If you’ve paid any attention to the realm of movies, and entertainment in general, you have heard of La La Land ad nauseum. If you’re legitimately feeling ad nauseum about La La Land, you’re in one of the two parties I’ve encountered in relation to this movie. That party is the La La Land-was-okay party. You’re not alone. Well actually, chances are you’re not reading this with others which means the only people currently involved is you and I. So, you are alone and that’s because I loved La La Land, and furthermore, have been completely engrossed with it since my first viewing (as of now, I’m at three).
I’ll quickly summarize my feelings on this film as it’s far too late to write a fleshed-out review, although I’ll probably do so soon anyway.
I went into La La Land with almost no exposure to the film. I hadn’t watched a trailer. I hadn’t heard a song. In fact, the only thing I had known about this movie going in was what the poster looked like. I walked out of La La Land with an inexplicable feeling and it took me almost 24 hours to determine what that feeling was.
Stay with me.
La La Land made me feel like I was falling in love with someone I barely knew at Disneyland. Yes, I know this is totally bizarre, and even more bizarre considering I haven’t been to Disneyland since I was three. Furthermore, I’ve never fallen in love with someone I barely knew at Disneyland, let alone any theme park or entertainment attraction.
I honestly can’t explain these feelings but man, did they feel great.
To make it clearer, La La Land is a 10 out of 10 movie. For the record, I believe there is no such thing as a perfect movie, let alone a perfect anything, but when a movie soars to heights rarely reached, it achieves a 10 out of 10 in my book. The music, the dancing, the editing, the directing, the videography–all of it is perfect.
So now you know how I feel.
On the other side, your side, La La Land is still a great movie, but overhyped. If you feel this way, it’s okay. You are not expected to feel the same way others feel about this movie. Maybe you don’t understand how it holds the record for the “most Golden Globes won,” or why it received 14 Oscar nominations (which, for the record, is the most ever tied with Titanic and All About Eve).
That’s okay. A quick Google search brings you to endless stories about why La La Land dominated the Golden Globes. I’m here to tell you why La La Land will win Best Picture at this year’s Oscars.
Is the story of La La Land wholly original? Absolutely not. We’ve seen many movies about two people falling in love who must in turn decide on whether their love or their dreams are more important. The story, per se, isn’t the reason La La Land will win this Oscar. The way this story is told, however, will.
Let’s get this out of the way– Hollywood loves Hollywood, and this movie oozes Hollywood. Because of this, La La Land already has a leg up on nearly every category it has a nomination in, including Best Picture.
That aside, La La Land could not have come out at a more perfect time. For years, Disney has been preparing us for musicals. With each princess movie released comes a multitude of songs that we will one day sing along to while watching fireworks at Disney World, and each time, these songs remain in our heads for weeks on end. Furthermore, over the past few years, a very special musical has remained in the spotlight. Written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton has been the talk of theatre for quite a while, and rightfully so. I haven’t seen it live but if YouTube recordings and the soundtrack indicate anything, it’s that this musical will go down as a classic.
With all of this in mind, I feel that I can safely say that Hollywood has been yearning for a musical on the big screen (that people actually enjoy–looking at you Hairspray and Chicago). La La Land is unique in this category in that it’s the only story told via musical.
Let’s move on to the director, Damien Chazelle. I’ll begin with some history.
La La Land was a movie that Chazelle and Justin Hurwitz, his Harvard roommate (and close friend) have been working on since 2010. In fact, the movie was pitched to multiple studios, only to receive an offer from Legendary. Sadly, the offer was turned down as Legendary gave Chazelle a budget of $1 million, which according to Chazelle, compromised his vision for the film. Chazelle and Hurwitz put a sticky note on La La Land and kept it locked away. In the meantime, together they made Whiplash with Chazelle directing and Hurwitz composing the score. Whiplash is another 10 out of 10 movie and a must-watch for any and all. Finish this article and go watch Whiplash, and then La La Land.
