It is very easy to love Damien Chazelle’s La La Land, and even easier to see why it would perform so well at a ceremony such as the Golden Globe Awards. The breezy, twinkly-eyed nostalgic musical starring the effortlessly charming double-act of Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone was bound to sweep up the hearts of voters during a climate of much uncertainty and fear; offering the world a great big and warm embrace, helping us forget our woes and ills for two blissful hours.
But despite big wins at the ceremony last night, it would be a mistake to presume La La Land as the foregone conclusion when the Academy Awards roll into town at the end of February. It is highly likely the film will attain either the most – or certainly a large volume – of nominations upon the announcement on 24th January, and perhaps it has the legs to defy adversity and scoop the top plaudits in the same vein as Michel Hazanavicius’ The Artist managed back in 2012, but the Globes are no substitute for the Oscars. They are the dessert to the Academy’s main course, and the voters have a flavourful appetite for drama, not romance.
That’s not to say Chazelle’s second isn’t worthy of Academy wins because it is, but big contenders of a more serious and realistic nature, such as Barry Jenkins’ homosexual coming-of-age study Moonlight, Kenneth Lonergan’s brittle family tragedy Manchester by the Sea, and Tom Ford’s nihilistic character examination Nocturnal Animals, have the right to shine in a service which is designed to celebrate cinema, not movies. Because therein lies the rub: the Golden Globes are popcorn; pure popcorn. How can a ceremony that nominates titles such as Deadpool and War Dogs be seen as a comparative to the Academy Awards? These particular nominees are movies designed to be viewed and treated as such.
A big reason why a film such as La La Land managed to break records (claiming all seven awards for which it was nominated) is down to the Golden Globes’ ridiculous category system. The separation of titles and performers vastly increases the likelihood of success, and indeed repels honest competition. Much to many viewer’s surprise (myself included), Isabelle Huppert’s confrontational performance in rape-revenge saga Elle rightfully claimed the Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama, stealing the crown from Natalie Portman’s First Lady in Jackie. However, had the categories of Drama and Musical or Comedy been combined (as they are at the Oscars…), Emma Stone would have placed firmly in a heated ensemble where she would not have been favourite. She could still prevail no question, but the result would not be cemented. With a nomination in Musical or Comedy, there was NEVER any other recipient in question. It’s a similar story for Gosling, who one predicts will not receive an Academy Award nomination, despite his Golden Globe win.
La La Land‘s biggest likelihood at American film’s flagship presentation is wins for Best Picture and Best Director. Chazelle’s admittedly strong screenplay shouldn’t trump Lonergan’s masterfully realised prose for Manchester by the Sea, and if it does there will be significant injustice. His direction could be tested in the category too, with Ford’s forensic lens, and potentially Academy favourite Denzel Washington claiming a nomination behind the camera as well as in front for his Fences. The musical could also duel with a number of glaring omissions from the Golden Globes; in particular Denis Villueneve’s irrevocable Arrival, and Martin Scorsese’s triumphant Silence, as well as the expected competition it faced last night. Moonlight could easily pull a Spotlight-shaped u-turn and snatch the top award, too, and given the critical reception, social climate, and thematic relevance of such a work, it would seem a most fitting victory.
But as we all know, Hollywood is the Dream Factory, and Chazelle’s ode to the Studio System is dedicated to all those fools who dream. Whilst it’ll no doubt amount an impressive volume of nominations, it would be wise not to bank on La La Land being the heaviest hitter upon the night. For now, let’s just enjoy the successes it reaped at the Globes: a lovely night for a lovely work indeed.