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Composer Justin Hurwitz on Golden Globes, Jazz & La La Land

Wednesday, 04 January 2017 12:21

Senior Arts Editor Mark Wigmore speaks to Justin Hurwitz; the composer of 7-time Golden Globe Award nominated, ‘La La Land’.

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are the leads in the jazz/musical comedy hit, ‘La La Land’. But as award season approaches, it’s becoming clear the film’s other star, is the music.

Composer Justin Hurwitz is behind three jazz-tinged films that have put the genre back in the mainstream limelight; ‘Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench’, Oscar winner ‘Whiplash’, and this season’s ‘La La Land’. The trio of titles marks a blossoming collaboration between Hurwitz and his long-time friend and Harvard school-mate; Jazz musician and wunderkind director Damian Chazelle.

The duo’s ‘La La Land’ is one of the most talked about films of the last year. Awards buzz, top 10 lists, but most of all, a reminder that a night out at the movies can be worth every cent of your entertainment dollar. The film opens with the brash musical theatre number “Another Day in the Sun”, shot in a location that is quintessential Los Angeles; a bumper-to-bumper traffic jam on one of the city’s many storied highways.

From there it’s better get to know Gosling’s struggling jazz musician Sebastian, and Emma Stone’s aspiring actress Mia. The duo are both stumbling through auditions and lame gigs. He’s trying to open a vintage jazz venue, she’s trying to break out of the barista life and land that first important role. They awkwardly meet several times through chance and it’s definitely not love at first sight. But their cage-y friendship blossoms and before long the lovers are supporting each other through the pitfalls and vulnerabilities of fame and fortune in the city of Angels.

Chazelle and Hurwitz have taken a decidedly more friendly tone with ‘La La Land’ when comparing to their Oscar Award-winning ground-breaker, ‘Whiplash’. But once again, the storytelling remains committed to showing the struggles that artists face when chasing after their dreams. The film is full of lush music and dance numbers, tear jerker moments of love found and love lost, and soul crushing scenes of artistic defeat. Its part Broadway Musical Theatre, part modern take on the classic MGM Hollywood musical, and part smart rom-com. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are surely the film’s stars, but both actors had to dive into Justin Hurwitz’s music, lyrics and composing style to rise to the occasion, both learning to sing and play live in front of the cameras.

Thousands of demos, 6 years in the making, and a deep commitment to making a movie few studios would sign off on; Justin Hurwitz’s commitment is now paying off. The Oscar buzz is deafening, and on Sunday night, the film is nominated for 7 Golden Globes, including Best Score and Best Song.

Senior Arts Editor Mark Wigmore spoke to Justin Hurwitz from his offices in Los Angeles.

La La Land is in theatres now. The soundtrack is available on iTunes and through most streaming services, and the Golden Globes will be handed out this Sunday beginning at 8.

Senior Arts Editor Mark Wigmore is heard at 8:40 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on weekdays during the JAZZ.FM91 Arts Report. And don’t miss his arts and culture interview and entertainment magazine program, Arts Toronto, Sundays between 8-9 a.m.

To get in touch with Mark it’s

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