‘La La Land’ mixes music and magic like no other

By Alyssa Apuzzio
Staff Writer

With 11 British Academy Film Award nominations, seven Critics’ Choice Movie Awards and worldwide critical acclaim, “La La Land” has garnered a lot of attention. The film was nominated for seven Golden Globes and won a record seven awards for best actor, actress, motion picture, director, screenplay, original song and original score. It is also projected to win nine Academy Awards, according goldderby.com.

La La Land” shares a connection with the College as writer and director Damien Chazelle is the son of history Professor Celia Chazelle. Damien Chazelle visited the College in March 2016 to speak to communication studies students who share a passion for a career in the film industry.

Chazelle made his directorial debut in 2009 with the musical “Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench,” and he wrote and directed his second feature film, “Whiplash,” in 2014.

Set in Los Angeles, “La La Land” is driven by Mia’s (Emma Stone) desire to be an actress, and Sebastian’s (Ryan Gosling) interest in opening a jazz club.

Throughout the film, Mia, a barista, and Sebastian, a struggling pianist in love with jazz, push one another to pursue their dreams. When Sebastian takes a job playing in a pop music cover band, Mia senses Sebastian’s unhappiness and reminds him of his goal of opening a jazz club.

Similarly, when Mia moves back home and gives up on acting after numerous unsuccessful auditions, Sebastian drives to Mia’s house and persuades her to audition one more time, which leads Mia to land her breakout role shooting a film in Paris.

Their encounters throughout the film are nothing but memorable from Sebastian snubbing Mia during their first official meet, tap dancing with her on a moonlit hill and floating through the stars at Griffith Observatory’s planetarium. Gosling and Stone have natural chemistry with each other that they emit a lively and merry vibe when they dance and tap together. I found myself smiling and laughing throughout all of the musical numbers.

"La La Land" features several musical numbers.
Sebastian and Mia have great chemistry in their musical performances. (Photo courtesy of Lionsgate)

As early as the opening scene, the musicality and magic is evident in “La La Land. The film begins on a crowded Los Angeles freeway with bumper-to-bumper traffic. The musical number, “Another Day of Sun,” was shot in Los Angeles on a ramp connecting Interstate 105 and Route 110, incorporating dozens of cars, 30 dancers and more than 100 extras.

Emmy-winning choreographer Mandy Moore led the musical routines in “La La Land.” In an interview with ABC, Moore said the freeways were “closed from midnight to noon” in order to drive the cars and collect all of the dancers and extras on the freeway to film. Moore said she still gets goosebumps thinking about what they were able to pull off with “Another Day of Sun.”

I enjoyed every musical scene, but my favorite number is “A Lovely Night” in which Mia and Sebastian begin to sing and tap dance on a starry hill and try to convince each other they aren’t attracted to one another. The dancing is well-synchronized and playful, while Stone’s soft voice and Gosling’s deep tone contrast each other in a harmonious way.

The film’s soundtrack is sweet, classy and fun, which reflects the movie’s foundation. My favorite scene is when Mia and Sebastian visit Griffith Observatory’s planetarium and soar into the air, twirling near the stars. The background music, “Planetarium,” is a whimsical and dreamy tune that melds perfectly with the carefree image of Mia and Sebastian dancing among the stars.

After the Golden Globes, the movie’s soundtrack rose to the top spot on the iTunes album chart. Immediately after viewing “La La Land,” I downloaded the film’s soundtrack and have been listening to it more times than I’d like to admit. I find the upbeat songs to be uplifting and the slower songs to be perfect when I practice yoga.

It took six years for Chazelle to get “La La Land” picked up and supported by studios, which was made possible after his success with “Whiplash.” With critical acclaim and box office profits totaling $128.9 million, Chazelle has much to be proud of regarding his latest film.