It’s been six months since this year’s Oscars were awarded, so naturally that’s a good time to discuss a few nominated movies. Welcome to The Story Burrow, where topical is considered a very relative concept.
In full movie award season I checked out all the Academy Award Nominees and, as always, I found a few I wanted to watch. Now, months later, I can finally say that I’ve seen most of the ones I had in mind. Well, more than half. I haven’t gotten around to watching Fences, with the marvellous Viola Davis, and Manchester By The Sea yet.
I’ve seen La La Land – again relatively – soon before it was rather awkwardly awarded the Oscar for Best Picture for about five minutes, before it was given to the rightful winner Moonlight. What a slip up that was.
If I remember correctly, I wasn’t particularly looking forward to seeing La La Land. Weirdly enough, since I did like Mamma Mia! and Glee, so it isn’t like I dislike musical movies. My initial doubts were probably due to my bad experience with Into The Woods and the fact that La La Land very much seemed like two hours of self-praise for Hollywood.
I think it’s fair to say that La La Land was the most cheerful movie in this year’s Academy Awards. It’s one of those films that make you feel like a little ball of happiness. The cheerful music, the nice LA weather, the spirit of Hollywood (believing in your dreams and reaching for the top) … It makes you want to burst out in song yourself.
Even though one could argue that Hollywood is giving itself a pat on the back with this movie, it doesn’t paint an idyllic picture of the world of fame and glamour. Mia and Sebastian are both struggling, she to make it as an actress, he to launch his own jazz club. Still, director Damien Chazelle chose not to tell a sad story, but turned it into a musical comedy.
Not only are the songs delightful and catchy – I could write an entire blog post on the brilliance of the soundtracks – , the romantic, dreamy layer turns La La Land in this bright star high up in the sky to which we can all look up in admiration. All the praise for Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone’s jaw-dropping performance, which resulted in an Oscar for Best Actress. It pains me to say this, because I know she had some remarkable competition, but I truly believe that Emma Stone was the rightful winner. With that award in the bag, I can see nothing less than a magnificent career for Emma Stone and I’d be highly surprised if this were the end of her Academy Award success.
Moonlight couldn’t be more different from La La Land. Both movies will probably do well within the gay community, but that’s about where the comparison stops. Moonlight tells the story of Chiron, a young black guy struggling with his sexuality in a rough Miami neighbourhood. There isn’t much room for humour in this harsh and sad movie, but that doesn’t affect my appreciation for the story. Unlike La La Land, Moonlight has an important message to convey. The necessity of Moonlight is already worth half an Oscar, and the classy adaptation of the original play makes its victory all the more deserved. By choosing this one over big favourite La La Land for Best Picture, the Academy Award judging panel also made a statement since Moonlight became the first all-black cast and LGBT movie to win the most prestigious Oscar.
Chiron’s life story, as told in three parts, makes for some heartbreaking cinema. Moonlight is far from a gay fairytale, so the best one can hope for is a bittersweet ending. I must confess that I’d hoped for more closure. Now I find myself wondering where Chiron’s life goes from Moonlight. I’d say we need a sequel, but since that usually ends in disappointment, it’s probably for the best that it stays like this.
Furthermore, I can’t quite shake off the feeling that the organisation behind the Academy Awards wanted to make up for the row the year before when not a single black actor got nominated and many black people active in the film industry threatened to boycot the Oscars. It seems very convenient that during the next ceremony an all-black movie wins Best Picture and Mahershala Ali and Viola Davis get Best Supporting Actor and Actress. I don’t mind at all, since they deserve the recognition, but it does make you feel like they were either favoured this year or neglected last year. I rest my case.
Jackie gave me double enjoyment. Firstly, it was a great movie, painting an intimate picture of Jackie Kennedy. There’s no denying that Natalie Portman carries the weight of the entire movie. Her performance would surely have resulted in an Oscar for Best Actress if Emma Stone hadn’t been as fabulous as she was. And I don’t think anyone would have protested if Natalie Portman was given the award instead.
Secondly, Jackie has been a nice history lesson for me and probably most of the younger generation. Thanks to Stephen King’s 11/22/63 I already got a taste of the shocking event of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, but with Jackie we get a close look at what happened in the White House. I found myself googling Jackie Kennedy after watching the movie and let me tell you: that woman got her share of misery.
Thanks to my Swedish course I also saw A Man Called Ove, nominee for Best Foreign Film. Based on a book of the same name by Fredrik Backman, it follows 59-year-old Ove Lindahl who recently became a widower and turned bitter. He takes no more pleasure from life and desperately wants to end his own.
I’ve known about this story for many years. I remember picking it up in a bookshop one time, but decided against it, since it sounded too much like The-Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared. My bad, because Fredrik Backman’s story is ten times better than Jonas Jonasson’s. That is, the movie. I expect the book to be equally good, though, if not better.
With A Man Called Ove you get a comedy drama, alternating Ove’s current life with flashbacks from his much happier past. I’ve heard people say that the book is much funnier than the movie, but in my opinion there a quite a few laughs in the adaptation. That is, if you enjoy black humour.
Have a bookish day!