Before seeing La La Land
As I am typing this, I am waiting to be picked up by a friend to go to the cinema to see La La Land. This is arguably the most praised film of the year and of several years for many. Critics love it for the throwback vibes they get from Singin’ in the Rain. Hollywood loves it because Hollywood loves itself. Any film that centres around the film industry, has a few well known faces involved and is made to an above average level of acceptability has somewhat of a chance of picking up some bling every awards season.
My mother said it was ‘okay’ and that she wouldn’t rush out to see it again. I was shocked. The first negative opinion I had heard about the cinematic event of year came from the lips of the woman who gave birth to me. ‘Can children disown their parents?,’ I began to wonder, taking out my phone to consult Google. Her friend said that it could have been shortened by about twenty minutes. ‘Oh really, Helen? Are you a film critic now or something?’
Their words were soon followed by an SNL sketch starring Aziz Ansari in which he is being interrogated by police officers after saying that La La Land was just ‘alright’ and that Moonlight should win the best picture at the Oscars. Maybe my mother is the spirit animal of Aziz Ansari.
Internally, I was bashing their opinions. The police officers were totally right and any others were totally wrong. It won seven Golden Globes. It has tied with All About Eve and Titanic for the most Oscar nominations of all time (all three have fourteen). It clearly deserves them.
Time to leave, my friend is at the door.
After seeing La La Land
Meh. My mother, Helen and Aziz Ansari were right. It’s just alright. Above average, but perhaps not deserving of all the hype it is receiving. There is a line in the film by Ryan Gosling’s character which goes something as follows: “Hollywood worships everything and values nothing.” That is how everyone is treating this film. We are saying it’s one of the best of all time and we have placed it at number 31 on the IMDB top 250 list. Yet very few of us truly appreciate the value that the history of movie musicals has provided for us. Ask anybody who has seen this to name five other movie musicals and they will mumble beyond the second. I’m surprised that Hollywood and the film industry are endorsing this movie beyond all others this year, as that one line is so self-reflective that it brings the industry to its knees.
So now I find myself in the minority who does not praise this movie as the best of all time. Where do I go from here? Do I lie so as not to be shunned by society as jokingly reported by News Thump, or do I tell my opinion to people who ask without shame?
The culture surrounding preferences for films, television shows and other form of media has gone beyond just critics thanks to Twitter. You put your voice out there in 140 characters and are then subjected to an almost limitless amount of feedback. People tend to try explain the meaning of a film or video game because you “just don’t get it.” There have been times where people have said that they don’t like Breaking Bad and I’ve taken it as a personal offence. “Watch it again. Wait until season three,” I tell them. Maybe I and many other people need to realise that nobody is the same and that we are all capable of forming individual opinions.
Mainstream media is to blame for this phenomenon. There have been countless endorsements by tabloid and broadsheet newspapers alike giving five stars to movies or calling books “The next Gone Girl” (looking at you, The Girl on the Train). I cannot remember the last time I sat down to watch a film without first seeking out a review of it to read. Why should we waste time watching a movie that has only received 70% on Rotten Tomatoes when we can watch one that has gotten 99%?
Grading systems and comparisons of praise often set our expectations too high and are used as a marketing ploy. We need to learn to come to our own judgments and to accept the opinions of others. We must consume the average to appreciate the excellent. Maybe by the time the next big film hits cinemas, we will all have learned this and feel safe in knowing we can voice our opinions without fear.
-By Connell McHugh