Knee-jerk review: "La La Land"

1. They had us when the Cinemascope logo faded in and the image stretched sideways into a glorious wide aspect ratio.
2. Emma Stone may look like the bored barista at your corner Starbucks, but she's got the goods.  In some close-ups, you can practically see what she's thinking just by the way she works her eyes.
3. What you've heard is true - La La Land is a meticulously crafted love letter to the big Hollywood musicals of yore.  A lush, romantic, poignant musical the likes of which we haven't seen since 2001's Moulin Rogue.
4. We can't think of a movie that seemed to speak more directly to our unique history.  For those who move hundreds of miles to Los Angeles to pursue a crazy impossible dream to somehow forge a career in the cut-throat entertainment industry, this film is for you.  Lots of moments packed a real punch for us.  We've known lots of struggling actors, producers, directors, musicians, and writers working miserable day jobs and hoping for that big break.
5. On one hand we can't believe that actor auditions can be that awful or humiliating.  But on the other hand, we completely believe it.
6. We've never seen Rebel Without a Cause.  Shame.
7. Slambang opening - "Another Day of Sun" - with drivers stuck on a freeway overpass in a nasty hot L.A. traffic jam hopping out of their cars for a song and dance number.  Exuberant.  It's hard to top.  Bonus points that while they're dancing you can see traffic moving down below.
8. You really can increase your car key fob's range by holding it against your chin and turning your head into an antenna.
9. We wasted a good deal of brain power during the movie trying to figure out where in L.A. each shot was filmed.
10. There's always something a little aloof about Ryan Gosling, right? Or is that just us?
11. The dusk dance number "A Lovely Night" and Gosling's "City of Stars" are delightful, of course, but our favorite number by far was Stone's plaintive third act solo "Audition (The Fools Who Dream)."  
12. Never make critical comments on your way out of a theater in Los Angeles, people.  You never know who's listening.
13. Like all great movies, this one ends very strong. We don't want to spoil it here, but the last ten minutes are genuinely bittersweet, thrilling, and moving all at once.
13. It's not the best film we've ever seen.  But we can't stop thinking about it, which is a special sort of praise all its own.

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