Friday, February 24, 2017

LA LA LAND (Oscar review for 2017)

            The OSCARS are fast approaching.  I have savored several films this year that have earned their nominations, especially in the Best Director Category.

            A particular favorite has lifted my spirit, particularly in light of the current political turmoil we have been plunged into as a result of our Presidential election!

            Is it a question of just escaping reality and slipping into a filmed musical fantasy?  Maybe.  But it is also an opportunity to click our “refresh” button to renew our memories of “being discovered”, “making it in Hollywood” and struggling with a career built on dreams that sometimes do not come true.

            The ultimate applause must go to Damain Chazelle, who helms this film as director and writer.  He layers unexpected enchantment with heartbreak, joy with tears and a kick-in-the-stomach ending that pulls this charmer out of Hollywood romance and into sobering real life.
            Most classic stage musicals that I’ve directed begin with an overture.  But not this one.  Here, the setting is a traffic-jammed Los Angeles freeway.  Autos and vans are stalled bumper to bumper.

            A woman opens her car window and sings. “Another Day of Sun”.  Her exuberance is echoed as drivers emerge from their own cars to join her musical celebration in song and acrobatic dancing that takes place over and around the massed autos. Drivers’ pent up frustration melt as they burst forth from their 4-wheel prisons and explode with dazzling back flips and infectious song.
What a grand overture to give us an unconventional taste of what’s to come!

            The girl (Emma Stone) drives along in her now slowly moving car absorbed in rehearsing an audition scene. The boy (Ryan Gosling) inches past her as he toots his horn in annoyance.  She gives him the finger.

            They are perfectly matched.  But they were not happily paired by Director Chazelle until he lost his first choices, Emma Watson and Miles Teller.  However his second hopes click, even though Gosling had to learn how to play jazz piano and both spent endless off-camera rehearsal hours evoking the synchronized style of Fred and Ginger.

            It worked.

            Here’s a Hollywood musical comedy-drama that is stitched together with seamless transitions that go from talking to singing to dancing.  It’s a rare creative accomplishment for all concerned.

            But enough said.  Please see this film. My hope is that your ‘refresh’ button is fully operational!