Black and Loving La La Land

Trust me. I root for black things.

I rooted for Lemonade at the Grammy’s (deservedly so because it was the album of the year). I rooted for the city of Atlanta in the Super Bowl (deservedly so because Boston).

I’m black and I root for black excellence. It makes me feel good inside, and continues the narrative that anything is possible for myself, people with similar complexions, and for future black generations.

This Sunday, a year after #OscarsSoWhite trended, I want to be rooting for one of the fantastic black movies up for the Academy Awards’ biggest honor Best Picture like Fences, Hidden Figures, or Moonlight.

Critically-acclaimed black actors star in each of the films and two of them (Fences and Moonlight) are directed by black filmmakers, my man Denzel Washington (Fences) and Barry Jenkins (Moonlight). Not to mention, they’re all fantastic.

Shoot. Jenkins isn’t just black; he also went to school at Florida State (my Alma Mater). Moonlight (an amazing and moving film) and Jenkins, by all accounts should have me going bonkers for them. And any other year, they would.

But dammit! Despite me wanting to fully support my black brethren hailing from FSU, I know another film truly has my heart, and that movie is La La Land. A movie starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. A movie that’s a musical centered around Hollywood. A movie that you may see described somewhere as a quote-unquote, “White Movie.”

I don’t feel all too good about this. I’m not flaunting my allegiance to it, the same way I was to To Pimp a Butterfly at the Grammy’s in 2016 or to Selma at the Oscar’s in 2015. I want to cheer if Moonlight (or any of the other black films) win. I want to be bummed out if they come up short.

But the little dream-chasing musical-loving romantic inside of me is making me Team La La Land.

I only saw La La Land one night because Denzel’s Fences was sold out, and La La Land was the only movie left.

I was bummed that I was missing out on the August Wilson adaptation, and seeing some musical instead. But I tried giving this La La Land a clean slate and went in with no expectations. “Maybe it wouldn’t be awful,” I told myself.

The movie started with their  stuck-in-rush-hour-traffic opening music number, and I found myself intrigued. Seeing Ryan Gosling’s and Emma Stone’s characters first encounters made me laugh.

By the time the two were floating in the observatory, I was drifting out of my chair and around the theater. I was lost in the sauce of La La Land.

I felt a kinship to the dream-chasers of the film. The themes the movie was trying to portray felt as deep and true as any movie about dreamers in Hollywood could be. The bright colors and dancing layered the movie with that kind of magical icing that I haven’t seen since Moulin Rouge (another one of my all-time faves).

I couldn’t quite put it into words when I left the theater, but all I felt was that I really liked it and that feeling hasn’t left.

So, for this year, grant me a mulligan to root for a movie where the only black character is played by John Legend (who can be seen as one of the bad guys in the film, depending on how you interpret it). I will return to my black-rooting ways come Monday, after, I hope, La La Land wins.

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