La La Land (2016)

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La La Land

All I needed was one whiff of the original trailer for this film (accompanied by Gosling’s “City of Stars”) and I was in love. I really loved Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash. I’m generally a fan of films driven by music and that film was a great student v. teacher scenario. However, this was on another level and felt so honed. There are so many things about this picture that I want to applaud and I know that if I watched it again I could probably write another essay on a set of different things about this that I enjoyed.

From the very opening scene, the films aura is set. The musical numbers are expertly choreographed and the multitude of vibrant colors are present very often. Some of the scenes are just so gorgeous and pulsating. There are scenes where the backdrop of LA looks magnificent. The original songs are very good. Even if you do not appreciate a particular song, you will love the busy work on the screen. There is something going on in every frame; your eyes will be glued to something. “City of Stars” is such a catchy tune. I wasn’t surprised that Ryan Gosling was able to sing and perform on the piano as I’m a big fan of that hunk and know he has his own band. Apparently, he learned the piano for this film which is insane (especially if he played the piano for all of his scenes). You would think he’s been at it for years. I think there is good chemistry between Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. Emma Stone’s character is identifiable. She’s the prototype of someone who has high ambitions, passion, and is unsure of whether others would feel the same way. I found this very real. There’s an inherent theme of having a dream and how much hard work is involved in succeeding in that dream. Its tough to accomplish the dream because not everyone will feel the same way or identify with what you are doing. At times you have to take the practical road in life. However, if you stay on course for your passion you may achieve something down the road. This resonated so much for me and I loved it, but I don’t want to get stuck in talking about that. Before I go off another tangent, let me just say that this was the best performance by Emma Stone yet. Both leads had to show a bit of versatility for this film and they did very well.

I’d say there’s not much else going on with the other characters outside of the two leads. The spotlight is on Gosling and Stone the entire time and I liked it that way. The set  designs within the film were eye popping and beautiful to look at. A lot of this film is a love letter to Hollywood. You see it in the Ingrid Bergman, the Marilyn Monroe painting, and other places throughout the film. The film is essentially a tribute and revival of 50’s Hollywood, which is another reason why I really liked this film. The musical genre is sort of dying in Hollywood (much like jazz in real life and in the film). I did not like jazz growing up, until I took an intro to jazz class in college and started appreciating the art form. So much goes into jazz, its improvisation, and I appreciated the pioneers of the genre who paved the way of not only other musicians of the genre but popular musicians in other genres to follow. I loved that Gosling’s character was enamored with jazz and its history. The two leads are so passionate about what they love (another thing that resonated for me). The mix of music and cinema blended so well together.

The last twenty or so minutes of the film honestly floored me and I really wouldn’t change any of it. I think a lot of people will enjoy this film. From a technical standpoint I think this is definitely the Best Picture frontrunner. It doesn’t have that heavy handed emotionally dramatic plot that the Academy loves but everything else about it screams the favorite for the Oscar. Chazelle did a fantastic job of mixing his love for jazz music and film and finding symmetry with this film. I’d have to compile a list of the best films of the year but this will be somewhere near the very top. Very pleased with La La Land.

One final thing, my man crush on Ryan Gosling has grown tenfold. The guy can rock a suit better than anyone in Hollywood and is as charming as they get.

9/10

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