“I’m letting life hit me until it gets tired. Then I’ll hit back. It’s a classic rope-a-dope.”
One of the few lines I liked in La La Land. I watched it after Manchester by the Sea, so I have mixed feelings.
I’m a huge old movies fan – I’ve spent my highschool years watching old Hollywood from its shy 1920’s to its golden age up in the 60s. I loved how filmmakers were bringing the stories to big screens, while experiencing new ways of entertainment every decade.
They had such a liberty to create, to innovate and to play with their characters, that “being in the movies” meant you were to become a pretty important stone in the history of cinematic experiences.
Out of all the genres born back in the 20th century, the musical was my least favorite. I always felt that music and dancing were distracting my attention from what was happening on the screen, instead of amplifying the feelings I had towards the story. However, I had a couple of months of musicals in my life and I learned to befriend them.
La La Land has a good dose of music and dancing in its 2 hours and almost 10 minutes of storytelling. If there’s something it left me with, it’s the beauty of the subtle (and not so subtle) references it made to the classic Hollywood productions.
To begin with, I liked Emma Stone (as Mia) and Ryan Gosling (as Sebastian), a pretty famous couple so far, due to their previous pairings in Crazy, Stupid Love and Gangster Squad. People know them and they want them together on the big screen. Why not in a musical? Not as charming on the dancefloor as Fred Astair & Ginger Rogers, or Gene Kelly & Debbie Reynolds, but they go perfectly as the American Dream power couple in present times Los Angeles.
If there’s something American cinema has taught us, is that we’re not a complete human being who watches movies if we haven’t seen at least one picture about aspiring actors/actresses in Hollywood. And well, hello Mia in La La Land.
And when Mia meets Sebastian, on his way to make plans about opening a jazz Club in L.A. we know we’re in the right place.
I’m not a big fan of the story, but I liked the tribute it brings to old cinema. For starters, Mia works in a coffee shop that’s placed right in front of the window “that Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman looked out in Casablanca” (the window in question is, in reality, the one featured in Casabalanca. Writer-director Damien Chazelle discovered it after choosing the Warner Bros lot for his shoot and he wrote the corresponding line into his screenplay). Secondly, Mia and Sebastian’s first official date is at the movies – watching Rebel Without a Cause because she didn’t see it (seriously, you want to be an actress in Hollywood, passionate about old movies thanks to your aunt, and you didn’t see Rebel Without a Cause?). Damn, girl.
Then, there are several references of Singing in the Rain (Damien Chazelle named the classic musical a big inspiration for La La Land), including in some of the dancing scenes, and a serious inspiration from The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, starting with the cardboards that mark each “season” (the movie is splitted in seasons), and ending with the reunion of the two lovers, just like in Jacques Demy’s french classic (starring Catherine Deneuve).
More subtle references are to Hollywood classics like An American in Paris, Funny Face and Annie Hall.
Just like several other recent productions (maybe the best known and worth mentioning are The Artist and Birdman), La La Land is a recognition of the classic cinema that needs to be remembered today more than ever. And it seems that it’s one of the three most nominated pictures at the Academy Awards in the history of cinema – has a total of 14 nominations, equaled only by All About Eve and Titanic. I personally think it’s Emma Stone’s year, but Ryan Gosling needs another chance.
14 nominations and a musical story in front of the Griffith Observatory. That’s what happens when you know that Hollywood loves to be loved
*Cover photo from The New Yorker. And some more screen shots below: