Director: Damien Chazelle
Stars: Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, John Legend
Release Date: December 16, 2016

I don’t know how we got here, but now it seems whenever you suggest to a young moviegoer that they should watch a modern musical it elicits the same reaction as getting a whiff of sulfur in the nostrils. Maybe it was the exploitive Glee who neutered the genre of its social significance. Perhaps it was the suffocating self-importance of Les Miserables. Whatever the case, director Damien Chazelle’s La La Land is here to restore that Golden Age Hollywood feeling where musicals not only mattered, but were also cool af. 

Chazelle (Whiplash) injects the fun and fantastical into this devastating love story about two struggling L.A. artists (Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling) whose newfound love requires them to be selfless right as their own creative desires demand them to be selfish. They find out that love and art aren’t always symbiotic. They sing and dance throughout a candy-colored modern day Los Angeles, reaffirming love’s power one moment then shattering our hearts the next. 

La La Land’s soaring original music and breathtaking dance numbers will stay with you long after you leave the theater, as will the emotional punch to the gut. And this is Emma Stone’s purest, most profound performance to date, as she is incapable of a false note. This year’s Best Actress Oscar belongs to her. —Erik Abriss