Friday, February 17, 2017


La La Land is the latest picture directed by Damien Chazelle, the 32-year-old wunderkind whose debut film Whiplash was nominated for Best Picture, won 3 Oscars, including Best Supporting Actor for J.K. Simmons (Oz). La La Land stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone as two star-crossed lovers who are trying to further their artistic pursuits (his as a jazz pianist, her as an actress) in primary-colored, sun-dappled Los Angeles. This year La La Land received an astonishing 14 Oscar nominations, tying the record set by All About Eve (1950) and Titanic (1997).  All About Eve only won 6 Oscars but Titanic basically swept the Oscars its year, winning 11. That record was tied by The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King in 2004.

La La Land is the frontrunner to win the Best Picture Oscar this year (and perhaps win a lot of other categories as well) because of many reasons, but I would say primarily because it is about Hollywood, struggling artists and "the dream factory." The city of Los Angeles (i.e. the eponymous "La La Land") is almost another main character in the movie. The movie begins with a traffic jam (which turns into a frenetic, strangely uninteresting song-and-dance number) at one of the key freeway interchanges in the city and continues by showing iconic images of Los Angeles, from the Hollywood sign, the view from Griffith Observatory, Watts Towers, the Colorado Street Bridge (in Pasadena), the Rialto Theater (in South Pasadena) and many more. As an Angeleno (as most Oscar voters are), La La Land is a delight.

La La Land attempts to upend and subvert movie tropes while it simultaneously reinscribes them. It is a movie musical about a boy and a girl who fall in love while trying to hold on to their dreams of artistic success and fulfillment. There are numerous points in the film where characters break into song and start dancing (like we would expect them to do in a classic 1950s Hollywood musical). But there are also numerous roadblocks to success and happiness for our couple, Mia (Emma Stone) and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling). John Legend has a teensy role as the source of evil temptation for Sebastian to sell out and make money playing back up music in a band he doesn't believe in instead of following his dream of opening up a jazz club where he can preserve the authentic traditions of the music for fellow aficionados like himself.

In the end (which is surprisingly unpredictable) La La Land is a heart-warming story with some catchy tunes that any Angeleno will be hard to resist calling the best movie of the year.

TitleLa La Land.
Director: Damien Chazelle.
Running Time: 2 hours, 8 minutes.
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for some language.
Release Date: December 9, 2016.
Viewing Date: December 19, 2016.

Writing: B.
Acting: A.
Visuals: A+.
Impact: A-.

Overall Grade: A/A- (3.75/4.0).

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