The Movie 2016 Needed
La La Land (2016): A jazz pianist falls for an aspiring actress in Los Angeles.
Wow. Well done, Damien Chazelle. If you follow my blog (thank you, by the way) you'll know that I called his debut film, Whiplash, the best film I've ever reviewed since I started Enter the Movies back in September, 2013. Needless to say, I have been looking forward to his follow up ever since it was announced. And somehow.....Damien Chazelle has done it. He has avoided the sophomore slump and delivered a film that is not only as good as Whiplash, but is better. That's right. In my opinion La La Land snatches the title for best film I have ever reviewed, and I can now say with 100% certainty that Damien Chazelle is the next great revolutionary filmmaker in Hollywood. I have already seen this film twice in its opening week, and have every intention of making time to see it again while it's still in theaters. And dear GOD see this film in the theater! Watching this film in theaters in a packed room is why I love movies. So, what makes this the best film of the year?
Well, that's kind of a big question. Where to even begin with this film? Let's start with the acting. This film is the Emma Stone show. While there are still several big time acting films I haven't seen, (most notably Jackie) I can say to this point Emma Stone's performance in La La Land is the best performance I've seen all year. The performance of her career, Stone is asked portray an actress trying to make it in Hollywood, and steals the show thanks to several emotional audition sequences, the final of which is easily comparable to Anne Hathaway's iconic "I Dreamed a Dream" scene from 2012's Les Miserables. Stone's counterpart, Ryan Gosling, also puts in the performance of his career. Thanks to being in previous films together like 2013's Gangster Squad, the two have wonderful chemistry, which is crucial since this is basically their film. I must also give heavy praise to the story. Usually in a big musical like this you're asked to make leaps of faith from time to time. Like Maria and Tony falling in love from across a gym in West Side Story! I mean, c'mon, right? But that doesn't happen here. The relationship between Stone and Gosling is easily earned, and the events that follow take you through every single emotion imaginable. Be prepared to rock the ugly cry, guys. Even on the second viewing, when I knew exactly what was going to happen, I was still in tears. It is a beautifully told story and shows Chazelle is just as good a writer as he is a director.
But it's far more than just the writing and acting that make this the best movie I've ever reviewed. It's the costumes. The makeup. The set design. The choreography. The editing. The cinematography. It's the care that goes into the making of this film that is simply spectacular. I must especially praise the costumes. There's a few sequences early on in particular that feature some absolutely gorgeous costumes. And theeeeen there's the opening sequence. The first song, "Another Day of Sun," is actually going to overtake the ending of Rogue One as my favorite movie moment of the year. Believe me when I say a few weeks ago I did not think that would be possible, but OH MY goodness is this opening sequence utterly exhilarating. And did I mention it's shot in a single take? This opening sequence is a marvelous and iconic moment in filmmaking, and will certainly inspire a new generation of filmmakers for years to come. And if it doesn't, then the final 15 minutes of the film certainly will, which are just as exhilarating as the first 15 minutes.
You may have noticed that I haven't mentioned one....kind of major thing from this musical: the music. That's because it is the best part of Chazelle's masterpiece. I'm not sure if it will be elgible for an Academy Award because it's not comprised entirely of original music, but Justin Hurwitz has established himself just as much as Chazelle has. He has only composed three films, which happen to be the same three films Chazelle has directed, but each of these films feature wonderful renditions of classic tunes as well as some great new music too. The truth is I have not been able to stop listening to the score of La La Land over the past week, and I found myself humming along an awful lot on the second viewing. There's no doubt that the most important part of a musical is the music, and Justin Hurwitz hits it out of the park in this department.
If you should interpret anything from this review, it's that La La Land is a cinematic triumph, like Whiplash before it. Chazelle has done what I thought was impossible, and he does it so well that I almost feel foolish for thinking that he could not top Whiplash. This film is a masterpiece, and firmly sets Chazelle right alongside the legendary Martin Scorsese for the "coveted" title of my favorite director in Hollywood right now. Every facet of filmmaking is meticulously cared for, and a film like this is a wonderful reminder to me of why I am hopelessly in love with cinema. Forget Rogue One. If there's only one film you see this holiday season, see La La Land. Well done, Damien Chazelle.
The Critique: The best film of the year, La La Land is a cinematic triumph in every sense of the phrase.
The Recommendation: An absolute must-see. Do yourself a favor and see this in the theater. You'll thank me later.
Rewatchability: I will rehash what I said about Whiplash here, because it's just as true. Infinite (I've already seen this movie twice at the time of this writing, and I watched it for the first time less than a week ago)
The Verdict: 10/10 Perfect.
Oscar Talk: I would be SHOCKED if this film is not your Best Picture winner for 2016. It's the film 2016 needs, and it also is right in the wheelhouse for films that the Academy loves to give Best Picture to. (Just ask Birdman) I also expect wins for Best Director and Costumes, as well as Music if it's elgible. I think this also wins Best Original Song regardless of whether they put Another Day of Sun or City of Stars or the Audition (The Fools Who Dream) up for the award. Heck this film might have multiple entries competing against each other for Best Original Song. Also I expect Emma Stone to make a strong case for Best Actress and at least be nominated for the award.
Seriously, though. Go see this film.
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