Lack of originality at the Oscars

Matthew Rietveld / The Watchdog

The momentous 89th Academy Awards was held in the Dolby Theatre last Sunday on Feb. 26, and the results and mishaps of the ceremony are still buzzing through the internet, becoming long debates and transforming into memes. Namely, the biggest winner for this year’s Oscars was “Moonlight,” which had its Best Picture award mistakenly given to “La La Land,” another popular film that had already taken the award ceremony by storm.

Although the biggest accolade for the night was rightfully awarded to “Moonlight,” it was evident that there is still a lack of diverse, genuine and heartfelt stories making waves in the Hollywood film industry.

The two biggest movies in 2016 were “La La Land” and “Moonlight.” The former is a light-hearted romantic comedy musical with fast-paced dancing to match the cinematic jazz soundtrack. “Moonlight” is a drama about a young black man trying to understand his life growing up in a rough neighborhood in Miami with his drug-addict mother, while struggling with his sexuality and family life. It’s not just any cliche film about self-identity; the story-telling in “Moonlight” is an incredible journey that tells viewers to find their true identity no matter how long it takes.

When comparing the two films, it makes sense that “Moonlight” won Best Picture. It combines a beautiful and moving script with great acting and cinematography. The same can be said about “La La Land,” but the repetitiveness of its story is a large reason why it didn’t win the award.

Stories like “La La Land” have been told before and it only stands out from the crowd because it’s a musical. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, stars of the film, are both struggling artists in L.A., trying to find success in what they love. They find each other and romance begins. Then, there’s some turmoil, things happen and they both go their separate ways. The most original part of “La La Land” was that Stone and Gosling don’t end up with each other, but they’re still happy.

Films like “La La Land” are safe and cheery, and that’s the main reason why they are so highly acclaimed. Sure, the music is fantastic and the acting combined with months of dance training is commendable, but the idea behind has been exhausted. It was a great film, I’m not denying that, but it wasn’t “the” movie of 2016. However, that’s not what the Oscars or regular movie-goers think.

Just look at the differences in success between “La La Land” and “Moonlight.” “La La Land” won six awards at the Oscars, winning the most awards for the night. “Moonlight,” coming in second, only received three awards. Beyond that, “Moonlight” only received $31 million while “La La Land” grossed over $396 million worldwide, nearly 13 times more. Does the Oscars award richer movies rather than original stories? It’s possible and it’s hard to deny looking at the results.

Even if “Moonlight” wasn’t everyone’s favorite, there were still amazing films about African American stories. “Hidden Figures,” which I thought was amazing, didn’t win anything. “Fences” only won one Oscar. Sure, even being nominated is an award itself, but who really cares about runner-ups in this country?

Giving awards to films that have original stories is important not just for the sake of diversity. These awards give permission for someone’s story to be acknowledged and gives regular people a reason to believe that they are not the only ones struggling in this world. It gives people who are Asian, Pacific Islander, Arabic and whoever, the inspiration to write, create and produce their stories for other people to see. I hope more films this year are from those kinds of artists and I hope the next Academy Awards recognizes that talent.