Hollywood loves a lot of things—car chases, explosions, CGI, love triangles, twists, and incalculable other tropes—but it loves nothing more than itself. The self-infatuation was on full display last night, as La La Land, a movie about movies, took home a record-breaking seven Golden Globe awards.
The previous record of six wins was set by One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in 1975, and that film had the benefit of winning a “best new star” award (for actor Brad Dourif), which the Globes discontinued in 1983. La La Land won every category it was nominated for, including best comedy or musical, best director (Damien Chazelle), and best actor and actress in a comedy or musical.
A modern-day musical set in Los Angeles, La La Land stars Emma Stone as an aspiring actress and Ryan Gosling as struggling jazz pianist who fall in love and must balance their ambitions with their blossoming romance. It’s a splashy, dazzling story about the inner workings of the entertainment industry—exactly the type of film that major award shows have rewarded in recent years.
Three of the last five Oscar best picture winners (The Artist, Argo, and Birdman) were in one way or another about show business. After its Globes dominance, La La Land is a lock to receive an Oscar nomination for best picture, and should be considered the favorite to win (though the Globes and the Oscars don’t always agree.)
It wasn’t always like this. Award-winning films about Hollywood were a rarity for decades. Before The Artist, a black-and-white movie about a silent film star, won the Oscar for best picture in 2011, the last film about performers to win the award was 1950’s All About Eve, which followed a Broadway star.
The re-emergence of self-absorbed Hollywood films could be a response to an industry at a crossroads. With television rapidly evolving and technology allowing for the proliferation of images on all sorts of screens, big and small, film is no longer the only popular medium in the entertainment sphere. Major film studios now have to compete with Netflix and Amazon, which have both produced Oscar-worthy dramas of late. The future of Tinseltown hasn’t looked so uncertain since the fall of the studio system in the late 1940s.
Given all that, it’s easy to see why Hollywood would put a spotlight on movies that reveal the magic of moviemaking. It’s a confirmation of ideals in a time of relative crisis—a nostalgic nod to bygone eras when things were more certain.
La La Land is an excellent film, one that demonstrates the great potential of a number of different parts of cinema, from the music to cinematography to editing. But who knows how many awards it’d be getting if it were about, say, scientists, instead of entertainers.