La La Land floored me. Utterly and completely!!!
My goodness, a lot to praise here, like, all of the most important aspects of a movie: cinematography (those wide angle shots and frames, for example), music scores especially when this is a musical Broadway-ish film, beautiful and varied color palettes as well as the lighting (I started to think what if this is an anime sometime during my watching LOL), the story and its telling, the great acting, but first and best of them all: Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone's chemistry!!! I already see it in Crazy, Stupid, Love but to think it can be this good when they are given a more challenging and ''Oscar candidate'' project. It's a different kind of chemistry from Gosling and Rachel McAdams' in The Notebook (which is equally ridiculously heart-breakingly good). I mean Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams are like the best couple ever in a straight love story movie (Leo and Winslet in Titanic tie with them) but with Emma Stone...it's just...I don't know...more exploring in other things? Not that McAdams is a worse actress, mind you, and she hasn't acted with Gosling for years so there's no fair comparison anw.
And that deliciously painful and bitter ending! It's sad (well, at least the writer gives us that ''fanservice'' what-if-we-are-together scene, haha). The common reaction I have seen from my friends and Internet is ''it's realistic'' but happy ending relationship exists in real life, too, so you don't need to make it non-happy to be realistic. I suppose there's a message regarding that dreaming theme but I wouldn't know for sure. I just hope that ''gonna love you forever'' before they separated and the last eye exchange between them means something. Still, while it's not hard to imagine, did they really just lose contact or whatever when Mia moved to Paris?
I just don't like the opening traffic dancing scene and the first singing of the movie Mia's flatmates did. Don't understand the point of the former (enlighten me, please!) and am not impressed or impacted by the latter in any way.
Not that it's the best movie ever or anything, but definitely one of the best this 2016 and a totally refreshing and well-done experience of its genre in the last few years. I don't even remember the last great movie of the same kind that I have watched...
I have finally seen it as well and now can understand why people are fawning over it. Definitely a unique project, especially in modern times.
I agree with the first part of your post, certainly well orchestrated and choreographed and brilliantly shot film (though some shots were out of focus but nevermind that), the set design was great and charming and so on.
Regarding your questions and statements about the ending.
My take is that the topic of the movie, at least categorically speaking, is related to Chazelle´s last movie Whiplash, in which the main character had to give up everything and only obsess over his art to reach the best performance he had in him while, at least in my interpretation, it also painted a dark future for the artist (something akin to Black Swan´s ending, basically the artist burning out à la Cobain for example).
This movie on the other hand deals with sacrifices you have to make on the way to achieve your dreams, especially regarding your loved ones, and that the road is not really like a fairy tale or an unrealistic musical of the 50s.
From what i understood, the beginning shot you mentioned with the people singing and dancing in traffic was full of people coming to L.A. to follow their dreams and they are still full of naive optimism and believe that they will achieve everything they hope for like in the movies or other stories, hence they sing and dance. That´s also why Gosling´s and Stone´s character do not join them, they have been living there for a while already and are disillusioned about their prospects (with Gosling´s passion Jazz dying out and Stone´s acting being unappreciated) and basically compromise about their art.
With them meeting and getting to know each other though, that past feeling resurfaced, basically it was revived by the other respectively. Gosling started to dream about his club again while Stone realized what she wanted to do, basically a play with her own story.
During this part of the movie, they dance, sing again, the colors are bright and so on.
Then reality hits again though, Gosling is reminded by his unsuccessful attempts through Stone´s character talking about him to her mother on the phone and takes a job making music he does not like (though i actually liked the song they played). Since he is giving up on his dream, she gets discouraged as well and in combination with the fact that her premiere is rather unsuccessful as well, she is ready to give up.
And here comes my only important criticism about the movie: The movie pretended that both of them following their dreams while also staying together does not work but it was not made apparent enough why this should be the case.
I mean Gosling decided to take the gig he did not want because he wanted to help Stone´s character more (there is a shot of him watching the ceiling of the flat and seeing mould for example). But after Stone did the audition towards the ending of the movie, there was really no real obstacle in front of them if their love was genuine, being together and achieving their respective dreams did not contradict each other.