Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Why I loved La La Land

If you haven’t seen La La Land, the movie musical that won and lost the Oscar for best picture in the space of a few minutes (it was mistakenly announced as Best Picture at the Oscar awards), see it. It was nominated in fourteen Oscar categories, and won ten of them ( The Oscar fiasco is quickly forgotten when you slip into the world that La La Land creates. I am not a real movie musical fan—it’s not my favorite genre—but if more of these kinds of musicals are made in the coming years, I may become one. The songs in this film are lovely, catchy, bittersweet and memorable. There is an air of respect in the movie that is rare these days. It was a refreshing change to experience that level of respect for nearly everything in a film--respect for the genre, for the actors, for the plot, for jazz music, for acting, for individual dreams, for good manners, for courtship and good old-fashioned romance (more important than one often likes to admit), for serious conversations, and overall for the art of movie-making. That art is on display in full force in this movie—stylish lovely sets, historical references to the Hollywood of a bygone era and to a Los Angeles of a bygone era as well. It’s a dreamy, dreamlike film in some respects that has its feet firmly planted on the ground in most respects. Boy meets girl, they don’t get together right away, and then they do. Both are talented individuals who have big dreams, and whose pursuits of those dreams unite them in a common cause. They love each other and they want the other to succeed. And when the other doubts himself or herself, they are there to remind them of the bigger picture, the goal, the big dream. They are there to remind them to never give up. Neither of them do. I loved pretty much everything about this movie. It evoked just the right amount of nostalgia for a (presumably) more innocent time, the longing for a time in one’s life when everything was still new and untested, when love was new, when conversations between people mattered as a way of getting to know them. It illustrated the importance of striving tirelessly to achieve your dreams regardless of the outcome (not always a happy ending), of not compromising or settling for the job that gives you the most money, of believing in yourself even when everything seems to be falling apart around you or when the voice of reason is telling you to give in and settle for less. Along the way, we are treated to acting that tugs at your heartstrings (Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone were wonderful together and singly) and a story that reminds you of that time in your life when dreams and love were new and your future, largely unknown and somewhat daunting, was ahead of you. There were some really good dance numbers and some memorable songs. I found myself humming one of the songs (the one that Ryan Gosling whistles when he is walking out on the pier) on the way out of the movie theater. The director, Damien Chazelle, makes it clear that the typical Hollywood happy ending as depicted in the fantasy sequence at the end of the film is not always the ending in real life for those who achieve their dreams. Boy and girl don’t always ride off into the sunset together. We need that reminder, even though we are rooting for the couple to be together against all odds. Sometimes we experience a love when we are young that transcends us and our real lives, and we are not ready for it. Or it may simply serve another purpose—to bring out the best in ourselves and to help us achieve our dreams—and that kind of love is to be cherished for a lifetime. 

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