La La Land
If Nocturnal Animals is about the seeping darkness of junk culture, this one’s about that crucial juncture where American culture is about to lose its past and the gullible public is more than willing to allow it to happen. Director Damien Chazelle (Whiplash) stages musical dance routines to recall the glamor and allure of historical Hollywood but has them interrupted by rush hour traffic and cell phone rings interwoven in this conventionally plotted romance when a struggling jazz musician meets an aspiring actress. Ryan Gosling (Sebastian) is wasting his talents in a piano bar/restaurant but dreams of saving jazz by opening his own club. After tailgating Mia (Emma Stone) who is desperate for a callback to free her from her backlot barista job, they continuously keep bumping into each other before their Detour-meets-Crazy, Stupid, Love relationship ensues. Stone lives up to being that approachable, alluring star she’s hinted at throughout her career. Gosling carries baggage uphill with a smile and a shrug, in this counterpoint to New York, New York against recognizable Hollywood locations as different as Griffith Park (from Rebel Without a Cause) and the tram-lift from Kiss Me Deadly. It’s a movie by people who understand what made Hollywood great and how quickly it can be replaced by misplaced technology and an apathetic keypunch collective of uninformed kids. There isn’t a better role in any film this year than that of Mia, whose aspirations are almost attainable but remain elusive.