La La Land (2016) 4.5 stars out of 5
Directed by Damien Chazelle
Starring Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, John Legend
Nominated for 14 (!) Oscars: Best Picture, Best Actress (Stone), Best Actor (Gosling), Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Costume Design, Best Original Score, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing, two nominations for Best Original Song (“Audition [The Fools Who Dream]” and “City of Stars”), Best Production Design
IMDb’s Top 250: #51
This is the dream! It’s conflict and it’s compromise, and it’s very, very exciting!—Sebastian
Mia (Stone), a waitress who has dreams of being an actress in Hollywood, falls for a down-on-his-luck jazz pianist, Sebastian (Gosling). Each has dreams of their own—Mia wants to emulate the movie stars of yesteryear, while Sebastian strives to save jazz and open his own jazz club—but their relationship is strained when success starts coming their way.
I have to admit, I went into this film with a lot of apprehension, simply because everyone was losing their minds over it. Then I saw it. La La Land is a love-letter to old Hollywood, a gorgeous spectacle of a film. Cinematographically, it is flawless. Bold pastels wash across the screen in almost every shot, each camera movement makes the viewer lose themselves in the film. Throwbacks to some of the greatest movies of Hollywood’s heyday are thrown in—the streetlights from Singin’ in the Rain, Emma Stone recreating the iconic shot of Audrey Hepburn in front of the Arc de Triomphe in Funny Face—and they make us forget that we’re watching a movie set in modern day. People talking on cell phones and YouTube videos in the background are actually jarring to see.
The musical numbers are awesome and reminiscent of old timey dance numbers with Fred Astaire. You just feel nostalgic watching this film; you’re left thinking, “they really don’t make ’em like they used to.”
The chemistry between Stone and Gosling is as powerful as ever. They represent all of us who have ever had a dream of being greater than when we perceive ourselves to be, which is another big reason this movie is so popular. We see ourselves in Mia and Seb; we’ve all been there: down in the dumps, rejected, and desperate. When they start realizing their dreams, we can’t help cheering them on.
Now don’t get me wrong. I LOVED this movie. It was fun, it was catchy, and it was like going up into the attic and rummaging around your parent’s old things—nostalgia at its finest. However, I thought Moonlight was a better film than this. Moonlight initiated much more powerful emotions for me, it’s stuck with me, and I guess that just comes down to personal preference. I think the Best Picture race is going to come down to these two films.
I will be furious if Ryan Gosling wins Best Actor over Denzel Washington. Gosling is sardonic and witty, but likeable, but we’ve seen better performances from him in past films. Washington put in a career-defining performance in Fences, and deserves to win.
I also think Emma Stone will lose out Natalie Portman in Jackie. I haven’t seen Jackie, but Emma Stone didn’t overly wow me with her performance. She was great, but not Oscar-great. Knowing how popular this film was, though, and seeming as it was about Hollywood’s favorite subject—itself—I could see it running the table and winning everything.
Fun fact: Because the director wanted to shoot the scene in the tradition of old musicals without cuts or editing, Ryan Gosling practiced playing the piano and played it himself in one take on his first day of shooting. Co-star John Legend, who is a classically trained pianist, says he is “jealous” of how quickly Gosling learned to play so well.
Why you should watch it: They simply don’t make movies like this anymore. It will bring you back to the days when you had to be a triple threat to make it anywhere in Hollywood.
Why you should: If you hate classic Hollywood and everything it stands for.
I’m on the final stretch! Just three movies left! Vote above, and thanks for reading!