'La La Land' revives joy of old-time musicals

Sunday , October 08, 2017 - 12:00 AM

By SIENA CUMMINGS
TX. Correspondent

The catchy musical numbers, the enchanting narratives and the captivating romances are only the beginning of what makes classic Hollywood musicals such delights to watch again and again.

The genuine nature of musicals, and their subtle, yet crucial, messages give each of us a reason to escape our world for an hour or two. We value the honest characters, and the way the films portray the human spirit in a way everyone can relate to.

Old-fashioned films have filled theaters for decades, attracting audiences craving the emotion and talent you can only find onscreen. And recently director Damien Chazelle’s “La La Land” — the story of Mia Dolan (Emma Stone), an aspiring actress, and Sebastian Wilder (Ryan Gosling), a jazz musician, pursuing their Hollywood dreams on the busy streets of Los Angeles — has become the cinematic experience everyone has been waiting for, reviving an old, but loved, genre in the world of film.

In the past two or three years, I have become captivated by movies from the 1900s, especially musicals. My choir director had shown us the Disney musical “Newsies” and it got the class talking about other musicals they really enjoyed. The majority of them mentioned shows like the “High School Musical” franchise or the new and popular “Wicked.”

My teacher, however, said one of his favorites was “Singin’ in the Rain,” which first debuted in 1952. After that, I became vastly interested in the film and desperately wanted to see it. Last summer, after begging and begging for weeks, my mom borrowed the movie from our local library. I didn’t know what to expect from the film, except that it was a musical and was more than 60 years old.

Oh, but once it opened with the beautiful Debbie Reynolds, the humorous Donald O’Connor and the ever-so-charming Gene Kelly, I was in love. The story was original, the cast exceptional, and Kelly’s song and dance while the rain came pouring down was pure Hollywood magic.

That was all I needed, Kelly dancing with an umbrella in the streets of L.A., and I was addicted to classic films.

Singing all the day long

When “La La Land” was first introduced in late 2016, it appeared as if the film would be another Ryan Gosling romance, much like his and Emma Stone’s “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” However, once “La La Land” began, that idea wasn’t anywhere near the truth. As the show started, the people of L.A. were suddenly dancing atop cars on a highway, each individual singing along to the opening number, “Another Day of Sun.”

I knew as soon as each of the dancers’ car doors simultaneously closed and the production’s title was plastered across the screen that I was in for a real treat.

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Although these classic musicals fill me with such joy and nostalgia, it is difficult to continue being such a big fan of them when many people seem uninterested in the productions or proclaim them as “too old.” Society hadn’t seen a man dance to a style as clever and creative as Gene Kelly’s in more than 20 years, let alone a pair of dancers singing and dancing together and still making the plot line entertaining and intriguing to viewers.

I thought I would never see any film come close to the works of a Hollywood long gone; however, I guess you should never say never. Following the similar styles of my treasured “Singin’ in the Rain” and countless other musical films, “La La Land” knew how to hold its own weight and reminded all of us of what a genuine motion picture looked like.

As Gosling and Stone tapped, soared, and twirled across the screen, I was so grateful to them for bringing forth such remarkable style and adding their own flair to it. It was almost like taking the old musicals and dusting them off, refitting them for this day and age.

I also enjoyed the little “Easter eggs” in the film to honor past films, actors and musicals, such as the planetarium scene from “Rebel Without A Cause,” acknowledging the window Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman looked out of in “Casablanca,” Gosling hanging off of a light pole similar to Kelly in “Singin’ in the Rain,” and the film’s ending resembling the final scene of “An American in Paris.”

Delights from the past.

“La La Land” has deservedly become a major success, with Entertainment Weekly calling it, “Pure movie magic.” Since its release last December, “La La Land” has made $443.9 million at the box office and has won six Academy Awards. It has sparked conversations on retro films, giving respect and admiration to the forever classic motion pictures many of us hold dear to our hearts.

We will never be able to bring the Hollywood of the past completely back. It’s no one’s fault, it’s just that the world is a completely different place from when James Dean was racing cars along highways or Gregory Peck was taking Audrey Hepburn on a “Roman Holiday.”

What we can rediscover from those old films, however, is the passion the characters felt for one another, the occasional dance numbers that inevitably brighten our day, and the stories that inspire all of us to be who we are.

Whether you are a fan of old-fashioned films or not, “La La Land” has restored a “classic feeling” for moviegoers everywhere — a feeling that won’t be dying out anytime soon.

Siena Cummings is a freshman at Rocky Mountain Junior High School. She loves classic books and movies, some of her favorites being “The Outsiders,” “To Kill A Mockingbird” and “Little Women.” Email her at cummingssi@wsdstudent.net.

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