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My Favorite Moments in the Best Picture Nominees: La La Land

This has become an annual tradition the day before the Oscars. In order move away all the subjectivity and negativity that happens when figuring out what should win and what’s going to win (especially this year, where the backlash is in full effect), I get away from all of that stuff and celebrate the films that are nominated for Best Picture.

We take this day to look at them as masterworks of cinema and not as films competing for a trophy. All of that other stuff — the analysis, the opinions — that’s all done with. Today, we take a minute, we stop, and we appreciate the films themselves. I count down my five favorite moments (or elements) of each of them.

When you take away all the awards, all the competition, and all the arbitrary decisions about what film is better than the others, what we’re left with is great cinema. That’s what we’re celebrating.

Our next nominee is La La Land.

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5. “Here’s to the fools who dream”

I was originally just gonna put links to five songs here, but that seemed too easy.

What I love about this moment, and this song, aside from the fact that Emma Stone just kills it — it’s an ode to the people who want to do what their heart desires, even if it’s unconventional. Which is exactly what this movie is. I know all the hate and backlash toward this movie and all that, but at its heart, its an ode to the Hollywood musical by someone who really loves that genre, and it wears its heart on its sleeve and doesn’t care. And I love that.

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4. The epilogue

Yeah, I said it. I know it sets you up really obviously and I know it’s taking a lot of cues from Umbrellas of Cherbourg, but I don’t care. It’s wonderful. It’s big and bold and colorful and wonderfully directed and staged. And it’s everything a film musical should be. And I love it. So there.

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3. The Planetarium scene

This is the moment the film takes off. It stays pretty much in the realm of believability throughout the first half. It’s heightened, but it never gets straight up fantastical, which is what the best musicals are. And once they take off, dancing into the stars, that’s when this hits the heights of the great musicals. Because the musical isn’t about the story or keeping things grounded — it’s about big images and creating a sense of fun and wonder. And that’s what this moment does. It goes beyond the simple feelings of the characters and expresses them through these musical numbers. This either does it for you or doesn’t. Still, it’s a great scene, as far as musicals go.

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2. “What a waste of a lovely night.”

This wants to be an Astaire/Rogers musical, and while it’s not quite that (and I don’t think anything can hit their levels. Nothing against the film), it’s damn good. It taps into a lot of what made their chemistry work, and that’s enough for me. The singing’s not the best and the dancing’s not the best, but the feeling of a fun musical number with cute lyrics and choreographed dance moves that are both fun and move the relationship along and add to the romance — what more can you ask for? Added to that — they shot that live. Meaning — that skyline, that’s legit. That’s not aided by CGI. That’s the magic hour, baby.

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1. “Another Day of Sun”

Because the film announces right at the beginning — this is what we’re doing here. This is a musical, this is what you’re gonna get, and you’re either down for that or you can leave right now. It’s supposed to feel disconnected from the rest of the film, because it’s not about fitting the story. It’s about setting a tone for what you’re gonna get for the rest of the film. And it’s also just a great idea for a musical. It’s automatically one of the most iconic shots of the past decade. The fact that someone went and did this is wonderful.

How many times do you hear me say, “More musicals!”? How many? They actually gave me one! And they started with a bang. My smile was ear to ear for the entirety of the film because of this. This is just wonderful. This whole film is wonderful.

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