La La Land

La La Land ★★★★½

[whispers: i wrote a defense of LA LA LAND]

As a 32-year-old guy who *isn’t* about to win the Oscar for Best Director, its my God-given right to hate Damien Chazelle, and there’s not an openly fascistic executive order in the world that can take that away from me. But, as of late, the infuriatingly accomplished “La La Land” mastermind has been making it very difficult for me to do so. As if it weren’t frustrating enough that his sensational, stimulating new film is a quantum leap forward from the comparatively airless “Whiplash,” Chazelle further endeared himself to me by giving the rare awards show acceptance speech that actually engendered a deeper appreciation for the honoree’s work.

Accepting the Best Picture prize from the New York Film Critics Circle, the mustached wunderkind pandered to the audience with the same crowd-pleasing cinephilia that’s been squeezed into every frame of his box office phenomenon. Instantly grabbing the room’s attention, his remarks began by name-checking legendary American filmmaker Frank Borzage, and then — at length, and in great detail — unpacking the plot of the influential auteur’s most famous melodrama.