Anyway, Whiplash made waves at multiple screening festivals and was met with high critical reception. This put Chazelle on the map and paved the way for him to make La La Land. With all eyes on him, Chazelle pitched La La Land once again. Soon after, it was picked up by Summit Entertainment with a budget that Chazelle could work with.
And so, La La Land was made.
If you’ve seen the movie, it’s hard to deny Chazelle’s expertise in directing. Every shot and everything within each shot is intentional. Every poster on a wall, every color in view, every showcase of lighting was all done on purpose. The job of a director is to direct those in the movie and ensure the shots planned out are shot. Where Chazelle excels beyond this is his ability to not only show you what he wants to be seen, but subconsciously enhance your experience by adding things to the background, and out of focus, that you’re not meant to understand until a later time. It’s the barrier that Chazelle broke past in directing La La Land that competing directors failed to break that will give La La Land this Oscar.
Story? Check. Director? Check.
To most people, I’d say that the actors and actresses on screen, and their ability to display the character roles they’ve been given, are the most important aspect of a movie.
In steps Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone.
La La Land marks the third movie where the two are romantically involved with one another. This means going in, you can the chemistry between the two to be dynamic and explosive, which it is. La La Land thrives on this romance, and the on-screen love Gosling and Stone have for each other ensures that the audience will be encapsulated with this story.
Their playful disdain for each other, followed by their subtle, yet large flirtatious move makes this love feel real. We’ve all played the game with a potential significant other where you act as if you’re not interested in hopes of drawing their interest in. It’s in this that we can relate.
I can’t say too much more on this relationship without spoiling the movie but I guarantee (which really means nothing to you) that this romance is one you’ll not forget.
Beyond the love in La La Land, Gosling plays a struggling Jazz musician desperate to open his own Jazz club and join the greats of past times. Stone plays an actress bumbling from audition to audition hoping that someone will notice her. Both moved from one place to LA in hopes of achieving their dreams. Throughout the movie, you’ll watch the two navigate the delicate balance of maintaining an intense and compassionate love and a dedication to a dream not yet achieved. As the plot progresses, the emotions found in a journey like this are only heightened and it’s here that this actor and actress excel. La La Land is raw energy presented on the big screen and it’s because of Gosling and Stone. And let me just say–Gosling and Stone were outstanding in their dance numbers and molded their singing perfectly to the tone of the movie (I won’t even get into the whole, “they’re not supposed to be the greatest singers/dancers,” debate).
Now, there’s one final piece of this movie to discuss in an effort to show you why I think La La Land will win best picture, and that final piece is the music.
Justin Hurwitz, who also composed Whiplash, has an obsession with Jazz rivaled only by Chazelle. When you listen to Hurwitz songs, you’re transported to a time of years past where Jazz was king and performed by the best of the best (think Miles Davis). Where Hurwitz succeeds is his modernization of Jazz music presented in this film. La La Land asks the question, “Why is Jazz dying?” and provides a few answers, but the real answer comes from Hurwitz himself. Jazz can no longer sit on the shoulders of the giants of America’s past but it instead, must be brought into the new age that we all live in. If you listen to the soundtrack or the score of La La Land, you’ll hear exactly what I’m talking about.
Musical numbers like “Someone in the Crowd” and “A Lovely Night” are some of the most wonderful experiences I’ve ever witnessed on the silver screen. These two musical numbers, and the few others sprinkled strategically throughout the film, bring audiences back to the 30s, 40s and 50s, to a time when MGM Studios was cranking out masterful musical after masterful musical. I, for one, couldn’t resist watching Singing in the Rain shortly after seeing La La Land.
To me, the music of La La Land is the backbone of this movie. It’s more subtle than the romance portrayed but without it, there would be no La La Land.
It’s the perfect melding of Gosling and Stone, the music, the director and the story that bring this movie to the forefront of the Oscars. I don’t know if La La Land will take home the Oscar for Sound Mixing and Costume Design, but what I do know, is that La La Land will win the Oscar for Best Picture, and it will happen whether you agree or not.
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