La La Land

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Best Motion Picture of the Year

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

Best Achievement in Directing

Best Original Screenplay

Best Achievement in Cinematography

Best Achievement in Film Editing

Best Achievement in Production Design

Best Achievement in Costume Design

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Score)

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Song)

Best Achievement in Sound Mixing

Best Achievement in Sound Editing

 

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Where to begin with La La Land? Well not it’s beginning for sure, which was without doubt the worst part of the movie. Whilst the opening was very theatrical and well choreographed from the dances, to the BMX’ers and everything in between, I feel that it didn’t give way to the rest of the movie. However I understand that it was irony that led the opening the way it did.

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From the end of the opening credits, the film is edited with razor sharp precision. Its evident from the start that director Damien Chazelle has developed something extra special within the visual aspects of the film. Working alongside cinematographer Linus Sandgren (who we have the likes of American Hustle, and Joy to thank for) the pair have brought together a visionary spectacular, from the immersive water shots, to the sunset pinks, to every single frame being aesthetically pleasing. It certainly makes it stand out from the usual black box style musical.

Whilst one half of me is inclined to love this movie, the other half of my curdles up inside. I love musicals, I love Emma Stone, I love Ryan Gosling, and I love bittersweet romance, so what went wrong? I think mostly it’s down to the casting. Whilst they have cinematic history together, their chemistry is nothing compared to their modern-day equals; Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. I feel they have strived for the effect that Cooper & Lawrence had in Silver Linings Playbook, but somewhere along the line, the on screen chemistry falls short and the overall effect is underwhelming.

Despite my thoughts on the general casting and placement of the film, I loved everything that surrounded it. From the location setting, to the cinematography to the music score, wardrobe, lighting – it was all electrifying. The film begins from Emma Stones perspective as she portrays Mia, a struggling actress working as a barista in between dooming auditions. First casting error due to Emma Stone being A) a weak singer B) a weak dancer and C) a slim, white, pretty faced female. The latter is why the film has dealt with huge backlash surrounding racial problems. In the world of Hollywood, the easiest way to get in is if you tick all of the boxes that Emma Stone ticks. It’s known globally that it is near to impossible to break into Hollywood if you fall under a minority, so to have someone as bright and shiny as Emma Stone to play a struggling actress felt like an insult to many people who actually DO struggle to fit into Hollywood due to their race, looks or background.

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The perspective flip is the first major award grabbing moment. This Sliding Doors effect pinged us back to the beginning of the film, told instead by Gosling instead of Stone. Despite the two different directions that the leads take, each is directed mirroring the other, connecting the characters even more so in despite of their different lives. We then follow Sebastian, an aspiring jazz artist and find that his life isn’t panning out so smoothly either. Can anyone tell me right now if there is anything on this earth more heavenly than Ryan Gosling playing piano? And REALLY playing piano. John Legend said he was bitterly jealous at how quickly Ryan mastered the skill. He was able to play all of the pieces that were composed pre-shoot by heart.

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The ‘getting to know eachother’ stage hosts some great dialogue as they delve into the frustrations of being modern day artists in a world that can’t accept that as a paycheque. It is soon after this scene that the first musical duet takes place as we see Mia and Sebastian dance around in a dreamy LA sunset. Still though, the choreography seems off and the scene seems at a loss from the rest of the film. The best part of this scene is when the all too familiar iPhone ring alarms and the song is broken. The body language of the characters, and the cinematography do a totally 360 to match the broken mood – sunset gone, minimal spotlights, and a black lit background.

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The rest of the film isn’t as definitive from here. To say that the cinematography is a crutch to the film is an understatement. Moments like the ones shown below are in my opinion works of art, however it pains me that the standards surrounding the other aspects of the film can’t match up with it. There are barely any supporting characters. The most notable one being John Legend who looks delicious in a mustard turtleneck as he guides Seb with his musical direction.

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The internet is full of protests for and against the success of this movie. Whilst being a huge fan of the cinematography, and design side of the movie, everything else that fills it feels false, and absolutely nothing like the films that the movie is trying to base itself on; Singing In The Rain (1952), American In Paris (1951), The Band Wagon (1936) to name a few. The biggest issue that has fronted social media is race. La La Land is the Oscars front runner with 14 nominations, yet it comes without tact after the past few years ‘Oscars So White’ campaigning. This year, the academy have acknowledged numerous people from different races and backgrounds which is seen as a huge improvement, yet here we have the front running film surrounding a white man trying to protect and ‘save jazz’ – a genre of music brought to us and developed by black musicians over decades. As well as that, the fact that Sebastian wants to take it back to the ‘Golden Age’ of jazz, which of course was a time of  segregation, is seen as ignorance to its fullest.

People claim that this will inspire a new wave of Hollywood musicals, well I certainly hope not. Leave that to the likes of Chicago, Hairspray, Les Miserables. They are Hollywood musicals. They will stand the test of time. La La Land will still no doubt dominate the Oscars, but I hope it only takes the awards that it deserves from a production side! I will cry if Emma Stone wins (she probably will.) I love her, but not in this film.

 

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