Movie Review: Sam’s top 5 of all time: #5 ‘La La Land’


Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling give standout performances in ‘La La Land.’ (Photo courtesy of IMDb)

What do you do when you don’t have time to see a new movie in theaters? You count down your favorites of all time, of course. This will be a series that occurs on the weeks when I can not see a movie, such as this one. Now, to clarify, these five movies I will share with you over the course of the next few publications are not the end-all-be-all of the greatest films of all time. They are just my favorite movies, and everyone is free to disagree.

Now, for number five, we have Damien Chazelle’s “La La Land” (2016).

Hot on the heels of his 2014 jazz-fueled drama “Whiplash,” which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, Chazelle roared back to cinemas with the outstanding movie musical “La La Land,” starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone as Sebastian and Mia, respectively. The cast also includes guest appearances by J.K. Simmons, whom Chazelle worked with on “Whiplash,” and John Legend. The film follows Sebastian as he tries to become the next great jazz artist and Mia, who aspires to become an actress. The film beautifully tracks their relationship through good times, bad times and everything in between. 

Gosling and Stone are perfect in these roles. Gosling perfectly portrays a man so dedicated to his love of jazz that it hurts his relationships with the people around him. Stone, on the other hand, is far and away the best part of the movie for me. Stone is amazing and expresses such strong feelings through the slightest of facial expressions. You cannot help but root for her throughout the entire film. Both Gosling and Stone take Chazelle’s loose, easy-flowing script and really make these characters their own. They are both excellent singers as well.

The music in the film is very beautifully done. The Academy Award-winning score by Justin Hurwitz lifts you up off your feet and transports you to the dreamlike Los Angeles where the film takes place. The songs within the film include “City of Stars” and my personal favorite, “Audition (The Fools Who Dream).” The songs actually move the plot forward and hammer home the emotions of every scene they embody. Plus, they are catchy!

Other aspects of the film I particularly love include the on-point and purposeful direction from Chazelle, the cinematography by Linus Sandgren, the costume design and the production design. The film’s editing also makes it a brisk two-hour watch.

Now, in 2023, “La La Land” is mainly known for accidentally winning the Academy Award for Best Picture, only to lose to “Moonlight” three minutes later. However, “La La Land” is still and should be considered an instant classic and a career-best performance from Stone, proving that her Best Actress win for this role was rightfully earned.