Why La La Land Matters

by Rebekah Bruckner

La La Land, Damien Chazelle’s vibrant, dreamlike musical, is this year’s top grossing Oscar-nominated movie earning more than $340.5 million worldwide. Not only has the film succeeded financially, it smashed award nomination records. This classic Hollywood love story, won the most Golden Globes by a single film in history, ringing in a total of seven, including Best Screenplay, Best Musical, and Best Director. It also tied the record for the most Oscar nominations, 14, placing it alongside Titanic and All About Eve. La La Land went on to win Oscars for Best Actress, Best Director, Best Original Musical Score, Best Cinematography, and Best Production Design.

Ryan Izay, adjunct film professor at APU, who attended the Los Angeles premiere where the actors and director spoke about the film, believes that much of La La Land’s acclaim is due to its commitment to authenticity. “While many modern musicals use quick cuts to make the editing a part of the choreography, La La Land goes for long shots and complete takes to allow the performers to shine. The actors actually sing and dance, and in Ryan Gosling’s case, play the piano without the need of editing or digital alterations, garnering admiration from critics and audience members alike,” said Izay. He pointed out that even the lighting is minimal, capitalizing on real life moments that look as though they could be dreams. “La La Land is deserving of all the nominations because of the way it simultaneously—and often subtly—addresses a nostalgia for the simplicity of the past and a hopefulness in an increasingly complicated future. It is a film that is both timely and forever socially relevant while retaining elements of escapism that allow audiences to leave behind the constraints of their own struggles for a couple of hours,” said Izay.

The opening of the film, a large scale song and dance number in stopped traffic on the 110 freeway, captivated Jill Brennan-Lincoln, M.A., chair, Department of Theater Arts, in a way few movies have. “The scene is impressive and innovative to the point it could become iconic,” she said. With 20 years of experience on Broadway and in film and television, Brennan-Lincoln recognized La La Land’s uncommon mastery. “Every element of La La Land is interwoven into a final piece. It is rare to see all elements working at the same level of excellence,” she said. “This film is incredibly successful because it is a wonderful story that is told well through strong direction and talented actors.”

According to Izay and Brennan-Lincoln, there is no denying the significance of this film, which has surpassed typical success, finding its place as one of the most award-winning films of this generation. “While I am certain there are flaws in the film, I am at the point now where I see no purpose in seeking them out. I’ve fallen in love with La La Land, and when you truly love something, you love it unconditionally,” said Izay.

Rebekah Bruckner '18 is a public relations intern in the Office of University Relations. She is a English major and a graphic design minor.