La La Land is written and directed by Damien Chazelle and stars the fools who dream, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. I bought the Blu-Ray after seeing it five times in theaters, no doubt ecstatic to delve deeper into a truly special film, and can’t wait to write my first Blu-Ray review on La La Land. Also, find out how to win a digital copy at the end of this post.
The film itself…
In short, I loved La La Land. Damien Chazelle blew me away in 2014 with his directorial debut, Whiplash. Quickly after I remember hearing about Chazelle’s next film which would star Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. Being one of my favorite actresses, Stone pairing with Chazelle seemed like cinematic nirvana. And La La Land is exactly that!
You can play this movie without sound and it is still utterly beautiful and full of colors, with beautiful actors as well. Just listen to it and you will get swept away in the music (and don’t give me that crap that Stone and Gosling can’t sing until you try doing it).
Bottom line: If you haven’t seen this movie, please do. Don’t be deterred by the “musical” aspect of it and just give it a chance with an open mind.
Video and audio quality…
This is a film that benefits from great, vibrant visuals and a beautiful, unique score/soundtrack. As I’ve said before, I’m no kind of professional when it comes to critiquing technical aspects of film. That being said I was slightly disappointed with the overall picture quality of this Blu-Ray. While every set piece is filled with luscious and bright colors that looked excellent on my TV, many of the shots were grainy especially in outside settings during the day. The edges of characters’ faces and other objects tended to be fuzzy, not as crisp as I’ve seen on other Blu-Rays.
However once the lights went down, like in many of the spotlight scenes with a piano or singing solo, the picture quality suddenly looked much better. Many films lose quality with black backgrounds, but with the help of the DP Linus Sandgren, the darker scenes looked excellent.
I watched this Blu-Ray with the TV speakers so I couldn’t fully benefit from the stereo music and sound of this film. I did, however, notice several small sound effects here and there that I didn’t notice the first five times in theaters. The audio mixing done in post-production and for this release seemed very well done and I didn’t notice many inconsistencies between dialogue scenes and action scenes that are usually must louder. Of course, that may be because the only action in La La Land is a man jumping off a balcony into a pool.
I bought the Walmart Blu-Ray edition which comes with an exclusive 30 minute live interview with Chazelle and film critic, Scott Mantz. There aren’t really any new discoveries in here if you’re looking for every behind the scenes story you can find, which I was, but I would still recommend watching it.
The first thing I look for when taking a Blu-Ray off the shelf is the audio commentary. I would have loved one with Stone and Gosling, but I was still thrilled to have one with Chazelle and composer, Justin Hurwitz. Watching this as the last feature of the Blu-Ray, it felt a bit redundant to me. Due to the extensive behind the scenes featurettes I feel like I have a good idea of everything that went into the entire production. The commentary seemed like a lot of the same things while I would have liked more comments on the story, characters and maybe more personal anecdotes from Chazelle and Hurwitz. That being said, I did find out a lot of new things to love about this film.
The rest of the special features are a series of featurettes that give more behind the scenes looks at some of the key scenes in the movie. The most impressive one for me was the opening number on the highway. In terms of the quantity of people needed for this scene and having to shut down part of a highway in LA for three days, this certainly has to be one of the most ambitious parts of the movie. We get a look at the rehearsals that proceeded the shoot, accompanied by interviews with Chazelle, cinematographer Sandgren and producer Jordan Horowitz.
Another segment talks about the process of teaching Ryan Gosling to play piano. Watching the movie without prior research, it definitely appeared like Gosling was playing everything himself, which he was! I played violin for a while and dabbled with the piano a little bit so I was impressed with what Gosling could do after just several months of practice. I’m still uncertain if the music we hear in the film was recorded live or dubbed in post-production but it is nevertheless amazing.
The rest of the featurettes are similar in that they show you how specific scenes were shot and the inspirations from old ’50s musicals that were used within the film. We see the live orchestra recording of the score, an interview with John Legend, and a lot of info about the brilliant set design team that was behind the film. Every song and dance number was given its due and every big scene was covered well in terms of its creation.
Whether a casual appreciator of La La Land or someone who loves and adores every shot this Blu-Ray is definitely a good buy. There are plenty of short behind-the-scenes featurettes that seem to go in depth into every scene. So much so that I felt like I was seeing the same stuff over and over. That being my biggest complaint, I am fully aware that makes me sound like an internet troll. So ignore me and just go buy it already.
Or if you want a digital copy of La La Land, fill out the information below in the next 48 hours, telling me in no less than a thousand words why you love La La Land. Actually, you can just write anything. I’ll then pick someone randomly, and send them the digital download code.