SPOILER ALERT: In a year filled with plenty of realistic Academy Award Best Picture nominees, one movie stood out to me in particular. “La La Land”, which was released at the tail end of 2016, blew me away like few movies have before. As someone who is not the biggest fan of movies-turned-musicals, the fact that I was so enchanted by this movie speaks volumes.
So many things stood out to me about this movie that I’m just going to take it one step at a time, starting with the leads, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. The two actors have been in films together before, most notably “Crazy Stupid Love” in 2011. Their chemistry shined brightly in “La La Land” as Stone and Gosling played an actress and jazz pianist, respectively, trying to make it big in Hollywood. Although neither is a perfect singer, I wasn’t bothered at all by their casting because they weren’t supposed to be singers in the movie and their voices were still pleasant to the ear. Furthermore, both put in great performances and made a lot out of their characters, which will put them in the running for the “Best Lead Actor/Actress” at the Academy Awards.
With regards to the music in the film, “La La Land’s” soundtrack was incredible. The movie score, composed by Justin Hurwitz, is filled with jazzy melodies and a message that jazz can still be relevant in a time where the style of music is dying. The soundtrack compliments one of the themes of the film as well, since Sebastian is trying to keep jazz alive himself by getting the money to run his very own jazz club in the city.
The movie begins with the upbeat ensemble number, “Another Day of Sun”, that describes the daily struggle of those trying to make it big in Hollywood but suggests the struggle is all worth it. The next song on the soundtrack is my personal favorite, called “Someone in the Crowd.” It features one of the main protagonists in the film, Mia (played by Emma Stone), and her roommates singing about going to a party and finding “that someone in the crowd” that could help them be famous. Other notable songs in the movie are “A Lovely Night,” “Mia and Sebastian’s Theme” and “City of Stars,” the latter of which won “Best Original Song” at the Golden Globes and will likely be in the running for the same award at the Oscars.
The costume and scenery design in the film were fantastic as well, with a great usage of bright colors that made each and every scene stand out. Furthermore, the cinematography and the use of panning cameras, especially during shots of musicians playing on stage, was so well-executed and well-edited that writer and director Damien Chazelle (who also wrote and directed Whiplash in 2014) and his crew will surely be at the top of my list for several Oscars next month.
Ultimately, “La La Land” took me on a ride of emotions, from the ambitions of chasing wild dreams to a daily struggle of obstacles and the romance that comes in between. The film was so powerful and got to me on so many levels that it may be one of my favorite movies in as many as ten years. That may seem exaggerated, but I truly believe it and highly recommend the movie to anyone who has not seen it yet. I give “La La Land” five out of five stars for what is as close to perfection as a work of art like this can achieve. Expect to hear “La La Land’s” name called several times at next month’s Oscar presentations.