Let
me start off by saying that I’m typically not a fan of musicals. I have
a hard time explaining why that is, but I just don’t connect with them
(the exceptions being Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera) for some
reason or another. I can now add another musical to that limited list,
because La La Land is pure cinematic magic (cinemagic? Someone has used
that before I’m sure, but if not, SCORE). I’ve been eagerly awaiting
this one for a long time, since I saw the first trailer a while back.
After one viewing of it, I had the accompanying song stuck in my head
for days. The cast looked great (Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone were also
perfect together in ‘Crazy, Stupid Love’) and director Damien Chazelle
made one of my favorite movies of last year, ‘Whiplash’. If any team of
people can make a musical that I’d love, it’s them, and hot damn did
they succeed.

La
La Land follows Sebastian and Mia, two young, hopeful artists in LA.
Sebastian hopes to open his own jazz club, and Mia wants to be a
successful actress. Their relationship starts off a bit rocky, with Mia
giving Seb the finger in rush hour traffic and him brushing her off when
she attempts to talk to him at a jazz bar. However, once they do
finally speak to each other, the sparks ignite immediately. For how old
fashioned the movie appears, the relationship between the two feels
fresh and modern, with a witty sense of humor that utilizes both
Gosling’s and Stone’s strengths as actors. Their chemistry together is
magnetic, and you just buy that these two love each other. Things get
complicated when their relationship and individual dreams meet at a
crossroads, as happens in real relationships every day. That’s as much
as I’ll say, but the places the story goes near the end are unexpected
and transcendent (man I want to spoil it, but I’ll keep this
spoiler-free).

Not
only is La La Land packed to the gills will beautiful original music,
the movie is one of the most gorgeously shot of the year as well.
Chazelle, as he did in Whiplash, loves long one-take shots, and this
movie had at least three that stood out. From what I recall, the opening
musical number is done in all one shot, and CGI enhancements
notwithstanding, is remarkable and a total blast. It’s a good barometer
for how much you’ll enjoy the upcoming 2 hours of movie you’re about to
see. Like all musicals, this is a heightened, semi-surreal reality, and
if you’re not on board after that opening number, I doubt you will be at
all. Beyond the opening, the film has so many more visually interesting
and energetic musical ‘set-pieces’, with the ending and planetarium
scenes as some of my favorite movie moments of this year.

I
can’t end this without talking about the music. A musical, obviously,
lives and dies by its music. Maybe that’s why I can’t connect to a lot
of them? In my opinion, that aspect of musicals has to be great by
itself, and the music of La La Land absolutely stands on its own as a
beautiful collection of songs. Justin Hurwitz did the music, as he did
for Chazelle’s ‘Whiplash’ as well, and I want to see this guy branch out
and work for every director that he can. I’ve been listening to this
soundtrack just about every day since seeing it (between the soundtrack
for ‘Moana’ of course) and it’s an all-timer. The way Hurwitz makes
beautiful, simple melodies, and scatters them throughout the film to
serve various moods is masterful. I don’t think I’ll hear a better song
this year than ‘City of Stars’, and a better melody than ‘Mia and
Sebastian’s theme’.

That’s
about it for La La Land. I honestly recommend this movie for everyone,
whether you like musicals or not. It’s just so insanely charming and
fun, honest and bittersweet. It’s old fashioned and revolutionary, while
having roots in the traditional and paving it’s own exciting way. If
you see it, hit me up to talk about that ending, because I’ve seriously
thought about it every day since. Also, I hope you all had a happy new
year! I’m wrapping up seeing a few more 2016 movies and then I’ll be
doing the ol’ top 8 of the year (I thought about upping it to 10, but
I’ll keep with tradition). Keep an eye out for that in the next week or
two, and per usual thank you for reading!

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