La La Land (2016)
(Editor’s Note: In my neverending quest to provide fresh and interesting content for Super No Bueno, I have created a new format: My Favorite Movie. Each edition will feature a new and unique contributor musing about, proselytizing or critiquing their favorite pictures. The films may or may not be the “best” movies of all time…they just must be of significance to the writer.
Up to bat first is Nathan Osborne. Nathan is a blogger and critic who resides in Birmingham, UK. We ran across each other on Twitter and I soon realized that he was the perfect candidate for this new venture. Nathan is a talented, perceptive writer who has buckets of passion to spare.)
FALLING IN LOVE WITH LA LA LAND – REVIEWING THE EXPERIENCE
Contributor: Nathan Osborne
In all honesty, it was very early on into the spell-binding La La Land that I fell head over heels in love with it. Seconds into the film, actually. As Damien Chazelle’s camera weaved in and out of Los Angeles traffic on top of a busy highway, capturing the singing and dancing dreamers filled with a buoyant energy and infectious joy, I knew we had something special on our hands. Little did I know upon first watch though that it would go on to become my favourite film of all time.
Flashing back to August 2016 when La La Land was beginning to register on everybody’s radar following its Venice Film Festival debut, I was – in equal measures – intrigued and disinterested by the whole thing; the reviews were unanimously positive, glowing with acclaim, with the buzz practically off the chart. Everyone was suggesting something very exciting was approaching – but my detachment to musicals and the romance genre prevented me from being swept up in the hype completely. Even with film critics and bloggers I admire, respect and value reporting back that Damien Chazelle’s feature was a wonder to behold, I remained skeptical and unconvinced, allowing my preconceptions to cloud my judgment somewhat.
We fast-forward to Sunday 8th January and I’m faced with the opportunity to catch a preview screening of the film before its UK debut the following week. At this stage, the film seems unstoppable, sweeping up dozens of awards and countless nominations. The trailers and marketing were beginning to win me round but I was still tempering my expectations. It was a cold, rainy day but I decided to brave the Great British weather to give this film, destined for Oscar nominations across the board, a chance; it snatched my heart and has kept it ever since, counteracting the British weather with a sun-drenched exercise in euphoric filmmaking that attached itself to my heart.
It was absolutely lovely on first watch; the first forty-five minutes were faultless and, despite my issues with act two’s decision to slow the pace and introduce John Legend’s character, the Epilogue cemented it as one of my favourite films of the Oscar season. I left the cinema with a spring in my step, a grin plastered across my face and a heart shattered into a thousand little pieces – glued together only by the majesty of the experience and my excitement to see it all over again. I could not stop talking about La La Land, try as I might.
Release week rolled around, with friends battling my incessant musings and my family experiencing a full week of the soundtrack on a continual rotation. After what felt like a lifetime, I rushed back to the cinema on opening weekend to relive the magic again, quietly fearing the sensation would not be replicated on future viewing. To my absolute relief, it not only retained its beauty but enhanced it further. It flew by as a blur of colour and passion, heightening every sensation – there is something about knowing the outcome of the film that makes the rest that much more affecting.
It took just one more viewing before I happily threw my hands into the air and admitted my infatuation with La La Land. My minor quibbles with the plot and structure actually coalesced into a deeper appreciation of the overall picture; the ‘seasons’ were far more important to the structure than initially perceived; John Legend’s character came across far more naturally than given credit for originally; and the change in tone from the enthusiastic opening numbers (“Another Day of Sun” and “Someone In The Crowd”) helped build up to those emotional, almost cathartic final sequences, housed within the iconic ‘Epilogue’ dream sequences. It is as close to a perfect film as I have witnessed yet.
Don’t get me wrong, there are elements in La La Land I would change; I’d tighten that second act just slightly, would tweak Legend’s “Keith” and input into the story and throw another song into the mix somewhere along the line, perhaps more akin to the first two numbers. But La La Land instilled something in me that remains incomparable with any other form of media, art, or body of work: an unparalleled and unshakeable happiness and joy.
Every single time I see La La Land – whether that be one of the seven times I saw it in cinema or the countless times I’ve seen it in the comfort of my own home since its DVD release last month – I’m left with an exuberance, a sheer bliss and unequaled delight, beyond the description of words. It makes my heart soar, causes it to break, allows it to believe and encourages it to dream, carefully crafting an experience that transcends what I thought a single film could do to a person. It has impacted me in a way that defies words; dramatic or not, the way La La Land has motivated, enthused and driven my interest in fully involving and absorbing myself in the film industry cannot be explained – and I look forward to showing you one day just the influence this film has had over me.
Damien Chazelle, Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling and the talented people that worked on this experience have truly inspired me; I want to pick up a camera, capture my view of the world and turn my thoughts and ideas into art. Chazelle helms a film bursting with colour and joy, seeped in emotion and feeling, riddled with a variety of sensations that each lift you higher and higher with each and every watch. Chazelle has the ability to craft a rollercoaster of emotion masterfully, constructing something entertaining and moving in the moment and even more powerful in the long-run.
My mind has been a buzzing hub of ideas and concepts since I first saw La La Land over six months ago and that fire and that passion has not yet even started to fade. I love La La Land The Film with all my heart; I adore La La Land The Experience And Feeling too. For a story about dreamers, La La Land has sure as hell made one of me.
You can tell me La La Land is overhyped; you can tell me La La Land doesn’t deserve its abundance of awards and acclaim, but I must heartily and respectfully disagree. It’s wistful, hopeful optimism continues to be the perfect antidote for the increasingly turbulent times we are unfortunately becoming accustomed to. It offers a stunning, oozing and captivating escape from a darker reality, in the world Damien Chazelle envisions so wonderfully, the world Stone and Gosling bring to life with their performances, the world Justin Hurwitz scores so stunningly and the world in which so many talented people are dedicating their skill to, each pouring their craft and expertise into this slice of cinematic excellence.
La La Land is currently my favourite film of all time and looks set to continue that position for a long time to come. It accomplishes this not only because of the phenomenal end product that impresses more and more with every viewing but for the feeling, the inspiration and encouragement to dream it conjures and instills within me.
Thank you La La Land, and thank you Mr. Chazelle. Here’s to the fools who dream, indeed.
(“Nathan can be found writing about all things film and television over on his blog, Perks of Being Nath, or through his contributions to the Film Inquiry website. He’ll give anything a go once or twice, tries to get to the cinema three times a week and admits his favorite film is a toss-up between Gone Girl and La La Land – although the latter is currently in the lead. He recommends you watch Orphan Black and see the acting masterclass from Tatiana Maslany. Nathan is always trying to grow and evolve.)