1. La La Land
Damien Chazelle’s romantic musical revolves around a jazz musician (Ryan Gosling) and an aspiring actress (Emma Stone) who fall lyrically in love and threaten to come uncoupled when the needle gets to the record’s end: The tension between Hollywood dreams and the reality of making art is too fierce.
Despite the real-world sting, this is the closest thing since Umbrellas of Cherbourg to what I’d call a “unified field theory” of music and film. Everything — the movement of the camera, the vibrant colors of the set and costumes, the rhythms of the (gorgeous) actors — enhances everything else, so that the stylishness is exponential, maybe even existential. But the movie doesn’t feel over-manicured. There’s an easiness to its gait. Justin Hurwitz’s songs aren’t big blowouts. They’re intimate, like humming or whistling taken to the next level. After a year like 2016, we need us some harmony.