“La La Land” is a modern classic and one of the best films in a long time

How often does a film positioned as a Best Picture frontrunner early on live up to the hype? Especially considering the rapturous festival praise for the movie, it would be understandable for Damien Chazelle’s La La Land to feel slightly overrated. And yet, somehow, this is perhaps still underrated, as it’s an out and out modern classic. This week, it hits theaters and is an absolute must see. I’ll say it…this is a perfect film. There’s good reason why this is the one to beat in Best Picture. Depending on how things go, this could waltz its way straight to a number of Oscar wins with little trouble. It truly deserves it too.

The film is a modern day musical, set in Los Angeles. It follows struggling actress Mia (Emma Stone) and struggling jazz pianist Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) as they meet (and meet again), fall in love, and experience life over the course of a year (plus a flash forward at the end). Sebastian, or Seb, is a sucker for classic jazz and wants to open up his own club, but is stuck in cover bands and menial piano bar jobs. Mia can’t get a gig and is a barista, though she dreams of putting on a one woman show. These dreams will face reality, but also the magic of the movies, song, and of course, dance. Gosling and Stone do their own singing and dancing, giving this an old Hollywood feel. Chazelle writes and directs, while the cast also includes Rosemarie DeWitt, John Legend, and J.K. Simmons, along with Josh Pence, Finn Wittrock, and more. Justin Hurwitz composed the score/worked on the original songs, Tom Cross returns as Chazelle’s editor, and Linus Sandgren handles the cinematography. Everyone does award worthy work here, believe that.

Emma Stone LA LA LandEverything works here, mark my words. From the music and the look, to the performances by Gosling and Stone, it’s just perfect. Chazelle already had created a near perfect directorial outing with Whiplash, but this is even better. It opens with a musical number on the freeway that will make you stand up and cheer, while it ends with a sequence that ranks among the all time greats. Factor in the lovely chemistry between the leads, a heartbreaking number in Audition, and the overall feeling of joy this instills, and you really can’t beat it. In a few years, La La Land will be regarded as a classic. First though, it will dominate with Academy voters, who will fall over themselves to honor it.

Awards wise, La La Land is your Oscar frontrunner in a number of categories. Look for the Academy Awards to cite it all over the place, with campaigns launched in Best Picture, Best Director (for Chazelle), Best Actor (for Gosling), Best Actress (for Stone), Best Supporting Actor (for Legend and/or Simmons), Best Supporting Actress (for DeWitt), Best Original Screenplay (for Chazelle as well), Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Makeup & Hairstyling, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Original Score, Best Original Song (times two, both for Audition and for City of Star), and Best Visual Effects. The Supporting categories won’t happen, but every single other nomination here is totally on the table in one form or another. There’s a day where this flick scores as many as 15 nods and sets the record. Now, that’s unlikely and a dozen noms is probably where it tops out, but still…wow.

Ryan Gosling dark shotWhen you get right down to it, they just don’t make them like this anymore in Hollywood. Opening on Friday, La La Land is a modern day classic, an Oscar frontrunner, a showcase for Chazelle as one of the best filmmakers in the business, and the best thing to hit theaters in some time. It’s tied for my favorite film of the year, so consider that as incredibly high praise. I beg you to see this movie ASAP, as it’s just so damn special. You won’t regret making time for this one. It will charm your pants off. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll just float out of the theater on a cinema high. It doesn’t get better than this…

Be sure to check out La La Land, beginning its theatrical run this weekend!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He also contributes to several other film-related websites.

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