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Telluride Review: ‘La La Land’ Dances Its Way Straight to the Top of the Oscar Race

2016 TELLURIDE FILM FESTIVAL: Writer/director Damien Chazelle burst onto the scene in 2014 with his dramatic film, “Whiplash,” which earned him a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination as well as a Best Picture nomination for the film. “Whiplash” would go on to win three Oscars (Film Editing, Sound Mixing and Supporting Actor – J.K. Simmons), and landed on a plethora of top la-la-land-poster
ten lists for the year. After viewing his latest film, “La La Land,” I think it is safe to say we’ll be seeing Chazelle pop up on an even greater amount of lists by year’s end – including Oscar’s.

Written and directed by Chazelle, “La La Land” tells the story of Sebastian, a hopelessly romantic jazz pianist (Ryan Gosling), who falls for Mia, an eager and aspiring actress (Emma Stone). Gosling and Stone team up for their third collaboration (“Crazy, Stupid, Love” and “Gangster Squad”), but their onscreen chemistry has never been so palpable. The film starts with an incredible musical number overflowing with delicious pizzazz – “Another Day of Sun” – which drew a rapturous ovation from the Telluride crowd. From there, “La La Land” strings together a series of magical and charming scenes, as the two young lovers find themselves repeatedly coming together in unlikely chance encounters. I say “magical” and “charming,” and you might feel those words to be cliched and trite, and for any other movie I might agree. However, that is exactly what “La La Land” is.

As the plot unfolds, Sebastian and Mia discover that it is hard to fall in love when life’s dreams begin to get in the way, and this wonderful boy-meets-girl story begins to take a turn that leaves us wondering if the pair will make it together.  The result is a final scene that I believe will be remembered as one of the most tender and achingly romantic sequences in the history of film.


One of the many beautiful things about “La La Land” is that while it is set in modern day, it provokes a nostalgia of the Gene Kelly/Vincente Minnelli song-and-dance era. It manages to feel timely and yet timeless, as any great love story does. And while the film might have a slight lull in the latter third of the film, its remarkable and unforgettable conclusion forces you to forgive it for having a slow set-up to the grand finale.

The Oscar race has officially begun, folks, but it might have just ended as well.

“La La Land” is distributed by Summit Entertainment, and premiered on August 31st at the Venice Film Festival. It will play again in Toronto, and is scheduled for a December 2nd (limited) and 16th (wide) release.

GRADE: (★★★★)


What do you think?

72 points
AC Fan

Written by Mark Johnson

Lover of all things film and Oscar. Fantasy sports’ equivalent of George Steinbrenner. Your very own Han Solo, making friends all over the movie-loving galaxy in spite of himself. When he’s not ranking just about everything or dominating boardgames, Mark is breaking down the Oscar race 24/7 with Rain Man-like stats and knowledge. In his downtime, you can find him commiserating with other Northeast Ohio sports fans because a hero isn’t complete without a little heartbreak. If Game of Thrones, Lost, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and Survivor are your style, then congratulations, you have something in common with this inglourious basterd.


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