La La Land has Damien Chazelle so spectacularly working his magic, he reminds me of David Beckham at his prime, effortlessly bending his balls past opposing goal keepers. Or perhaps even Ron Jeremy, bending his past the openings of the female genitalia. I mean that as a compliment. La La Land is f***ing awesome.
He is undoubtedly one of the best young directors working today. Actually, he’s probably THE BEST. Chazelle’s first movie, Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench is good. He follows that up with a GREAT movie – Whiplash. And here, he is once again IN THE ZONE.
Look, I’m not usually big on musicals. While I can cherish films like Grease or Les Miserables, it doesn’t provide me with the elated feeling that great, non-musical films do. But, La La Land isn’t just any ol’ musical.
La La Land was shot beautifully in a way that makes you feel like you’re watching a classic film of the old-age. Don’t get me wrong, this is a modern film set in a modern time. But, the vibe you get is unlike anything you’ll experience in any modern-day movie. Hats off to Chazelle. Not forgetting, Cinematographer Linus Sandgren – American Hustle – and editor Tom Cross, who previously worked with Chazelle on Whiplash.
Did you know, that La La Land pays homage to old-school Hollywood? Or that there are a couple of Oscar nominees cast in this film? No? Well, you’re in for a treat.
Here are 15 mindblowing facts about La La Land.
This article contains SPOILERS! Proceed with caution.
15. Easter Eggs and Homages
Just to be clear, we’re not talking about painted eggs or chocolate eggs that are often carried by the Easter bunny. Easter eggs, in this context, refers to symbols or items that are hidden in movies, television shows or video games.
When Emma Stone’s Mia first gives Seb (Ryan Gosling) a tour around the Warner backlot, she shows him a window that was used in Michael Curtiz’s classic, Casablanca. Sure, this isn’t necessarily an Easter egg, since it’s directly mentioned by one of the characters.
However, in the final moments of the film, Mia and her husband unknowingly go into Seb’s club and he is stunned to see them. This is an homage to the famous scene in Casablanca when Ingrid Bergman and Paul Henried visit Rick’s Café and Humphrey Bogart is surprised to see them.
14. Oscar Winning Cast
Two Oscar winners have small roles to play in La La Land. The first being J.K. Simmons, who cameos as Seb’s boss at the restaurant he works at. Here, J.K. Simmons plays his usual angry character, as seen in movies like Whiplash and Sam Raimi’s Spiderman Trilogy. Interestingly enough, Simmons won his first Oscar – Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role – for his role as Fletcher in Damien Chazelle’s previous film, Whiplash.
The second Oscar winner who appears in the movie, is John Legend, who also coincidentally won his one and only Oscar till date, at the 2015 Academy Awards. Legend won an Oscar for Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song, for the movie Selma.
13. The Mystery Behind the Title
Ever wondered why the movie is titled La La Land? Well, there are two completely unrelated reasons. The first reason revolves around where the entirety of the film is set. La La Land is set in Los Angeles, which has the abbreviation LA.
Secondly, this film is, in many ways, a satire on Hollywood and its cultures. This film constantly portrays Hollywood as a DREAM. This is evident through its abstract cinematography. “La la land” is a common phrase used to describe “dreamland.”
Speaking of titles and names, here’s a bonus fun fact. Towards the end of the film, Mia and her husband visit Seb’s Jazz club. There is a sign in the painting of Seb’s FANTASIZED club in Paris, with French words enshrined into it. Those words translate to “Chicken on a Stick,” which was what Seb wanted to name his club, originally.
12. This is the Third Movie Co-Starring Gosling and Stone
Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone clearly love working together, or it seems to be that way, since they keep doing it. The first time they acted together was six years ago in 2011’s romantic comedy, Crazy, Stupid, Love. In this movie, Gosling plays a playboy, often seen drinking and seducing women in a bar. Stone on the other hand, plays a law graduate.
A couple of years later, Gosling and Stone reunited for Gangster Squad, a movie that was marketed to be a crime-thriller ala, L.A. Confidential but ended up being a lousy episode of Spongebob Squarepants. La La Land marks their third collaboration till date. However, both Gosling and Stone were both slated to act in Glenn Ficarra and John Requa’s Focus, but dropped out. The roles eventually went to Will Smith and Margot Robbie.
11. Freeway Used in the Movie Speed
La La Land opens with a bunch of people caught in a traffic jam. And for no reason whatsoever, everyone breaks into song, as if to say, “Yo, ma bitches! If you didn’t know what you were getting into, you do now.”
