So the Oscars roll in less than a week from today. La La Land has garnered 14 nominations – the most ever and is tied with Titanic and All About Eve for the most ever.
The most ever wins is 11 for Titanic in 1997, Ben Hur brought home 11 in 1959, and Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King in 2003 walked away with 11.
I am not one to make Oscar predictions, but being as generous as possible, LLL shouldn’t win for Best Original Screenplay, shouldn’t win for Best Costume Design, and shouldn’t win for Best Male Actor – so I think 11 Oscars is the max for La La Land. Doesn’t mean I think they will win 11. Rather that I think the most they could win is 11.
I did not see the film back in December on Christmas Day when it opened, or even in January. It was only a few days ago on Wednesday (the 15th) that I saw La La Land and I was at the Cinemark 12 in Bluffton, South Carolina to do so.
Written and directed by Damien Chazelle, this is a film about Hollywood, and the California lifestyle (maybe work search is a better word) , and it slots nicely and initially into the classic boy meets girl genre.
Mia (Emma Stone) is a late twenties aspiring actress who hasn’t made much of an impact lately. On the side, meaning most of the time, she’s a barista at a local coffee imbibery.
Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) is a jazz pianist who must pound the ivories at various cocktail emporiums. playing songs he hates, and chafing about having to do so (he’d rather own his own jazz club where he could riff his own musical creations for as long as he wanted). The chafing continued right up to the moment when he could no longer do so; that is – until he was fired by the club owner (portrayed by J.K. Simmons).
It is on the night he’s fired, that Mia happened to be in that very same club. Nothing at all happened between them that night other than Sebastian brushing rudely past Mia on his way out. But that wasn’t even the first time they’d seen each other.
That was during a huge traffic tie-up on the Santa Monica Freeway ramp when 100’s of cars were gridlocked into a traffic standstill. But as things usually go in films – they’d be in the same place at the same time again and again – before they noted that those accidentally crossing of paths ‘might mean something’.
Once they met and began conversation, we didn’t expect it would take that long before a romance would start. And that proved to be the case.
Also expected was a change in their careers. Mia wrote and mounted a one-woman show ( at an L.A. version of an off-off-off Broadway venue)
which was sparsely attended but led to something else. Sebastian ran into an old friend
(played by John Legend) who already had a successful band. But at the time, he needed a keyboard man.
So each of their careers at that point ‘took off’. But as many couples have discovered, it was easier to fall in love while struggling than staying in love while succeeding.
And that’s the basics of the story of La La Land. As I said – this shouldn’t be a screenplay that garners an Oscar.
But the facts are in, as well as the public opinion, that La La Land is really a dynamic and entertaining film. Stone and Gosling are neither great singers and no one will ever compare their dance skills to those of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. But that doesn’t (and shouldn’t) mean that the film is deficient. Not in the least.
One of the best songs in the film is called City of Stars. This song may not be a true toe-tapper but it is certainly memorable on its own right and it fits the film perfectly.
The mix of the superb music and the visual delights of So-Cal, when combined with attractive leads and Chazelle’s wizardry – have yielded a film that should walk off with an armful of statuettes called Oscars.
Want more convincing? Here is the chorus from the song performed by Stone’s character Mia – the title of the song is Audition (not because the song is about an audition but rather that it was performed in an audition:
Here’s to the ones who dream
Foolish as they may seem
Here’s to the hearts that ache
Here’s to the mess we make
The song is wonderful as it encompasses the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of so many who arrived in La La Land long ago, or those already there who are wishing and hoping as I write this, as well as those who are yet to arrive.
In my view, this is a film that is far greater than any of its individual components. Chazelle has crafted a magical movie that is both a look forward for those looking to break into show business, as well as a look back at why we love musicals. I’ve been told that this film will be remembered and revered long after this date and well into the future. I’ve no argument with that thought.
Four point seven five is my rating on a scale of five. And I’ll add that I highly recommend the film.