La La Land
Forget that awkward moment when it was accidentally declared best picture instead of Moonlight. La La Land owned this year’s Oscars. It scored a record number of nominations, and took home six awards — more than any other film. The soft-edged tribute to Hollywood musicals of yore struck a very different note to its more political competitors. It tells the tale of a young actress and a struggling jazz musician trying to make it in sunny Los Angeles, while grappling with their feelings for each other. La La Land has been described as a feel-good film: “a two-hour escape,” as its star Emma Stone put it. Yet there is more to the movie than simple fun …
“City of stars, are you shining just for me?” opens the theme song. The characters long to be famous, but this lyric evokes the movie’s central questions: What does it take to become a superstar, and is it worthwhile? We are often said to be living in the age of the celebrity: what can we learn from the stars we love?
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Mia (Emma Stone) is an aspiring actress and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) is set on a career in jazz. La La Land tells their story through the medium of a musical. Its catchy, rousing soundtrack picked up two Oscars, and it is expected to inspire a slew of new musicals in Hollywood. Why do people respond so well to music?
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Like so many musicals, La La Land does not show us reality — it leads us away from it and into a more colourful universe. It offers escapism: a fantasy alternative to the sometimes harsh world we inhabit. The film comes at a time of deep division and polarisation in America. When life gets tough, is it best sometimes to look away and just have fun?
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From their first meeting in a restaurant, Mia and Sebastian have chemistry. Yet their love for each other is far from straightforward: at times, it even gets in the way of their professional ambitions. In the end, the movie puts a twist on the boy-meets-girl tale so beloved of Hollywood. What is love, and why is it so complex?
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The phrase “La La Land” is often used to describe Los Angeles, and Hollywood in particular. The film joins the most “Hollywood” of all genres — the musical — while paying tribute to the classics of the 1950s. And its incredible success at the Oscars, where it won six awards, shows that Hollywood loves few things more than movies about itself.
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