The express lane freeway ramp used for this opening number – Another Day of Sun – is the same freeway used in the famous “bus jump” sequence in Jan De Bont’s Speed, starring Keanu Reeves. In Speed, a 50-foot section of the ramp was digitally removed via CGI to create the gap in which the bus must jump over.
According to director Damien Chazelle, as reported by TIME, shooting Another Day of Sun was tricky business. The first take was a disaster as the cranes were in danger of knocking into dancers’ head and the choreography brought the dancers too close to the edge of the ramp. However, the shoot was a success on the second go-round.
10. Sebastian’s Car Fob Theory is LEGIT
In the first act of the movie, Sebastian informs Mia that she’ll be able to amplify a car fob’s range by holding it under her chin. This is a funny scene, which at first, seems like a joke. I mean, it has to be, right?
Guess what? It’s as real as it gets. Apparently, the oral cavity and fluids in your skull emits magical powers when you’re holding the key fob to your chin, enabling the range to increase. WTF?
The New York Times interviewed Silicon Valley radio engineer, Tim Pozar, for his take on this situation.
“You are capacitively coupling the fob to your head. With all the fluids in your head it ends up being a nice conductor. Not a great one, but it works. Using your head can extend the key’s wireless range by a few car lengths.” – Tim Pozar.
9. La La Land Has Strong Ties to Emma Stone’s Real Life
You would think that La La Land is romance movie about two individuals who are in love with each other. I disagree. La La Land is romance movie about two individuals who are in love with their passion.
On one end, we have Seb (Ryan Gosling), a passionate, jazz pianist, in hopes of opening his own jazz club one day. One the other end, we follow Mia (Emma Stone), an aspiring actress and college dropout who works as a barista to make ends meet.
Coincidentally, La La Land has strong ties to Emma Stone’s real-life history. Stone is actually a school dropout herself. At the age of 15, Stone moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career.
Needless to say, just like her on screen persona, she eventually found success. Till date, Emma Stone has starred in many feature films, which includes Alejandro Inarritu’s Academy Award winning, Birdman, as well as comic book movies The Amazing Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
8. Emma Watson Was Supposed to Play the Role of Mia
The chemistry between Gosling and Stone is perfect, in this movie. It had to be, for this movie to work. This is the third film co-starring Gosling and Stone – Crazy, Stupid, Love and the forgettable Gangster Squad. They were lovers in Crazy, Stupid, Love and here, it’s no different. They have the level of chemistry that makes you wish they’re together in real life, as well. It reminds me of Bollywood’s Kajol and Shah Rukh Khan.
So, it’s kinda crazy to learn that ANOTHER Emma was initially slated to play the role of Mia. That’s right, it’s Emma Watson. When La La Land was still in its early development stages, Emma Watson was lined up to play the role of Mia, but, another musical captured her attention – Beauty and the Beast. Emma Watson decided to leave La La Land and take on the role of Belle, instead.
7. Miles Teller Was Supposed to Play the Role of Seb
What’s even more crazy, is the fact that it wasn’t Ryan Gosling, but Miles Teller, who was supposed to be the leading man in La La Land. Miles Teller was the leading man in Chazelle’s previous movie, Whiplash. It’s common for directors to cast actors they’ve worked with in the past, in their new movies.
Quentin Tarantino has cast Samuel L. Jackson in his films a number of times, while Nolan has cast Michael Caine in six of his films, till date. David Fincher on the other hand, has cast Brad Pitt on three different occasions. So, it’s no surprise that Chazelle thought of Miles Teller.
However, in 2015, Teller’s negotiations fell through. In an interview with Esquire, Teller said he received a call from his agent saying, “Hey, I just got a call from Lionsgate. Damien told them that he no longer thinks you’re creatively right for the project. He’s moving on without you.”
6. Ryan Gosling Learned to Play the Piano
Prior to La La Land, Ryan Gosling had no piano knowledge whatsoever. However, everything you see in the end product, is Gosling actually playing the piano, without the use of a hand double of CGI.
According to composer Justin Hurwitz, during the pre-production stages, all the piano performances featured in the film was first recorded by pianist Randy Kerber. Gosling then spent four hours a day, six days a week in piano lessons learning the music by heart. By the time filming had begun, Gosling was able to play all the piano sequences seen in the movie.
“The piano was something that I always wished I had time to learn. In what other job is it a part of your job to just sit in front of a piano for three months and play? “It was really one of the most fulfilling pre-production periods I’ve ever had,” said, Ryan Gosling.
