Every year, just before the Oscars, a movie emerges that is considered a "must-see film" by critics and the general public alike. This is the picture that is expected to garner all the wins at the Academy Awards, and if you want to know why its personnel will repeatedly be called to take the stage during the ceremony, then you're going to have to see it beforehand or else be completely lost while watching the Oscars. And this year, La La Land is the one Oscar movie you have to watch before the show.
Although the movie is still in a three-way race for Best Picture with Moonlight and Manchester By the Sea, La La Land has now firmly established itself as the favorite after its dominating performance at the Golden Globes. The film won in all seven categories in which it was nominated, and although its classification as a comedy or musical rather than a drama kept it from competing directly against those previously mentioned two films in the Best Picture and acting categories, it still bested them in the Best Director and Best Screenplay categories — two awards that often go hand-in-hand with Best Picture. So you should see La La Land before the Oscars for the practical reason that it's a heavy favorite to win a boatload of awards at the show — but that's not the only reason you should watch it.
In many ways, La La Land is already the movie of the year. Even if it ends up losing out to Moonlight or Manchester By the Sea at the Oscars, the film has already captured the public's imagination in a way those other films have not. It's $51 million take at the domestic box office isn't record-breaking by any means, but it's more than the the other two movies have made combined, and suggests that La La Land is more accessible and appealing than two films that, good as they may be, may only appeal to a relatively small group of viewers. At the beginning of the Golden Globes, before it was known what kind of night the film would have, La La Land was already honored by being the subject of the show's opening sketch. It was a safe choice, because enough people had seen the movie to make it ripe for a relevant parody.
Finally, and this may be the most important reason, you should watch La La Land before the Oscars because it's a damn good movie. Everything you've heard about it — that it's charming, beautiful, heartbreaking, and inspiring — is all true. A modern old-fashioned musical, the movie is filled with tremendous performances, dazzling dance numbers, and catchy original tunes. When you leave the theater, you'll either be humming one of its melodies; trying to figure out how director Damien Chazelle pulled off one of his many long, sweeping, intricate takes; or having an inner dialogue on what's more important: Following your dreams or following your heart. One thing's for certain, the movie will make you feel something, which is a hallmark of all great films.
Even if it comes up empty at the Oscars, La La Land has already captivated the public, and you'll be doing yourself a serious disservice if you don't take the time to watch this gem as soon as you get the chance.