Deep down I think I always wanted to be a director. But there was a time that I wanted to be an actor. In grade school my grandma and her friend had season passes to Springfield Little Theater. I was always happy when I got to go! The most memorable ones were 'Little Shop of Horrors' and 'Wizard of Oz'. Because of my love for plays my parents enrolled me a summer school course for acting/performing arts. I didn't much care for it.
As a pre-teen and young teenager one of my favorite things to do was go see high school plays. 'Grease' was my favorite*. Back in Seventh grade I remember going to a high school production. It was a blast! I had fun comparing it to the film version and a Springfield Little Theater production (I think).
As I got older my interests changed a lot. I was big into comic books and drawing. Music became a big deal to me. Mainly the bands from the Northwest, the Seattle sound was what I was into. And movies really really started to become important to me. The films of Kevin Smith, Wes Anderson, and Quentin Tarantino. These guys made me want to become a filmmaker.
So Indie Comedies and stylized violence dominated my late teens and twenties. The Musical genre became a distant memory to me. A childish thing I outgrew. And a genre that only drama class alums and Academy Award members could appreciate.
Then something weird happened. I forget the year, but during awards season I made an effort to watch CHICAGO ironically (Yes, I long for the day that a super stylized action film wins Best Picture). Turns out, I loved the movie! The spectacle of it most of all! I loved the production value of the movie. My appreciation for CHICAGO taught me that the Musical is a genre to be reckoned with and by nature cinematic!
I only saw CHICAGO that one time which I hear is perfectly okay because the film is overrated anyways. What? That's fine because while CHICAGO reinforced the cinematic importance of the Musical, it was a Broadway musical and classic film that made me love the genre!
10 years ago I went to spend a few vacation days in New York City. One thing I wasn't looking forward to on the itinerary was seeing 'Wicked' on Broadway. The main reason was because of the price of the ticket. Ouch! Now I don't know if it was worth every penny (honestly it is), but seeing the show was an experience I'll never forget. I'm sure the material played a part but it was the performances and production that blew me away!
More recently I went to see the film SINGIN' IN THE RAIN on the big screen. The only thing that could top that experience would be a pristine 35mm film print presentation. As of now SINGIN' IN THE RAIN is my favorite musical film. Because of it I have sought out several other movies just like it. In doing so I've found myself liking very few of them.
The reason I don't talk much about the genre is because I'm very picky.
If the music is good I guess I'm not picky? Example; I was going to say I also don't like a musical if all the dialogue is sing-song, like REPO! THE GENETIC OPERA. But that's not true, because I loved SWEENEY TOOD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET. It just goes to show that there is no accounting for taste, and you like what you like because you just do.
This all brings me to why LA LA LAND is my favorite film of 2016. I didn't want to alter my list at first because I already had my choices picked and SING STREET would be tough to beat. Secondly, I didn't want to have my viewing experience of LA LA LAND be tarnished with me wondering if it'll be my favorite film of 2016 after all?
About halfway through the film I knew I loved it, but I was going to leave my list alone. Then it was during the drive home and listening to the soundtrack on Spotify when I got home that my mind began to change.
LA LA LAND is kinda a personal movie to me right now. It's a film about not giving up on your dreams. I'm at a point in my life where it's well past “Poop or get off the pot”. But lucky for me I have nothing to hold me back to pursue my passion, and failure wouldn't put me into debt.
In LA LA LAND, Hollywood is a magical place where dreams come true. The prologue sets up that dreamers movie to L.A to make it big. They all have a story (song) about trekking to California from their nothing hometown. It's here that we meet Mia (Emma Stone) who is an aspiring actress. At first you'd think she's terrible, but that's not it at all. The problem is that in her hometown she was probably one in a million, but here she's one million in a billion.
After a disappointing party and walking home because of a towed car she hears some amazing piano coming from a nightclub. It's here that we're introduced to Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a talented piano player/musician who loves jazz. He loves jazz so much that his dream is to open his own nightclub.
The two meet and fall in love becoming each others muse. Eventually they realize though that probably the best way to reach their dreams is to go separate ways.
That's the best synopsis I can give without ruining the movie. In many ways LA LA LAND is a throwback to the classic musicals. Every shot in the film is magic. Shot in CinemaScope, the dance numbers are big and immersive. All the musical numbers are great and the final sequence at the end of the film is worth the price of admission alone.
While probably corny and cliche without the musical numbers it was the films message that really got to me. Never give up on your dreams (whatever they may be) even if it costs you something. Stepping out of your comfort zone or leaving a relationship is probably what it's going to take to make those dreams happen. In other words, life is all about risk.
Not everybody's dream will come true, but the point LA LA LAND is trying to make (I think) is that every dream is worth fighting for.
LA LA LAND is highly recommended!
* 'Grease' is not my favorite musical of all time or anything like that. Just at the time I enjoyed seeing different high school productions of it.