‘La La Land’ may well win Best Pic­ture, but only one mu­si­cal film in the last 48 years has taken home the most pres­ti­gious Acad­emy Award. re­ports

The Economic Times - - Saturday Feature -

Nom­i­nat­ing a mu­si­cal for Best Pic­ture isn’t weird, but pre­tend­ing that mu­si­cals are some weird, dated Hol­ly­wood anom­aly is. When the mak­ers of La La Land wait for its name to be called at the Acad­emy Awards this year, the ques­tion isn’t whether all Ryan Gosling’s pi­ano lessons paid of f, if Emma Stone’s ribs still hurt from the danc­ing-in-the­p­lan­e­tar­ium harness or whether any­one will fi­nally ac­knowl­edge John Leg­end and mul­ti­ple jazz artists’ par­tic­i­pa­tion in this film. The ques­tion is: “Why did it take so long for an­other mu­si­cal to be a se­ri­ous Best Pic­ture con­tender?”

Within the last decade, the U.S. mar­ket alone has seen 27 mu­si­cals re­leased into the­aters. That doesn’t count juke­box mu­si­cal biopics like Straight Outta Comp­ton, Jer­sey Boys or Get On Up -- which would add an­other 21 films to the to­tal. It also doesn’t in­clude mu­si­cal come­dies like Pitch Per­fect or School of Rock or mu­si­cal dra­mas like Once, which would add an­other dozen or so films to the tally.

It cer­tainly doesn’t in­clude animated mu­si­cals like South Park: Big­ger, Longer and Un­cut or any­thing from the Dis­ney canon. Mean­while, a gen­er­a­tion was raised on Alan Mencken’s songs from Aladdin, The Lit­tle Mer­maid and Beauty and The Beast. They lis­tened to Zac Efron and Vanessa Hud­gens war­ble through the High School Mu­si­cal se­ries. They came of age to Ryan Mur­phy’s per­sonal playlist in Glee and tran­scen­dent the­ater in­clud­ing Rent, Hed­wig and The An­gry Inch, Wicked, Spring Awak­en­ing and Hamil­ton. The mu­si­cal has en­trenched it­self within the col­lec­tive sub­cons ciou s o f j u s t ab out any­one un­der 40, yet in nearly 50 years, there’s been only one mu­si­cal Best Pic­ture win­ner -2002’s Chicago, based on Bob Fosse’s Broad­way pro­duc­tion. It’s not that the Acad­emy doesn’t r e c og ni z e music a l s : both Jen­nifer Hud­son and Anne Hath­away won Oscars with their strong mu­si­cal per­for­mances in 2006’s Dream­girls and 2012’s Les Mis­er­ables, re­spec­tively. Pene­lope Cruz gar­nered a nom­i­na­tion for her turn in Rob Mar­shall’s 2009 adap­ta­tion of Maury Ye­ston’s Broad­way mu­si­cal Nine. These films also tend to clean up in mu­si­cal cat­e­gories, as Best Orig­i­nal Song win­ners Once and The Mup­pets can at­test. So why hasn’t the mu­si­cal had as much suc­cess with the Best Pic­ture cat­e­gory as it’s been hav­ing with pop cul­ture in gen­eral? Be­cause the na­tion’s been in kind of a dark place since 2002 and the film in­dus­try has re­warded that brood­ing. Make the ar­gu­ments for 2014’s Bird­man and 2012’s Argo as comedic if you’d like. Get be­hind 2010’s The King’s Speech and 2008’s Slum­dog Mil­lion­aire as up­lift­ing por­tray­als of tri­umph over ad­ver­sity. Even pre­tend that no­body gets slaugh­tered by the thou­sands in 2003’s Lord of the Rings: Re­turn of The King if you must, but all of they above are laced with a dark, spir­itcrush­ing un­der­cur­rent that doesn’t com­pletely wane af­ter the pay­off. The mod­ern Oscars are a de­press­ing place that re­wards the mo­rose and thirsts for both moral and mes­sage -- but not too much of ei­ther. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.

Mu­si­cals aren’t al­ways joy­ous, twee af­fairs. In fact, La La Land has taken knocks this year for be­ing too up­beat de­spite reach­ing a fairly somber con­clu­sion. But mu­si­cals are viewed as light and in­sub­stan­tial and, thus, don’t get the recog­ni­tion they of­ten de­serve. Come­dies get sim­i­lar treat­ment, with Woody Allen’s An­nie Hall serv­ing as the last true com­edy to win Best Pic­ture and no comedic film with­out the “dark” pre­fix tak­ing home that award since Shake­speare In Love in 1998 -- with the lat­ter still be­ing crit­i­cized for de­feat­ing three fairly dire de­pic­tions of World War II. How­ever, with La La Land gar­ner­ing 14 Acad­emy Award nom­i­na­tions this year, it has a re­al­is­tic chance of end­ing the mu­si­cal’s drought and con­tin­u­ing a long line that looked fairly thin re­cently.

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