Lover's Lane Under The Stars?

Perfect Valentine’s date night features modern musical “La La Land” for Meridian Parks & Rec's Outdoor Movie Night moves indoors to Meridian Civic Center Saturday due to freezing forecast

MERIDIAN – It’s Valentine’s Day this weekend! Looking for a romantic date with your beloved?

Meridian Parks & Recreation delivers the perfect romantic movie night themed “Valentine’s Lovers’ Lane” Saturday Feb. 13 with the showing of the Academy Award-winning 2016 modern musical set in the City of Angels, La La Land.

Unfortunately, it won’t be under the stars though. With Saturday’s weather forecast expecting a high of 42 degrees dropping down to 20 overnight, Meridian Parks & Rec has decided to move February’s Outdoor Movie Night at the John A Lomax Amphitheater into the Meridian Civic Center just across River Street from Meridian Park.

As usual, admission to the movie will be free to the public, and there will be popcorn and heart-shaped candy celebrating Love’s designated day. But COVID-19 precautionary protocol will be enforced, so all those attending must wear masks, social distancing will be observed, and capacity will be limited to the first 75 moviegoers.

La La Land represents a colloquial term for "being out of touch with reality," usually due to bliss or ignorance. And La La Land also serves as a nickname for Los Angeles, California – the land of movie star dreams. Fittingly, the movie’s tag line was “Here’s to fools who dream.”

The charming fools Sebastian, played by Ryan Gosling, and Mia, played by Emma Stone, both have big dreams. Each of the star-crossed lovers embrace the old school – her love for old-time Hollywood, his love for traditional jazz. But she is an incurable romantic, dropping out of school to pursue her dream. He is serious and inflexible, holding on to his principles. And the film tells their charming, but bittersweet love affair.

A celebration of music, color and a not-so-classical love story, the much-acclaimed musical by director/writer Damien Chazelle – also known for the 2014 movie Whiplash – won six Oscars after drawing 14 nominations. It also broke the Golden Globe Awards record with seven wins, beating One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) and Midnight Express (1978.)

Tom Hanks was so impressed by the film that, during a press conference for his film Sully, he told all the reporters to go see the film whenever they could.

“There’s a lot to absorb from La La Land,” TV and Film Blogger Kelechi Ehenulo said. “The clash of styles and ideas are collectively embraced. It’s the balance of cheese meets whimsical.  Romance meets heartbreak. An old tradition meets modern ways. A sincere heart meets good fun – and La La Land completely owns it, in its own magical way.”

But it’s definitely not a soft, soppy love story, in spite of the fact that it’s an old-style musical. Whereas the audience readily agrees that the two are made for each other – largely because of the passion for their dreams which they recognize in each other – there are many obstacles to overcome. As individual success increases, they are faced with decisions that affect their love affair, and the dreams they worked so hard to attain threaten to tear them apart.

And all this intrigue set in the sunny city famous for stellar success and its flip side – failure, disappointment and despair. The line in the film said by Sebastian, "That's L.A. They worship everything, and they value nothing," was actually added in by Gosling after his real-life partner, Eva Mendes, mentioned it as a joke.

“He’s smooth and charismatic; she’s clever and beautiful,” renowned film critic Roger Ebert said. “The phrase has lost most of its meaning, but these are movie stars. And, of course, they’re more than capable when La La Land demands greater depth, finding characters so rich that the movie would work without the music.

“It’s a story of artistic passion, and how easy it is to get derailed from your dream. Sometimes, it takes another person to push you back on to the tracks to find it again. Gosling and Stone get these characters, finding grace in their movement, but emotional depth in their arcs. Stone has never been better.”

Both actors sing and dance together magically. Who knew Stone and Gosling were so diverse?

Because Chazelle wanted to shoot scenes in the tradition of old musicals without cuts or editing, Goslin spent two hours a day, six days a week for three months in piano lessons learning the music by heart. The piano sequences are all Gosling’s hands and skill.

Co-star John Legend, who is a classically-trained pianist, says he's "jealous" of how quickly Gosling learned to play so well.

Chazelle, known for using long, uninterrupted takes in the film, also uses at least one sequence spooled backwards. In the last planetarium scene, Gosling and Stone fall into their seats, kiss, as the camera zooms in for a close-up before the fade. The entire sequence is run in reverse allowing for a perfect, effortless “landing.”

Famous for several scenes, La La Land scores with its opening scene with singer/dancers in a LA traffic grid lock; the planetarium scene when Sebastian and Mia float out on their magical love, dancing into the starry night; and of course, when a casting director interrupts Mia's emotional performance to take a phone call – which was actually inspired by one of Gosling’s real life auditions. And then, there’s the heart-wrenching alternative-ending scene, showing how it should have, would have, could have been.

So come out this Saturday to see all the magic and charm of this exceptional musical love story, with your special lady or beau by your side.

Photos by SIMONE WICHERS-VOSS & courtesy of SUMMIT ENTERTAINMENT & SWANK MOTION PICTURES, INC.

©2021 Southern Cross Creative, LLP. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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