La La Land ★★★★½

It's 2016. Among our prime A-listers, we don't have a Fred Astaire or Ginger Rogers; hell, we don't even have an Olivia Newton-John or John Travolta. What we do have is Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling (Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011), Gangster Squad (2013)) and a talented director (Damien Chazelle) who has the audacity to create an original musical in 2016 (as opposed to adapting/stewarding a Broadway franchise). With Chazelle's invocation of nostalgia for a once dominant cinematic form and generous helpings of Hollywood navel-gazing, La La Land is bound to pile on the nominations this award season; but it is not The Artist (2011), and although the contrast is meant to be a complement, I suspect that many Oscar-seasonal viewers will be disappointed by their Christmas screenings. As David Ehrlich put it best, La La Land starts off as a romance about movies that becomes a movie about romance, and it is in that transition - and the accompanying shift in tone (and arguably, even genre) - where Chazelle takes a real risk before bringing it all home. For me, that risk paid off.

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