meat of it. No movie is THAT good. The three movies that share the record for the most Oscar wins – Ben-Hur, Titanic, and Lord of the Rings: Return of the King – are technical masterpieces that were at the top of their craft at the time. For you to say that La La Land truly has the best costume design over movies like Jackie and Fantastic Beast and Where to Find Them or better production design than Arrival or Hail, Caesar! or a better screenplay than Manchester by the Sea or 20th Century Women is absurd. Sure, give it sound mixing or original score. But don’t just check it off in every category.
I’m not writing this to tell you not to vote for La La Land or that it isn’t a good or even great movie. I’m writing this as a true lover and believer of the Oscars as a political platform and artistic platform like no other. Show people that there are other stories to tell. Show people that movie that represent them on screen exist. Show them that you don’t just ignore what’s going on in the world. Show them the Oscar are more than just a pat on a back to yourself. Be the Oscars that I fell in love with.
With the warmest regard,