I HAD the chance to see the film “La La Land” and it made me think about some of the most memorable movies immersed in music. The ‘60s produced the classic “The Sound of Music” that made an icon out of Julie Andrews and produced anthems such as “Do Re Mi,” “Climb Every Mountain” and the theme song itself.
The ‘70s saw the birth of rock opera with “Jesus Christ Superstar,” a retelling of the life of Christ using contemporary language and rock music. The film was sort of revolutionary and it remains so to this day. Yvonne Elliman’s “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” and “Could We Start Again” were simply captivating while “What’s the Buzz,” “Everything’s Alright” and “Superstar” contained the psychedelic elements of the time.
And then there was “Saturday Night Fever,” the film that made John Travolta a superstar and showcased not just his dancing but also the subculture that flourished as disco music dominated the scene. There were others that followed suit like “Grease” and “Sgt Pepper’s Lone Hearts Club Band” but the impact of “SNF” could not be duplicated.
The ‘80s had a few notables such as “Fame,” “Footloose,” “Annie” and “Dirty Dancing.” Other than “Evita” that starred Madonna, the ‘90s film musicals were mostly animations.
The 2000s produced some fine film musicals: “Chicago,” “Moulin Rouge,” “Enchanted,” “Hairspray” and “Mama Mia.” But there is something in “La La Land” that makes it standout.
It could be the timelessness of the story: a jazz musician (Ryan Gosling) and an aspiring actress (Emma Stone) both trying their luck in Hollywood and falling in love as they struggle to fulfill their respective dreams.
It could be the music: Nothing grand yet so natural in the flow of the story and with both Gosling and Stone delivering their songs effortlessly.
It could be the choreography: The grace, the fluidity and harmony of Gosling and Stone remind us of those inventive yet entertaining Gene Kelly musicals.
It could be the direction: Director Damien Chazelle who made a breakthrough with the film, “Whiplash” took us from one scene to another so smoothly while playing with our emotions as the characters developed through the film.
But I guess the key to the success of this opus is its honesty and humanness. Its backstory resembles much of the film itself.
Chazelle peddled the script for years without success. There was one instant when it was almost made but he backed out when the producers demanded changes in the script. It was only when he got “Whiplash” noticed that people paid attention.
This film was made because its director worked hard on his dream and did not compromise his values. “La La Land” is as real as life could be, only it is set in beautiful music.
I vote this for Oscar Best Picture.