Going Rah, Rah, Rah for ‘La La Land’

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GOING LA LA—Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone find dance and romance in “La La Land,” an Oscar-worthy film. Photo by Dale Robinette

Writer/director Damien Chazelle won a Golden Globe for his original movie musical, “La La Land,” an inventive tribute to song, dance and dreams. By the end of the evening the film garnered six additional Golden Globes, which included honors for both Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in the acting category. The seven Golden Globe sweep may also portend golden potential when Oscar nominations are handed out in the near future.

Writer/director Damien Chazelle won a Golden Globe for his original movie musical, “La La Land,” an inventive tribute to song, dance and dreams. By the end of the evening the film garnered six additional Golden Globes, which included honors for both Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in the acting category. The seven Golden Globe sweep may also portend golden potential when Oscar nominations are handed out in the near future.

“La La Land” is set in Hollywood, a city that lures in dreamers from every state, dreamers with stars in their eyes who want to be discovered. Such is the case with jazz pianist Seb (Ryan Gosling) and actress Mia (Emma Stone) who meet on a jammed L.A. freeway. While it is a great place to stage an amazing opening dance sequence atop hundreds of stalled vehicles, who would think of doing such a thing besides the very clever, creative Chazelle. As we all know, traffic jams can bring the freeway to a nerve wracking halt and we just sit there and fume, but as “La La Land” begins people spontaneously leap out of their vehicles and begin dancing on their cars, leaping, flipping and twirling until traffic starts to flow once again.

The opening is truly creative. In fact in was so surprising and fun that my husband started to applaud as did the majority of the people in the crowded movie theater. Hey, we’ve all been there, but never had the nerve or inclination to dance on our car rooftops and hoods.

Mia and Seb’s eyes meet, but it is not love at first sight as he yells at her for thwarting his exit out of his lane and she flips him the bird. They meet again, also unsuccessfully, but the third time’s the charm. Unfortunately she is not a jazz aficionado, so can they make a lasting  connection?

An amazing fact about the film: Gosling, while a gifted guitarist, was not a pianist. However he learned how to play the piano for this role and plays all of his music throughout the film. It is also interesting to note that this Canadian-born actor was, in his youth, a Mouseketeer on the Mickey Mouse Club circa ‘93-’95.

 

 

Director Chazelle is drawn to  jazz which also played an important part in his film “Whiplash” starring J.K Simmons, who won an Oscar for his work as a harsh, demanding music professor. Simmons also plays a cameo in “La La Land” as Seb’s boss who fires him when he slips in some strains of jazz which were not on the club’s playlist.

The music, composed by Justin Hurwitz with lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, is pleasant, featuring the romantic ballad “City of Stars,” and the choreography by Mandy Moore is whimsical as they waltz up into the stars…and it works. The love story, like jazz, can be bittersweet as the two dreamers try to support one another while pursing their own personal career goals.

It’s been awhile since a musical has reached the silver screen. In the recent past there was “Chicago,” with 13 Oscar nods and 6 wins, “Les Miserables” and “Into the Woods,” all adapted for the screen from successful theatrical musicals, but “La La Land” is a total movie original, penned by Chazelle. With so much buzz it should certainly win a Best Picture nom from the Academy, and if the Golden Globes are an omen, it might not only bring movie musicals back into fashion, it could be a real contender. “La La Land,” runs for 2 hours, 8 minutes and is rated PG-13 for some language.

Also in theatres:  Martin Scorsese’s masterful “Silence” set in 17th century Japan and “Fences.” based on August Wilson’s powerful play, directed by and starring Denzel Washington. Both Washington and Viola Davis won Tony Awards when they starred in “Fences” on Broadway and  Viola Davis won a Golden Globe for her powerful film performance which may also mean an Oscar nod for her and for Denzel.

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