La La Let’s Not
Damien Chazelle’s musical La La Land is the favorite to win best picture on Sunday. It’s the torrid love story of an aspiring actress (Emma Stone) and a deadbeat jazz pianist (Ryan Gosling). The music is catchy, the choreography is inspired, and the cinematography is stunning. But as film columnist Tori Hawks-Ladds wrote last month, La La Land might be lovely... but it’s lazy. There’s nothing new or moving about a dull relationship gone awry, especially when they’re aggressively heterosexual and white. And an overwhelming amount of “showbiz” movies already take home the Oscar to rule them all — think The Artist, Argo, Birdman. The musical feels like a step back from Chazelle’s 2014 Whiplash, the story of a timid jazz drummer and his hardcore, abusive instructor. (Chazelle sure loves his jazz.) It’s a lively and turbulent flick, driving and dramatic, forcing viewers into a sense of, well… whiplash. La La Land feels more like a lazy river.
—Mark Gartsbeyn, Managing Editor
The LGBTQ beauty of Moonlight
After months of build up from Facebook ads, peers, and rave reviews, I was really afraid Moonlight wouldn’t live up to the hype. But the script, the acting, the lighting, the music, and just about everything about it blended together so perfectly to create an honest and beautiful film. Its portrayal of queerness is one that is not commonly seen in our media that likes to focus on the uncomplicated white male version of LGBT love. Moonlight challenges our notion of what it means to be queer and what it means to be a man in the best way possible––through storytelling.
—Katherine Burns, Opinion Editor
Moonlight as described by an overly romantic WLP
To steal another person’s words, someone said to me that “Moonlight is the closest to poetry that a movie can get,” and I wholeheartedly agree. The movie draws you in, drowns you, overwhelms you, and then quietly recedes, clinging to you in the same manner that any pure work of art should. To someone who has not seen the film, this might sound contrived, but the experience of seeing this film feels akin to diving into a pool at night—it is cool, moving slowly and like silk, completely engrossing until the moment you break out of the surface, only to have the water clinging to your skin. The movie is honest in an unbearable way. As a writing, literature and publishing major, I can’t necessarily speak of the technical aspects of this film, but I can describe the feeling it evokes. It is my vote for best picture.
—Cassandra Martinez, Photo Editor
Where is Taraji P. Henson’s best leading actress nomination?
Taraji P. Henson in Hidden Figures is phenomenal because she brings a complexity and realness to the character that carries the film. I felt what Katherine felt throughout the film: her frustration, her sadness, her joy. Henson’s portrayal of Katherine was nuanced and each facet of her character, mother, mathematician, and friend, was believable. Her monologue in the Space Task Group where she talks about the hardships of being a black woman having to work in an unwelcoming environment—that moment alone is worthy of an Oscar. Coupled with Henson’s overall performance, how could she not be nominated for best leading actress?
—Hannah Ebanks, Deputy Opinion Editor
Disney’s social awareness will hand them Best Animated Feature
Zootopia was the buzz of the summer, but Moana was the buzz of the fall. Both of these Disney flicks made headlines for similar reasons—they gave parents around the world an opportunity to have important dialogues with their children. The Moana creators conducted in-depth research and cast Pacific Islanders to provide princess fans with the accurate Polynesian representation we need. Zootopia uses talking animals to bring racism to the screen with some sleuthing and crime-fighting action. Throw in some awesome soundtracks (shout out to Lin-Manuel Miranda and Shakira), and Disney has best animated feature in the bag.
—Cathleen Cusachs, Arts Editor
Hollywood’s Selective Memory
This time last year, The Birth of a Nation, Nate Parker’s film about the Nat Turner slave rebellion, premiered at Sundance Film Festival to rapturous praise and immediate Oscar buzz. But the sudden media attention brought Parker’s past rape allegations to light, and, although he was acquitted of all charges, the evidence made available to the public was damning. The film flopped at the box office, failed to earn a single Oscar nomination, and faded into obscurity. Meanwhile, Casey Affleck has been racking up awards for his work in Manchester by the Sea despite being accused of sexual harassment by two women. And this Sunday, Affleck will be rubbing shoulders with best director nominee Mel Gibson, whose past as a Hollywood pariah has also been forgiven and forgotten. It is difficult to know if audiences can or should separate artists from their art and I’m certainly not advocating for forgiveness. But we must question Hollywood’s convenient selective memory. Why is it that Affleck is praised while Parker is condemned?
—Natalie Busch, Deputy Arts Editor