La La Land danced its way into our collective conscious over Christmas and has not relinquished the spotlight since. An artistic homage to the craft of Hollywood, its tale of two struggling creatives in the ‘City of Stars’ has become a global phenomenon. Garnering 5 star reviews from The Guardian, Telegraph and Hollywood Reporter, amongst others, and becoming the first musical to receive a record tying 14 Oscar nominations, it has cemented itself as the award’s favourite.
But this magical musical has managed to achieve more than just a nod from the industry it has characterised so well – already, it has banked over $225 million in global box office sales. Should La La land continue its tap dance to the throne of Best Picture, the Independent notes, it will be the highest grossing movie to do so since 2010’s The King’s Speech. It would seem La La Land’s infectious optimism (the opening number is an ambitious, chaotic dance routine atop an LA Highway titled ‘Another Day of Sun’) has struck a deep chord amongst moviegoers.
The Economist offered an insight into the causes behind the move’s success, noting the musical genre’s ‘lineage of escapism during rotten times’. It writes that the modern musical began in the height of the Great Depression, after the mesmeric dance routines of Busby Berkeley uplifted an ailing nation. Quickly, this led to the genre-defining hits of Gold Diggers of 1933, Footlight Parade, and 42nd Street – the latter of which is still showing to this day. Franklin D Roosevelt even observed of Shirley Temple, the era’s #1 box-office star, that “it is a splendid thing for just 15c an American can go to a movie and look at the smiling face of a baby and forget his troubles”.
Perhaps the transformative effect of La La Land is just want we need in these politically anxious times. In Thailand, the Bangkok Post celebrated its effect on a country plagued by royal deaths and military coups. In the US, John Patterson wrote, it “rid me of anger, cynicism, and anxiety”, with millennial trend spotters High Snobiety adding “it is the musical 2017 needs and deserves”. In times of political turmoil or global depression, we need respite. Another member of the exclusive-tripartite-14-Oscar-nomination-club, All About Eve, also tapped into this psyche. It depicted Broadway stars and their promiscuous adventures off-stage in 1950; at a time when the world needed a tale of celebrity and cinema to escape to.
All content producers would do well to take note of the drivers behind La La Land’s rise to fame. Whilst Amazon’s ‘big bet has paid off’, seeing it become the first subscription service to receive an Oscar nod for Best Picture for Manchester by the Sea, Wired notes that they should be cautious. Last year Netflix made a big play into movie production with Beasts of No Nation, a thrilling and terrifying portrayal of child soldiers in an undisclosed African country. And whilst it was peppered with critical acclaim and powerful performances, it fell short with viewers and the Academy. It seems the world is looking to the screen to be uplifted, for another La La Land to get lost in.
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