Sunday, January 15, 2017

Sizing up the 2016 competition: Emma Stone in "La La Land"

Well, it's been almost two weeks since I've seen La La Land.  In that time, the film set a new Golden Globes record with seven wins, earned $68 million in cinemas and Meryl is making international news for ripping on president-elect Donald Trump during her acceptance speech for the Cecil B. DeMille lifetime achievement award.  Bypassing the furor over Meryl's comments, we should probably talk about Emma Stone and the likelihood that she will not only be nominated for Actress in a Leading role at the Academy Awards, but also win.  She of course won the Globe last weekend for Actress in a Comedy or Musical, but what was perhaps equally telling was that her closest likely challenger, Natalie Portman (Jackie), lost out to Isabelle Huppert for Elle in the drama category.  I'd say this cements Stone as the comfortable front-runner for Oscar.

I enjoyed La La Land.  Typically up for most musicals, it took my a little while to get into the film, but once I did, it was highly entertaining.  Stone does a very nice job portraying Mia, a struggling actress in present-day Los Angeles. Mia is always busting her butt and pounding the pavement for what will hopefully result in her big break.  Of course a love interest throws a snag in her plans, as she falls head over heels for Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), an equally struggling musician.  The movie follows the pair through their successes and failures individually as well as a couple, conveying the ubiquitous 'personal versus professional' struggle that plagues job-seeking artists.

I have to admit I'm a bit of a snob purist when it comes to vocals in movie musicals.  Both Stone and Gosling do a fine job, but they're just not great singers.  It was a tad distracting for me, actually.  Nowhere near Russell Crowe in Les Mis or Pierce Brosnan in Mamma Mia! distracting, but I found myself wishing they impressed me more.

The main attraction here is the film itself.  Maybe I'm just getting used to Meryl being by far the best thing in mediocre films (Florence aside) that it's difficult for me to appreciate a standout performance when the cinematography and screenplay somewhat outshine the actors.  The fact that La La Land is something both fresh and visually stunning is a great boost to the chances for Stone's to get further awards recognition.  I definitely prefer Streep's performance this year, but I expect Emma's film to carry her across the finish line.


  1. While I enjoy La La Land as a throwback to old musicals of the 50s and the likes of Umbrellas of Cherbourg, I find Emma's performance charming but lightweight, not to take anything away from it. Bening's and Huppert's characterisations were definitely much more superior in terms of subtext and nuances. If I were to compare anyone to Meryl, it has to be someone like Huppert who's in a league of her own or Blanchett who's not only a chameleon but a rather intelligent, fearless actress. And I don't get the praise for Portman whose Jackie was just so-so to me. David.

  2. Do you think Natalie Portman has a good chance at winning?

    1. I found it a bit shocking she lost the Golden Globe in her category - I think most people believed it was hers. I'm guessing this has dropped her chances down a bit but will be interesting to see where the SAG goes too. At the moment it seems like Emma Stone is on a roll; Portman even lost best actress to her at The Venice Film festival..

  3. Isabelle Hupert is magnificent in Elle, a kind of movie and interpretation we don't see very much nowadays. I truly recommend it. She is Streep's homologue in Europe.