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CYNICISM AT THE CINEMA: Yes, ‘La La Land’ deserves all its praise

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(Photo used by permission of Wikimedia Commons)
The “La La Land” logo.

Movie aficionado sophomore Chardonnay Needler reviews films biweekly in “Cynicism at the Cinema.”

I have a problem that won’t go away.

For three weeks now, I’ve been humming, whistling and singing these uplifting yet heart-wrenching tunes.

And upon leaving the theater (for the first but definitely not the last time), I couldn’t stop talking about the plot, Damien Chazelle’s brilliant directing, Ryan Gosling’s amazing ability to play the piano (after only six months of lessons!), Emma Stone’s charm, the beautiful cinematography and the amazing soundtrack.

So then I went again.

Two more times, actually.

And it still hasn’t gone stale!

“La La Land,” which has been nominated for 14 Oscars and has won seven Golden Globes (the most Globes won by any film in history), is the perfect modern-day musical.

And unlike most cinematographic marvels, it alerts audiences in the first five minutes that it is something special.

After the opening, an amazingly vibrant musical number set on a Los Angeles freeway ramp, I sat dumbfounded, my mouth agape.

The scene wasn’t too gimmicky. It wasn’t forced. It was just lovely.

But it made me think this musical was going to be very musical-ly.

I love musicals. Among the skeletons in my closet is my embarrassing secret of having tried to sing and dance to the great musicals of the mid-20th century.  

And let’s just say I’m no Debbie Reynolds.

That being said, this film is loved by music aficionados and regular filmgoers alike.

(Photo used by permission of Creative Commons)
Mia (Emma Stone) and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) dance on a hilltop overlooking Los Angeles.

The plot is centered around Sebastian (Gosling) and Mia (Stone), two young dreamers in Hollywood with passions that hark back to the earlier part of the 20th century.

Sebastian is a jazz pianist obsessed with the idea of establishing his own jazz club in this “City of Stars,” which is ignorant to the likes of Miles Davis and other visionaries.

Mia is an aspiring actress who’s just looking for that “Someone in the Crowd” to send her into stardom.

And after some serendipitous situations, their annoyance for each other blossoms into an endearing relationship, something that Hollywood hasn’t presented in so honest and pure a light for quite a while.

The two sing some songs, dance a bit, and share a few montages, but the true beauty of this film isn’t just in the singing and dancing; it’s in the amazing score (especially at the end, with the piece “Epilogue”).

That’s why it opens itself to a much wider audience.

No, neither Gosling nor Stone is the greatest singer or dancer, but that’s okay. They are more like everyone else watching: dreamers with hopes and aspirations.

After every rewatch, I’ve seen the motifs and themes of dreams, priorities, the seasons, etc., more clearly.

The film is a piece of art that I appreciate more each time. And each replay the soundtrack reveals the intricacies of the composition and the various emotions it portrays in the film.

Things that seemed joyous the first time seem so bittersweet with a rewatch.

And the opposite is true for things that on first glance seemed very sad.

It’s an intricate film, a musical that represents the shifting priorities of modern-day people and couples.

And it isn’t the stereotypical musical its trailer portrays.

It’s bold and subtle, uplifting and depressing.

So go to the theater and take a jump into the past – and future – of musicals.

“La La Land” is a land of its own.

By Chardonnay Needler

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