‘La La Land’ and ‘First Man’ Director Compares The Oscars To ‘Pleasantville’

Kim Taylor-Foster
Movies
Movies

At the 2017 Oscars ceremony, there was a cock-up of epic proportions. One which caused headlines around the world. In an unprecedented turn of events, envelopes were mixed up, culminating in the wrong film being announced as the winner of Best Picture. As the La La Land camp began celebrating and congratulating one another before making their way on stage to collect the statuettes and bust out victory speeches, confusion started to spread. A man with a mic strapped to his face broke the news to the assembled throng before a discombobulated Warren Beatty re-presented the award to true winner, Moonlight.

As director of La La Land, Damien Chazelle stood in the background looking left, looking right, looking low-key stunned. An experience like that would probably stay with you forever. Particularly if, like Chazelle, you’d just watched — and felt emotions — while the trio of La La Land producers made their heartfelt speeches. For any of us, it would surely mean you’d exercise restraint, temper your reaction, should you ever find yourself in the position of being announced as an Oscar winner again.

The Oscars Are Weird

la-la-land-damien-chazelle-ryan-gosling
Damien Chazelle directs Ryan Gosling in La La Land.

Now, Chazelle admits that next time around, he might double check to make sure they’ve read out the correct name before celebrating. But, ultimately, looking back, he wasn’t that surprised by what happened — because of the bizarreness of the event in the first place.

“The weird thing about the Oscars is they’re sort of surreal to begin with,” he says. “At least, just the two times I’ve been. Both times, maybe because I grew up watching them on the TV, it kind of felt like I stepped into a little virtual reality world. Like, you step across the TV set like Pleasantville or something and you’re looking around, and you ask yourself: ‘Is this real?’ So I already had that feeling going into the Oscars. So that night you reference was very much in tradition.”

2018 Films To Inspire

First Man launch sequence
We have lift off! Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong looks on in First Man.

Chazelle doesn’t find the Oscars campaign easy to handle, however, and deals with it by burying himself in a new project. For the La La Land campaign, he got his head down on First Man, the latest film of his to garner Oscar buzz. The film, about first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong, is a measured, pensive and immersive portrait of a grieving man driven to achieve, with a spectacular moon sequence to boot.

While the nominees for the 2019 Academy Awards are yet to be announced, there is, of course, clamour building around certain films, as always. First Man aside, some of Chazelle’s favourite films of 2018 could also be in the running for Oscar success come 2019.

“I haven’t been able to see much [this year] but I was lucky enough to be at Telluride [Film Festival] with [First Man], where I was able to see a few other films,” he says. “There was a documentary I love called Free Solo that, in some ways… maybe there are some parallels with First Man in that both are about individuals driven to do very dangerous, one could even say insane things. Another movie, Birds of Passage, was a very beautiful Colombian film that was an amazing kind of epic narrative about the drug trade. I’d say those are a handful of films that have inspired me this year.”

It will be interesting to see how those films fare at the Oscars. But we’re also eager to find out whether we’ll see their influence in the project he’s getting stuck into during the latest awards season campaign. A film, no doubt, we’ll see involved in the Oscars conversation come 2021.

First Man hits screens in the UK and US on October 11 and Australia on October 12.

Kim Taylor-Foster
Kim Taylor-Foster is Entertainment Editor for Fandom in the UK. She was raised on an unsteady diet of video nasties and violent action flicks.
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