At the 89th Academy Awards 2017, 21st century Hollywood musical La La Land was announced as the winner of the coveted Best Picture award, having been nominated in fourteen categories.
Directed by Damien Chazelle, the integrated musical extravaganza is a culmination of nearly a century of movie musicals, with nostalgia at its core. The film follows its two leads, aspiring actress Mia (Emma Stone) and jazz musician Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), as they attempt to make their fortune in Los Angeles, following their dreams and falling in love in the process.
The film beautifully captures the magic of Hollywood, and the fantasy for which the movie musical is known. It is colourful, vivid and energetic, offering its army of fans pure escapism, with its dreamlike sequences. The film's song and dance numbers, filmed head to toe, in long sweeping takes, nod to the genre's classic movie musicals and Hollywood's Golden Age.
Both a critical and commercial success, at the time of the Oscars, La La Land had grossed a phenomenal $368,960,065 worldwide. Having dominated awards season so far, it had already scooped five BAFTAs (including Best Film) and broken the record for the most Golden Globe nominations, with seven awards (including Best Musical), winning in every category for which it was nominated. In over a century of film, previously only ten musicals had ever won the Oscar for Best Picture and this would make La La Land the first original movie musical of the 21st century to receive such an award, but this was just a fantasy...
As the film's cast and crew joyously filled the stage, reveling in their celebrations, producer Jordan Horowitz looked down at the envelope mid speech and realised there had a been a hideous mistaken - the card read 'Best Picture - Moonlight'. In a major plot twist, organisers confirmed that the presenters of Best Picture had mistakenly tried to fill in the blanks having received the incorrect card, which listed 'Emma Stone - La La Land', the winner in previous Best Actress category. In what will surely go down as the most surreal and excruciating two minutes in Oscars history, the award was presented to its true winner.
Perhaps a silver lining can be drawn for La La Land's filmmakers and its stars, as despite missing out on the ultimate award, this bittersweet love story went on to win four of the fourteen categories in which it had been nominated, including Best Director for Chazelle, Best Cinematography and Best Original Music Score. Indeed its soundtrack includes original song "City of Stars", which is all the more poignant given its phenomenal success in the history of movie musicals, its homage to the home of movie making itself, plus a major gaffe in a room full of A-listers on the biggest night of the year!
10 Movie Musicals that did Win the Oscar for Best Picture:
1928/29 - The Broadway Melody
1936 - The Great Ziegfeld
1944 - Going My Way
1951 - An American in Paris
1958 - Gigi
1961 - West Side Story
1964 - My Fair Lady
1965 - The Sound of Music
1968 - Oliver!
2002 - Chicago
The History of the Movie Musical
The movie musical is a genre and film category which has experienced highs and lows throughout its history. Coming into being with the invention of the Talkies (1920s), reigning supreme through the Golden Age of Hollywood (1930-60s), falling out of popular favour (1970-80s) and making its revival in the new millennium (2000s).
It has showcased the works of cinematic icons: Audrey Hepburn, Barbara Streisand, Bing Crosby, Debbie Reynolds, Grace Kelly, Doris Day, Frank Sinatra, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Julie Andrews, Judy Garland, Liza Minnelli, Marilyn Monroe and Marlon Brando to name a few. Not to mention modern day A-listers who have turned their talents from acting, to singing and dancing, surprising cinema goers with their performances, such as La La Land's very own triple threat Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling.
Critics of the genre often struggle with the all-singing, all dancing, fantastical plot lines, as characters seem to burst into performance. Yet it is widely thought that movie musicals lend their success to a need for escapism in difficult and uncertain times. The Wizard of Oz (1939) offered a world of fantasy following the Great Depression, the genre was at its most popular during and post-World War, and the reigning musical winner of Best Picture at the Oscars Chicago (2002) was released the year after terror attack 9/11 and the subsequent War on Terror. Today the western world is polarised both in the UK by Brexit and in the U.S by the new presidency. Perhaps then La La Land's extraordinary success in the new century can be attributed to its creativity, performances and most importantly, its purpose.
The History of the Movie Musical
1920s - The Invention of the Talkies
1927 -The Jazz Singer is released, the first feature length movie with synchronised sound
1928 - The first Academy Awards are presented
1929 - The Broadway Melody, regarded as the first true movie musical wins Best Picture at the Academy Awards
1930s - The Golden Age of Hollywood begins
1933 - First of the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies
1937 - Snow White - Disney's first feature length animation is released with songs included
1937 - The Wizard of Oz - first fantasy feature stunning audiences with magnificent Technicolour
1940s - The War era
Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dominate
1950s - Post War era
A decade of iconic films and stars showcasing the musical talents of Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando in Guys and Dolls (1950), Gene Kelly in Singin' in the Rain (1952), Doris Day in Calamity Jane (1953) and Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953).
1960s - The Swinging Sixties
West Side Story (1961), Mary Poppins (1964) and The Sound of Music (1965), become family favourites, despite the decline in cinema due to the rise of television.
Rock and roll sweeps popular culture as big names including Elvis Presley, The Beatles and Cliff Richard cash in with their very own jukebox musicals.
1968 - British musical Oliver! is released and goes on to win the Oscar for Best Picture, an accolade not achieved for another 34 years by a movie musical.
1970s - The Decline of the Genre
Occasional successes and a rise in the cult musical, such as Cabaret (1972), The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), Little Shop of Horrors (1978) and Hair (1979).
1978 - Nostalgia-fest Grease tops the charts with its catchy, sing-along soundtrack.
1980s - The MTV Era
Musicals continue to lose favour as audiences are gripped by around the clock music videos with the introduction of MTV.
Dance dominated films Fame (1980) and Footloose (1984) are synonymous with the decade.
1990s - The Reign of Disney Animated Musical Films
Disney releases a string of timeless animated features, including Beauty & the Beast (1991), Aladdin (1992) and The Lion King (1994).
2000s - A New Century and the Revival of the Movie Musical
Moulin Rouge! (2001) launches the genre into the new millennium. Hot on its heels, a string of successful adaptations from the stage, with Chicago (2002), winning the Oscar for Best Picture. Mamma Mia! (2008) and Les Misérables (2012) go on to become the most successful movie musicals of all time. Whilst Disney's song-fest Frozen (2013) becomes the highest grossing animated film of all time.
2016 - The original film La La Land is released captivating movie musical fans old and new.