5. John Legend Learned to Play the Guitar
Gosling learned the piano so fast, that co-star, John Legend – who is a trained pianist – said he’s jealous of how quickly Gosling learned to play the piano. However, John Legend did something remarkable as well. He learned to play the guitar for his role.
In La La Land, Legend plays the role of Keith, a guitarist and a musical old friend of Sebastian’s, who invites him to play the keyboard, in his successful band. Legend may have learned to play the piano at a very young age, but he had to take up guitar lessons to play this role.
In an interview with CBC News Los Angeles, Legend says, “There’s also plenty of artists that believe it’s important to them to be influenced by those artists from before but to make something new. That was the option I was presenting as my character.”
4. La La Land, Five Years in the Making
Way back in his college days, Damien Chazelle came up with the idea for La La Land, with his Harvard classmate and composer on this movie, Justin Hurwitz. He completed the screenplay in 2010, using his own experiences as a filmmaker as the backbone for this story.
Unfortunately, studios were not willing to produce a musical film that revolves around Jazz. Especially considering the fact that Chazelle was a relative unknown at that point. One of the studios did take interest, though. However, they demanded for numerous things to be altered in the script, which includes Sebastian’s lifestyle – changing him from a jazz musician to a rock musician. Thankfully, Chazelle wasn’t willing to make those changes.
He then shelved this project for a bit and worked on independent film, Whiplash, a movie with a mere 3.3Mil USD production budget. Whiplash managed to rake in the big bucks, grossing over 48Mil USD worldwide, and it even got nominated in 5 different categories at the 2015 Academy awards, winning three of them – best supporting actor, best editing and best sound mixing.
After the critical and box office success of Whiplash, Summit Entertainment agreed to make La La Land.
3. Emma Stone Clinches a Golden Globe
Emma Stone’s performance in La La Land surprised me. She has come a long way since her days as a damsel in distress in the sh*tty Amazing Spider-Man films. She first showed signs of potential in Alejandro Inarritu’s Birdman. In La La Land, she’s nothing short of excellent.
Once upon a time, Emma Stone acted in The House Bunny. Seriously, f***ing House Bunny! Since then, she mostly acted in comedies (mostly dumb, some good), and then she got her big break in The Amazing Spider-Man. But it was in Birdman where she first showed range in her acting. Emma Stone held her own opposite Michael Keaton and Edward Norton, even getting an Oscar nod for best supporting actress.
2. Ryan Gosling Clinches a Golden Globe
The fact that Ryan Gosling won a Golden Globe, doesn’t surprise me. The fact that it’s his first Golden Globe, is. It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Ryan Gosling. He’s undoubtedly one of the best actors working today, and it just blows my mind that he has only received one Oscar nomination and, finally, one Golden Globe win.
I mean, this guy can act. I’ve said it a thousand times, I’ll say it again. Anybody who thinks Gosling is just a pretty face who acted in The Notebook, needs to sit their ass down and watch Blue Valentine and The Place beyond the Pines. Gosling is a genius. Look, Eisenberg, Jeff Bridges and Bardem were all brilliant in their respective films, but better than Gosling’s work in Blue Valentine? Blasphemy!
Indie Wire even wrote an article titled The 10 Worst Oscar Snubs of the last 10 Years and Gosling’s performance in Blue Valentine makes that list.
Sadly, I have this dirty feeling that Gosling will get snubbed once again this year. While he did win the Golden Globe for La La Land, the Golden Globes has two different categories – One, Drama; Two, Comedy/Musical. It’s going to be tough, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed.
1. La La Land Breaks Golden Globes Record
Say what you want about the Golden Globes not being “legit.” The Globes (or any award during awards season, for that matter), sheds light on movies that otherwise wouldn’t be recognised by the general movie going public. And, that’s awesome.
This year, La La Land broke Golden Globe records by winning seven awards (it won every single category it was nominated in). As aforementioned, both Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone picked up awards in their respective best acting category. Damien Chazelle won for both directing and screenplay and Justin Hurwitz picked up the win for original score, while Benj Pasek and Justin Paul clinched the award for best song – City of Stars.
By winning seven Golden Globes, Chazelle and his team broke the record of six awards held by One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Midnight Express.
La La Land is a brilliant movie, very much deserving of this accolade. The best screenplay award did surprise me though, as I was dead confident that it would go to Hell or High Water. The fact that Denis Villeneuve didn’t get a best director nomination baffles me even more, but that’s a story for another day.