Overhyping the Hype!

Jim McClean asks wheither La La Land delivered on its hype?

La La Land

AFTER winning at the BAFTAs last weekend La La Land continues its march towards the Best Picture Award at the Academy Awards with an air of inevitability: but as it does so many cinemagoers are starting to ask themselves does the film really deserves the award, is it the best movie of the past year and what was all the hype about in the first place?

The Short Answer

The simple answer to that question is no, but hear me out people! La La Land could never match the level of hype it generated prior to its release and if I’m honest I don’t think it’s the best film of the past 12 months, for me that’s Arrival (Here’s our review). That doesn’t mean I don’t like the movie, because I do: right from the get go it wants to put a smile on your face and in this current political climate that’s not a bad thing at all. People like films like La La Land, that’s why movies like The Artist and Driving Miss Daisy win the awards they do.

London 2016

I remember when I was at the London Film Festival last year and I wasn’t able to get into the press screening for La La Land, let alone its two public screenings. Damien Chazelle’s feature quickly became one of the must-see movies within the festival’s programme and not even a pleading phone call to its UK distributors on my behalf could get me a ticket.

I suffered a similar problem with Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire and ended up paying £40 for a ticket to see the movie on the festival’s closing night gala; but it’s okay because the film was awesome and I’m now part of Free Fire’s hype generating machine, ready to wax lyrical about Wheatley’s film to everyone and anyone, even if they didn’t ask me to.

The power of hype is such a terribly double-edged sword, whilst it ensures a much wider release for any film as cinemagoers clamber to see the latest ‘must-see’ movie en-masse, it also means there’ll be an inevitable backlash when many viewers take to social-media to vent their frustration and ask what all the fuss was about. That’s inevitably what’s happened with La La Land, I even know some friends who’re refusing to watch the film at all just on principle (I kid you not).

UK Release: January 2017

Chazelle’s film arrived in UK cinemas riding on a wave of critical approval (Here’s our review) and pre-Oscar buzz, some viewers went in with their expectations far too high, expecting to see the next Citizen Kane or Singing in the Rain and the movie was simply never going to reach those lofty expectations. Yes La La Land is undoubtedly a feel-good movie, or cinematic Prozac as I’ve dubbed it in the past; it wears it’s cinematic references knowingly with heavy-nods to Singing in the Rain and Casablanca.

As much as I enjoyed the film when I did finally get to see it, I couldn’t help but remember those conversations with fellow critics in London who’d been lucky enough to see the film and declared it the best film they’d seen in years. Apart from my friend Simon who simply said it was shit and thought The Void, a wonderfully gory, old-fashioned creature feature was a much better movie; I’ve always liked Simon!

So whilst I might’ve been humming the tune to the annoyingly catchy City of Stars for days after watching the film, I have to admit I was still left underwhelmed: La La Land is a good film don’t get me wrong, but I wanted it to be great: just like I wanted the new Ghostbusters to be great, as a massive screw you to all the online trolling it received before it’s release.

Whilst I still think films like Arrival and Hell or High Water are better films there’s a part of me that still wants La La Land to win Best Picture just because far too often critics and cinemagoers are too far removed from each others in tastes: I’m as guilty as any critic of this, talking endlessly about some weird foreign film, or great indie movie you’ve just got to see, so it’s great when there’s a common consensus on certain films.

Hyping the Hype

Deep down though I still think there’s a certain novelty factor about La La Land, its sense of nostalgia for Hollywood’s golden age is the reason it’s proven to be such a hit during awards season. I tend to agree and with my fellow BanterFlix colleague Laurence Donaghy, that there’s a certain degree of snobbery about the Sci-Fi genre and big-budget blockbusters and that’s why we’ll not see films like Arrival or Inception taking home Best Picture.

Hype is something we just have to deal with nowadays especially given the ease at which in can be generated through social media. I’ve been bitten a few times, I remember being left severely disappointed with the first Hangover movie (I disliked it before the terrible sequels) after it was billed as one of the funniest movies of all time.

More recently I found myself questioning some of my BanterFlix colleagues who declared John Wick as one of the best action movie for years.

An Inevitable Winner?

Hype does that, it raises our expectation levels before we’ve even sat down on our cinema seat. Like being told by someone that a film you haven’t seen has an unbelievable plot-twist, when you finally get round to watching it you’re too busy playing detective to enjoy the film itself. When was the last time a film genuinely took you by surprise?

Nowadays we know far too much about most of the movies we’re going to see on our trip to the multiplex, either through reading reviews online, checking out overly revealing trailers on YouTube or just getting caught up with the  buzz through social media. It’s become near impossible to go into a movie blind and maybe that’s why so many people have taken against La La Land, because we’ve been told we’ll love it before we’ve even bought our bloody ticket.

La La Land is without question a lovely movie, in my humble opinion it’s not as good as Chazelle’s previous film Whiplash, but it’s still going to win Best Picture and possibly even a Best Director nod for Chazelle as well.

When it does there’ll without doubt be an online debate whether it’s a worthy winner, but other than my friend Simon I don’t think there’s anyone who doesn’t actually like La La Land, I just think it’s a reaction to the love-in this film has received and being told YOU’VE GOTTA LOVE THIS MOVIE!!

Here’s to the Dreamers

But maybe I’m wrong, maybe the bookies even have it wrong; so don’t bet your house on La La Land winning just yet because stranger things have happened on Oscar Night! Check here to see who the bookies think will take home that iconic golden statue at the Dolby Theatre on 26th February .


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Written by Jim McClean.

 

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