Coming off the heels of its 14 Oscar Nominations, “La La Land” seems to have a clear path on claiming the ultimate prize: Best Motion Picture. Though, as with most popular films, this rise in popularity opens up the opportunity for audiences to analyze the film more intently. One of the most compelling videos to do so comes from Dominick Nero of Fandor, as he delivers a side-by-side comparison of “La La Land” and Martin Scorsese’s often forgotten film, “New York, New York”.
Nero journeys through both films, identifying that both plots revolve around a male jazz musician and a young woman who is struggling to establish their career as an entertainer. Throughout the video, Nero pinpoints strikingly similar plot points, as well as highlighting some key inversions regarding the films’ characters. A question that arises after watching this video essay is that could “La La Land” be considered a soft, west-coast remake of Scorsese’s 1977 film? Or perhaps audiences can view “La La Land” and “New York, New York” as companion pieces, each celebrating the unofficial capitals of entertainment on each coast of the U.S., and the personal costs of pursuing dreams in these cities.
“New York, New York” starred Liza Minnelli and Robert De Niro in the lead roles, and was released just one year following Scorsese’s masterwork “Taxi Driver.” However, the film failed to match the popularity and critical acclaim of Scorsese’s previous film, and as the video notes, even Scorsese felt that the ending of “New York, New York” was “unsatisfactory.” However, as Nero points out, with the recent high praise and abundant love for “La La Land,” does “New York, New York” deserve a second chance? Or does this mean the themes raised in both film are simply more relevant to audiences today as opposed to 40 years ago? Now more than ever it seems imperative to revisit some of the more under appreciated components of Scorsese’s filmography, especially in the wake of his most recent film, “Silence,” nabbing only one Oscar Nomination and struggling mightily at the box office.
One of the many great things about “La La Land” is how director Damien Chazelle was able to seamlessly pay homage to so many classic musicals through visuals. Due to its reputation as being a “lesser” Scorsese film, it’s a bit of a surprise to see such an undeniable narrative resemblance to “New York, New York” and Chazelle’s stunning musical. (Though, it’s never a bad idea to channel Scorsese whenever you’re making a film. Ever.)
“La La Land” is currently in theaters nationwide, and you can check out Nero’s other videos here.