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La La Land

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There are two schools of thought regarding La La Land. One is that demonstrated by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences: La La Land is a masterpiece worthy of every possible award. The other is that it is massively ‘overrated‘ and indicative of a lack of originality and imagination in Hollywood, and even that it is politically suspect. I lean more towards the former, as I found La La Land to be gorgeously colourful and cinematically vibrant, while the protagonists Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone) are an engaging and often adorable pairing. That said, it is far from being profound or offering much that is innovative. But, perhaps refreshingly, it makes no attempt to be more than it is, as Damian Chazelle’s follow-up to Whiplash is a love letter to Hollywood as Dream Machine, shot through with nostalgia for the musicals of a bygone age. Whether it will age as well as Singin’ in the Rain or West Side Story remains to be seen, but within the oeuvre of its director this is a clearer and more satisfying work. Whereas Whiplash struggled to confirm its perspective, La La Land never forgets that it is first and foremost a film about dreams, as both Sebastian and Mia are driven by their respective goals, his to own a classic jazz bar and hers to succeed as a Hollywood actress. In their third onscreen pairing after Crazy Stupid Love and Gangster Squad, Gosling and Stone are beautifully engaging, Seb and Mia coming across as both archetypal and personable. The backdrop of their clichéd but affectionately detailed story serves as an idyllic landscape, where Chazelle and DOP Linus Sandgren use long takes to capture the expansive locations and the skilled choreography within it. At the expansive end of the scale is the opening musical number, ‘Another Day of Sun’, in which dozens of motorists on a Los Angeles freeway burst into song and out of their cars to set the tone for the toe-tapping fun that is to come. Yet perhaps the film’s strongest moment is more intimate, as Mia delivers the passionate number, ‘Audition’, which expresses the heart of the film: the beauty of dreams no matter how absurd and unrealistic they may seem. La La Land also surprises with its thread of melancholia, ensuring that while it is an ebullient and frothy confection, even the most ‘Hollywood’ of stories can be bittersweet.

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7 Comments

  1. […] Fences Hacksaw Ridge Hell or High Water Hidden Figures La La Land Lion Manchester by the Sea […]

  2. […] Chazelle, La La Land Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge Barry Jenkins, Moonlight Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea Denis […]

  3. […] Davis nominated in the Best Actress category, her main competition would be Emma Stone in La La Land, who like Davis has picked up the Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild and BAFTA awards for Best […]

  4. […] Leading Actor for Training Day. Viggo Mortensen for Captain Fantastic and Ryan Gosling for La La Land are previous nominees for Lead Actor, for Eastern Promises and Half Nelson, respectively, while […]

  5. […] lose out on Picture and Directing to La La Land, it seems far more likely to win in this category. La La Land could add to its collection here, but I predict Manchester by the Sea will be the winner come Oscar […]

  6. […] Actress, Moonlight has been described as the alternative to the likely Best Picture winner, La La Land. It is easy to see why and, while I enjoyed La La Land, I find Moonlight a more impressive piece of […]

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