In Love With The La La

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On a cold Friday night in the hazy winter light. 
I had seen a film ever so magical, so wonderful. A delight. 
The colors that graced the screen so vibrant and vivid. 
The music so variant. It was both bold and timid 
The dancing had captured my heart in an instant 
My own memories of tap dancing, jazz piano, and musicals had been so distant 
This film I’m describing in none other than La La Land 

Please watch it if you love Los Angeles, fleeting dreams, or swing & big band.


**I couldn’t help myself but make a rhyme scheme introduction on quite possibly one of my favourite movies of all time.
I know I know I know guys, this is a big statement to make! Have no fear, I fully support this film from within my bones.
Before I gush on about the Top 10 Reasons why I’m in love with La La Land, I have to preface that I have a long running background in dance, piano, & musical theater. I’m also a classic film enthusiast so every single easter egg was a slice of intense joy for me. My perspective is completely bias, but after seeing this movie with various audiences (ranging from having no musical background to die-hard fans of overtures and 4 chord minors) there are overall themes that run through this film that are universal to anyone whose ever had a dream they wanted to pursue.
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( image via Google)
10. The Opening Sequence featuring CinemaScope 
If you aren’t familiar with 1950’s classic films by MGM, the widescreen lenses they utilized during that era were CinemaScope lenses. These lenses were integral for motion pictures at the time to capture everything in frame. From panoramic views to sweeping perspectives capturing long sequences of choreography, the fact that La La Land was shot with these infamous industry lenses is a simply sweet homage to the classics.
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(image via Summit Pictures)
9. Damien Chazelle and his personal story
There are directors that self impose their narratives in the work they do, but often do so in a way that is glorifying and centralized, Chazelle however inserts his personal experiences through struggle. He loves jazz music and musicals, but his cumbersome fear of stage fright kept him from the spotlight. I had rewatched his film Whiplash prior to seeing La La Land. The film Whiplash is Chazelle’s exploration of when he was a jazz drummer in high school and in contrast to La La Land, both films portray the process of achieving one’s dreams. One situation that is isolating and self-centered (Whiplash) and another that is communal and almost altruistic (La La Land).
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(image via Summit Pictures)
7. The Non-Cliche Iconic Landscapes of Los Angeles
Having seen this movie with company from both LA and far from LA (London, in fact) there are variable differences on what people would like to see about Los Angeles in the movies. My British friend complained that they didn’t see the Hollywood sign; my Los Angeles friend loved that there was a scene at Watts Towers. Overall, I’m quite enamored at the fact that Chazelle didn’t choose the road most taken when it comes to filming in Los Angeles, his implicit direction to show some “uncommon but familiar” landmarks that ground the nature of this city is to my liking.
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(image via Summit Pictures)
6.  The Subtle Jokes About Los Angeles 
I went to college in Los Angeles county and became acquainted with all the Los Angeles stereotypes. This film captures these seemingly real stereotypes and situations in such a light-hearted humorous way; from Prius popularity to gluten free galore it also portrays that although this city is filled with dreamers where everyone is trying to make it, there is room to find your “tribe” or “squad” in the immense demographic that is the people of Los Angeles. In a city full of people playing professional make-believe, I’ve  made an immense amount of authentic friendships that last a lifetime.
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(image via Summit Entertainment) 
5. The Title’s Double Meaning
Not only is LA known for its moniker “La La Land” but La La Land is defined as “a fanciful state of mind” in which the cinematography captures so effortlessly in many frame by frame moments. It toggles the boundaries of reality and disillusion through dream like sequences. I’m a sucker for things with depth and the movie title’s double meaning adds another layer.
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(image via Miguel Aguilar) 
4. The Production Collaboration + Minimal Post Production Editing 
Due to the nature of making this film in the 1950’s technique, Chazelle’s objective to take elongated one camera shots with minimal takes was an operation of meticulous proportions. In addition, I’m appreciative of the use of the actual landmarks and the minimal use of a soundstage/ set. It is rare nowadays to see a film without some sort of CGI, multiple takes and multiple cameras used, so this film felt like a visual breathe of fresh air. It is relaxing to the eyes; you’ll experience it once you see it.
 
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(image via Summit Entertainment)
3. Ryan Gosling + Emma Stone’s Chemistry 
Originally, Miles Teller and Emma Watson were cast to play the roles of the two lovebirds.  Due to conflicting filming schedules, Chazelle went with Gosling and Stone instead. Prior to this film, the pair starred in two roles together. If you have ever seen the 2011 movie  Crazy Stupid Love their chemistry was very natural. Both of these actors’ dynamic emotional range is versatile as well. During the filming process, Chazelle, the screenwriter, and both of the actors were integral in the development of Mia and Sebastian. The result? Absolute chemistry. If you pay attention closely, the behaviors/dialogue of one transfers onto the other in the same fashion as a real relationship.
2. The Music 
The composer of the musical score is James Hurtwitz. He also has worked with Chazelle on his two prior films Whiplash and Guy And Madeleine On A Park Bench. The thematic musical score has five main melodies from it’s five main songs. If you listen to the film’s soundtrack closely you can hear each one of the five songs transposed in a different key and tempo throughout the film to convey the emotional atmosphere. The film’s soundtrack is really meant to be listened as a whole, each song advancing the narrative. Creating together an amalgamation of scenarios that define the human condition when it comes to trying to achieve your dreams.   In the process of composing the musical score for La La Land, Hurwitz compiled roughly around 1900 piano demos to show to Chazelle as well as the lyricists Justin Paul and Benj Pasek. Paul and Pasek also wrote original music for one of my favourite shows, Smash.
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(gif via Summit Entertainment)
1. The Dancing + Rehearsal Process
All strengths put aside, if there could be one reason and one reason only for me to love this film, it has to be the dancing. I’m a sucker for dance movies, but lately the movies that have come out in recent years didn’t have a narrative I was fully invested in. The plots were predictable and the choreography (or lack thereof) was inundated with tricks and gimmicks. La La Land however heavily pays homage to cult film dance classics such as Sweet Charity, Singing In The Rain, Umbrellas of Cherbourg and many others. Iconic sequences of choreography recorded in beautiful one camera one take constraints (like the Old Hollywood movies did) effectively hones in on the beauty that happens when dancers, dancing, and a compelling musical score converge together. Mandy Moore, the choreographer also created these pieces to be accessible due to the capabilities of the actors. She wanted the choreography to to be approachable and realistically anchored in everyday movement that (when shot on camera) would blur the dreamlike dance sequences and dialogue seamlessly.
Prior to the four month filming process, Gosling and Stone had a three month rehearsal for both the dance choreography and the learning of the piano. Although the rehearsing schedule was rigorous, it was beneficial in the long run.
In addition, if I could shamelessly plug in another aspect as to why I love this film so much, a couple of my favourite dancer friends from the YouTube community also make an appearance in the opening number (ahem,Jilly Meyers, Dana Wilson, and Galen Hooks to name a few) and it’s rewarding to see other dancers that I’ve watched on YouTube/had taken workshops with for  years, finally get the recognition they so well deserve.
If you have read this far, I applaud and appreciate you. Leave comments if you have other reasons as to why you love La La Land too!
Indelible Gratitude,
-Kat