My Favourite Films of All Time: La La Land (2016)
La La Land is one of my favourite films of all time. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. It’s been out for like, a day (A month in the US, over half a year including festivals). I’m not joking. Keep in mind, I’m very careful about decisions like this. I was one of the few who didn’t rave about A Monster Calls.
La La Land is a musical about two struggling artists who find love in LA. It’s a film about dreamers, and the risks we take to accomplish those dreams. I guess that’s why I connected to it so much. The arts is an industry where it’s near impossible to get your name in lights. This film is a salute to those who are willing to put everything on the line to achieve what those around you say is impossible.
So a little about me is important. I’m a bit of a musical man. I self-taught myself a bit of music theory early on in life, learnt piano from age 7-11 and today I tend to listen to around 13 new albums a week. My true passion is film, but music is always second to that. Music inspires what I do as a writer and arguably as a video editor too. With that said…
This film is nothing short of a masterpiece. A film which combines the styles of yesterday with the film of today. There’s a CinemaScope title card, which if you know what that is, I don’t need to explain how nostalgic this film feels. There are nods to MGM musicals everywhere. From the way the music is scored to the bold and abstract ideas that are tackled in this film.
The music is performed by a 90 piece orchestra, the traditional set for a musical film. There is the inclusion of a choir which adds to the nostalgia the score has. The songs in the musical are frankly gorgeous. Lyrics are relatable and aren’t too far fetched for a general audience. Highlights being ‘Another Day of Sun’ (I’m reaching for the heights/And chasing all the lights that shine/And when they let you down/You’ll get up off the ground/‘Cause morning rolls around/And it’s another day of sun). Right off the bat, this musical sets up it’s themes in the first three minutes. This musical number is interesting. Musicals as a genre don’t tend to start with a giant ensemble like this anymore. It’s a clear risk. If you know anything about modern audience behaviours, you’ll know the first 15 minutes are important. It has to be interesting, captivating. But not cheesy, gooey or confusing. Full ensembles tend to be cheesy. This however was the most natural transition from scene to musical number I’ve possibly ever seen. That’s one of the many things that this film should be praised for, how natural it feels. It’s as natural a Singin’ In The Rain, which is a feat only few musicals can claim. Another highlight is ‘A Lovely Night’. The entire sequence, was masterfully done. From the camera, to the music to the performances. I had goosebumps it was so beautiful. The tap dance sequence moved me to tears. It’s the only time I sat back and thought “wow, this scene will become a classic” in a cinema. ‘Someone In The Crowd’ is incredible in both cinematography and choreography. Being almost Birdman-esque in it’s design. In the run-up to awards season, I’ve been rooting for Moana’s ‘How Far I’ll Go’ to take Original Song, after seeing La La Land, I can say that ‘City of Stars’ deservers this award far more. It’s a beautiful song about love and dreams.
The Planetarium sequence is a beautifully choreographed metaphor for shooting to the stars. A sequence which would seem cheesy fits in with a film about dreamers who find themselves in love despite conflicting aspirations.
I guess that’s the most beautiful part of this story. The relationship of Mia and Sebastian. Two very different people who become somewhat blinded by love. We learn that these characters are far more focused on their dreams than their love. The ending of this film shows the ability to love someone without being a lover. While the epilogue is a perhaps sad sequence, it was powerful to see a ‘what could’ve been’ which so eloquently tips it’s hat to the musical films of the 40s.
La La Land is as beautiful as a film can get. Without any doubt, it’s my favourite musical film. It’s a wonderful story that will live on just like the masterpieces that inspired it. On a personal level, this musical inspired the same feeling I got after seeing Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Mary Poppins for the first time as a child. It’s not a nostalgia thing, but a source of inspiration. I guess that’s why its one of my favourite films of all time.