Damien Chazelle’s La La Land has kicked off the Venice Film Festival, and Oscar season; the writer/director’s follow-up to his award winning Whiplash premiered to critical acclaim following the world premiere.
Just based off of the trailer alone I knew it would be one to watch, but the reviews have exceeded my wildest expectations. The Playlist calls the film “A primary colored explosion of pure delight that revels in both the manufactured perfections of studio-era Hollywood and in the imperfections and flubbed lines of real life.” “Everyone needs Damien Chazelle’s La La Land right now,” writes critic Jessica Kiang.
Owen Gleiberman, Variety‘s chief film critic, was also high on the film. “La La Land isn’t a masterpiece,” he writes, “Yet it’s an elating ramble of a movie ardent and full of feeling, passionate but also exquisitely controlled. It winds up swimming in melancholy, yet its most convincing pleasures are the moments when it lifts the audience into a state of old-movie exaltation, leading us to think, ‘What a glorious feeling. I’m happy again.'”
Outlets like Indiewire and The Guardian also sang their individual praises for the film. With everyone so in love with the film and with no real frontrunner in sight, it’s hard not to imagine that its destined for Oscar glory. Kris Tapley from Variety certainly thinks so anyway; he feels the film is a heavyweight contender in at least 12 major categories, including Picture and Actress.
“Stone, a supporting nominee for Birdman, is so casually brilliant I almost want to say at this grotesquely early date she’s the one to beat for Best Actress,” he writes. “Certainly of the films that have been seen this year, she blows the competition away.
On the topic of Best Actress, he’s got a point. Though Sally Field, Kate Beckinsale and Susan Sarandon have all delivered stunning performances in films from the first half of the year, they’re hardly sure things. Even if one, or all, of them did get in it would feel like the nomination might be the reward. There’s also Meryl Streep in Florence Foster Jenkins, and while a nomination is always a possibility, it’s unlikely this is the performance that would net her a fourth Academy Award. Ruth Negga’s performance in Loving has also been acclaimed, but it seems the praise is louder for Stone than it is for her, at least at this point. It’ll be interesting to see how her campaign develops as the film opens and plays for more audiences, particularly at the Toronto Film Festival.
Stone benefits from being not only a past nominee, but for having some pretty critically acclaimed performances under her belt already. That La La Land is being embraced so warmly can only help her at this point. If it’s a sweeper, it’ll have substantial support within various branches of The Academy, which also helps her case.
Tapley was also high on Ryan Gosling’s performance, although he says his chances depend on “what the season gives us.” There’s also strong cases to be made for cinematography, production design and the film’s music. “Audition,” which is featured in the film’s stunning trailer, might be the one with the best shot.
That being said, there’s still plenty of the festival left, and Oscar season for that matter. It’ll be interesting to see how the film holds up at TIFF, where it will screen against its competitors like Loving and The Birth of A Nation. There’s also the New York Film Festival premieres of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk and Moonlight looming ahead, while films like Fences and Jackie have yet to officially toss their hats in, or out, of the race. And then there’s Manchester By the Sea, which has steadily (and quietly) been building steam since its Sundance premiere.
It’s going to be a long Oscar season.