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"City of stars...Are you shining just for me”? As Ryan Gosling sings this song of desire and illusion while taking a stroll just before the glittering city of Los Angeles, we can’t help ourselves falling in love with his dreamy persona and the city that beckons him. A backdrop that tells a thousand splendid stories of love, of despair, of dreams, of remembrances and of heartaches seems to be a trope that defines and emotes relationships in this modern Hollywood musical. Fluid, magical and sometimes illusionary, the city of Los Angeles has a whole narrative to tell in this story of aspiring artists, Mia and Sebastian.
What this movie does is to make us wonder at the real locations of Los Angeles through the lens of imagination, weaving magic and realism, thoughts and actions, recital and music only to leave us wonderstruck by the movie’s exemplary way of telling a simple story. The movie carves a haunting presence in our mind with the possibility of alternate endings in a city that defines human ambitions and the relationships that lose strings in order to achieve them. What is Los Angeles then? Is it a city that seems ruthless in not allowing human passions to consummate or a city that soothes and nurtures frail emotions? Whatever, it might come across as, the next time you visit Los Angeles, you would have several brimming emotions and an imaginative cinematic theatrical to witness locations that found their portrayal in La La Land.
"Here’s to the hearts that ache
Here’s to the mess we make”
1. Watch Sebastian taking a stroll over Hermosa Pier
Let us begin this list with the most magical yet self-reflective moment. Sebastian sings his heart out observing the dazzling skyscrapers of Los Angeles while waltzing and singing "City of Stars” at the Hermosa Pier. As you make a visit to Los Angeles, visit this famous location to watch the beauty of sunset spread over the Pacific Ocean. Infact, the Pier and Pier Avenue are home to many restaurants, bars and shops, making it one of the most alluring places to visit in Los Angeles.
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2. A rendezvous with stars at Griffith Observatory
City of Stars needs a place that can make you smitten with them. One of the most elaborately portrayed locations in the movie, Griffith Observatory is a popular attraction of Los Angeles. You must have loved those moments in the movie when Mia and Sebastian fall in love with each other while watching "Rebel Without a Cause" and start floating up to the stars like in a dream. This whole shot is inspired by magic realism as the characters fly and reach out to each other in a real location, oft visited by people. Many Hollywood movies including Rebel Without a Cause, The Terminator, and Transformers have been shot at Griffith Observatory. Sitting in its own world, this place is both aloof as well as the part of the landscape of Los Angeles and thus a perfect place for a dreamy romance to happen.
3. "A Lovely Night” at Cathy’s Corner, Mount Hollywood Drive
The winding mountain roads that offer lovely views of San Fernando Valley in the song "A Lovely Night” belong to Cathy’s Corner, a lovely location in Mount Hollywood Drive. As the two dance, the sparking city down sings with emotions in the backdrop.
One of the thematic fibers in the movie, love for jazz, reflects well through certain locations that can capture the essence of this music tradition well. One of these places is The Lighthouse Café, a den that still preserves this dying tradition in the most beautiful manner. Quite understandably, this is where you would find a brooding Sebastian often.
Some places become the soul of any city. Rialto Theatre in Los Angeles is one such place that reflects the essence of this magnetic city well. Built in 1925, this theatre exhibits lavish interiors laced with eclectic architectural features. Mia and Sebastian come here to watch "Rebel without a Cause” in its single screen cinema Hall. The theatre is closed as of now though!
6. John Legend’s Performance at El Rey Theatre, Miracle Mile
One of the performances in the movie by John Legend was shot at the celebrated El Ray Theatre at Miracle Mile. It is here where Sebastian’s career is shown to be taking its full swing. Ever since 1990’s the El Ray Theatre has been used as a music venue after serving as a cinema and a dance club before it.
A short funicular in Los Angeles, Angel’s Flight was the star attraction of Los Angeles as it used to ferry passengers up and down Bunker Hill, one of city’s most fashionable neighborhoods. In 2013, this Funicular was closed due to safety reasons, however, La La Land movie made it sure to run it up for a day.
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Sebastian’s failure to adjust his talent to public demand is portrayed through a scene when he is asked to play simple Jingle tunes at a restaurant. For this purpose, the film chose The SmokeHouse, a restaurant located right across the street from Warner Bros.
While watching the movie, you must have fallen in love with Mia’s logo for Sebastian’s Jazz Club-Seb’s. A low-key bar located in Downtown Long Beach, Blind Donkey, became Seb’s when Mia and Sebastian meet for the last time.
During one of their romantic sessions, Mia and Sebastian take a stroll over Colorado Street Bridge, one of the highest concrete bridge in the world. Built in 1913, this bridge looks stunning like Los Angeles itself with gigantic arches.
An iconic mural of Los Angeles, ‘You are the Star’ appears in the backdrop as Sebastian gets out of the restaurant from which he is fired. This mural depicts famous actors as Richard Pryor, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Marilyn Monroe and James Dean, sitting in a theater and it appears as you walk along the Wilcox Avenue and Hollywood Boulevard.
12. Mia’s Coffee shop at Warner Bros Studios, Burbank
Mia’s workplace at a coffee shop is depicted at Warner Bros lot. Although the café is fictional, the street is real.
Mia’s success into becoming a successful star is characterized with Chateau Marmont, a place where staying for a night means your spending your fortunes. This is the same place that proclaims Mia’s moment to rise and shine bright.