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La La Land Is Saving My Soul

Open on a Los Angeles highway. Cars parked. People looking rather annoyed. Just at the right moment cue the first of two dozen songs intermixed into this two hour movie. It’s clear to me that musicals aren’t for everyone. People go to the movies to be blown away with action sequences or riddled with fear. The problem is that these genres have fallen into creative lulls. While good action movies still exist, they are becoming less frequent by the moment (see any list of sequels coming out in 2017). What La La Land and its director Damien Chazelle have reminded us, is that good movies do exist if you’re willing to take risks and put yourself out there.

It’s easy to say that musicals are inherently ‘out there’ in nature. That you can’t do action movies the way you do a musical and this is undoubtedly true. But it’s the risks you take when making a movie that really matter. Take Batman vs. Superman, a movie that I still haven’t seen. I was a massive fan of Chris Nolan’s take on the caped crusader and loved the movies of my era going back to Keaton and Burton’s remakes in the ’90s. But just a couple of years later, to reboot this action hero in hopes of jumpstarting a franchise is disingenuous to all involved. It’s a money grab. And while some movies are just that, money grabs, I want to; in fact need to believe that movies can be more than that.

So why didn’t I see Batman vs. Superman? Was it a complete lack of interest? Was it that my time was spent on other movies? It’s honestly neither of those obvious reasons. The reason I didn’t see Batman vs. Superman is because I go to the movies to escape. Whether it’s a desolate shack in the middle of post-Civil War Wyoming or an LA highway full of singing motorists, I want to go somewhere I haven’t been before. As of 2017, I’ve been to Gotham more times than I can count and at this point, I’m ready to journey somewhere else. I’m ready for a place that’s unique and a place I haven’t visited half-a-dozen times already in my young life. That’s why movies like La La Land work so well.

There is plenty to love about it on its own. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone continue to be one of the most genuine on screen love stories in recent memory. There third film together was just as magical as their first, Crazy Stupid Love. Now they both have Golden Globes to solidify their spot in our hearts. Is the story so original that you’re going to fall out of your seat? Of course not. But the performers and the writing are perfectly striking. To expect the unexpected and to thrive in that world is what turns a movie from good to great. Chazelle and company seem to have perfected this (again).

Many have already commented that the film peaked too early and that it’s chances to win big at the Academy Awards are fading. But for a film this original to be decorated at the Golden Globes in record fashion, something tells me La La Land will remain competitive.

Hollywood writing about Hollywood. It’s the old adage and hey, maybe that’s what’s worn you down over the last twenty years. But movies have to look different. They have to feel different and they have to take you somewhere that you haven’t been (at least in a while). I’ll let Chazelle, Stone and Gosling to take me there any day.

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