February 10, 2017

La La Land

Damien Chazelle, 2016
After seeing La La Land it isn't surprising that it's an Oscar front-runner and exists virtually critic-proof. It checks off all of the things that Academy voters pine over: Musical elements, a love story, and a love letter to Los Angeles and particularly the golden age of Cinema. It might be THE movie to watch at home with your wife. And at least in my marriage, it's a movie that offers separate things for the two of us. She happened to be more emotionally connected to the romantic component of the film. For me, I found myself more invested in the variety of technical achievements made. Like how did Chazelle pull off that introductory sequence on the LA highway? What about the pool party segment? Or how did they create that planetarium sequence with the stars?

Jazz plays a large role in La La Land just as it did in Chazelle's last film Whiplash. Both have a sincere appreciation for the genre. Whiplash approached Jazz from more of a strict academic standpoint and La La is definitely more of a romantic standpoint. But there's a clear sense that Chazelle likes Jazz. Beyond that, Chazelle is someone who also seems very fond of classic cinema. And now after watching his last two contributions to film it's pretty clear that hes absorbed so much of what he's clearly passionate for. Chazelle is a pretty masterful filmmaker, that's quite clear.

One notable thing about La La Land is also the way that it depicts modern Los Angeles. Instead of making it an unforgiving landscape like last year's Tangerine, it approaches LA with daydreaming eyes. There is a deliberate attempt to paint Los Angeles as this fantastical place - as Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone) navigate their way through scenes in the Griffith Observatory, Watts Towers and Chateau Marmont where a million classic LA films have been made.

It's interesting reflecting on La La Land. Because when personally evaluating this film it's not about whether or not it's a good film or a bad film. It's without question a GOOD film. Well made, well acted. Emma Stone will probably get an Oscar for her performance and she totally deserves it. She's unbelievable here. Gosling is great, the only real criticism you can make about him is maybe his singing chops aren't completely up to par but it's really not distracting at all. This is one of those films I have to judge on the impact that it had on me. Years from now will I be thinking about La La Land? That's the thing, I really don't think I will be. I will most certainly remember Whiplash, which clearly had more of a personal impact on me. Whiplash is one of the best films made in the past 10 years. Ten years from now I will probably look back on La La Land the same way I look back on The Artist - a well made movie that wasn't necesarilly made for someone like me. Something I can respect for what it is but something that isn't going to permanently reside in the depths of my memory.

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