La-la land: the mental state of someone who is not aware of what is really happening, and a nickname for the American entertainment industry centered on Los Angeles. These two meanings bleed into each other in director Damien Chazelle's multi-Oscar-nominated musical, "La La Land," which is about a state of mind as much as it is a place.

It's about the mythic dream of LA, that sun-drenched city by the sea where an ambitious unknown can find fame and fortune, much like leading lady Emma Stone herself managed to do. It celebrates romantic escapism, that feeling of liberation that comes from just throwing off the rules of reality and dancing off into the twinkling stars above. It's a feeling that seems attractive to a lot of people after the sour, dismal, divisive year that was 2016.

Chazelle wastes no time in sweeping us away: He drops us into the temper-frayed grind of a bumper-to-bumper LA traffic jam, only for all the motorists to begin dancing joyously across the highway, leaping and bouncing off auto hoods in one unbelievable continuous shot, like a bastard hybrid of "Nashville" and "Birdman." The smooth, crane-mounted camerawork by Linus Sandgren captures Mandy Moore's choreography in an aesthetic that absolutely crushes the hyper-edited phoniness of post-MTV musicals like "Burlesque."