“La La Land” lends movie musicals a new life

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Courtesy of Flickr user BagoGames

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling tap-dance the night away in “La La Land,” the first movie directed by Damien Chazelle since his 2014 hit “Whiplash.”

On Jan. 8, the cast and creators of “La La Land” waltzed away from the Beverly Hilton with seven of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s coveted Golden Globe awards, given to honor them for their brilliant revival of an often neglected genre, the musical.

The film broke the previous record of six for most Golden Globes won by a movie, winning in every category it was nominated for. “La La Land” was embraced by many critics, so it’s success shouldn’t be shocking. However, it’s been a long time since a musical has been praised on such a large scale.

“Musicals were sort of big in the ‘30s, ‘40s, ‘50s, and even ‘60s. I’ve seen ‘Singin’ In the Rain’, and some of the Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire type musicals,” said Mr. Jim DiDomenico, film studies teacher. “I know that ‘La La Land’ is sort of made in the image of some of those older style films, and it’s supposed to feel like an old-school musical. A lot of people are liking that feeling, as well as having a modern sensibility about the theme.”

When people think of movie musicals, generally some of the names tossed around are “Singin’ In the Rain,” “West Side Story,” and “Grease.” The most recent of those names, “Grease,” came out in 1978, nearly 40 years ago. Director Damien Chazelle worked for six years before he was finally able to convince producers at Lionsgate that the world needed a contemporary yet classic adaption of the movie musical. Many musical lovers are hoping that “La La Land” will inspire other directors to bring the beloved genre back to Hollywood.

“I don’t think I’ve seen a movie like [‘La La Land’] in a long time,” said Tess Levy, senior. “Not only was it a super good musical, but it was filmed in such an amazing way. You could tell that everyone put so much work into it.”

The film follows Mia (Emma Stone), an aspiring actress, and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a struggling jazz musician, as they navigate dreams and romance in the city of Los Angeles. Stone and Gosling both prepared intensely for their roles, which demanded extensive singing and dancing. Although they received an abundance of recognition for this feat, considering they traditionally only act, some questioned the decision to cast them instead of more qualified singers and dancers.

“I was listening to Michael Phillips, who’s a film critic from the Chicago Tribune, and he was saying that while Emma Stone seems to do a really nice job, Ryan Gosling has a hard time doing his face and his body at the same time with the musical component, like the dancing and the singing,” Mr. DiDomenico said. “Not having seen [the film], I don’t really know why they were cast. I guess practically it gives name recognition to sell more tickets. You’re probably more willing to do that than see someone who’s a really great singer who you’ve never heard before.”

In interviews with Entertainment Weekly and Variety, Chazelle revealed that Stone and Gosling weren’t the original choices for the starring roles. In fact, he had his sights set on Miles Teller, who he worked with on “Whiplash,” and Emma Watson. However, plans fell through when Watson ultimately chose to take the role of Belle in Disney’s live-action revival of “Beauty and the Beast.” Chazelle ended up going in a different creative direction with the male lead as well. He had seen Stone and Gosling’s work in “Gangster Squad” and felt they had amazing chemistry, so soon enough the two were placed on the cast list.

Courtesy of Bustle
Golden Globes Host Jimmy Fallon opened the show with a “La La Land”-inspired musical number, featuring stars like Amy Adams and Millie Bobby Brown.

Maybe “La La Land” will be used as a stepping stone for other singers and dancers to have a chance at the spotlight, now that Stone and Gosling have brought a new audience to the genre. Many have been able to identify with the classic theme of following your dreams, while still enjoying its modern setting.

“I feel like the reason everyone was so initially hyped up about [‘La La Land’] was because of the actors in it,” Levy said. “When I walked into it I didn’t even know it was going to be a musical, but I was happy it was. Hopefully [the genre] does grow in popularity.”

In general, movie musicals attract appreciation due to their unique nature. Instead of just a basic change in the type of plot, it brings in much more elements to make it different and refreshing.

“I would say I’m a fan of movie musicals,” said Zach Drescher, sophomore. “They’re much more lively compared to other movies.”

“La La Land” is currently enchanting audiences all over the world and reminding them of the magic that songs bring to a story. The film’s complete soundtrack can be found above for those who haven’t already listened to it. There’s also plenty of time to see “La La Land” before the Academy Awards closes out awards season on Feb. 26, so be sure to check with local movie theaters and decide for yourself if the Hollywood musical is making a comeback.