La La Land Reviews

User avatar
Sonic Youth
Laureate
Posts: 7286
Joined: Wed Jan 01, 2003 8:35 pm
Location: USA

Re: La La Land Reviews

Postby Sonic Youth » Sat Feb 25, 2017 9:51 pm

Since LLL is going to win big tomorrow night, I better get this in beforehand.

One could make the argument that Moonlight is the better film, but it feels like an excellent first film, one that promises greater things from its filmmaker. La La Land feels like an apotheosis. A mark of a successful film is one that beautifully evokes its time and place, and while everyone is talking about the film's "place", I was more impressed in how well it evoked its "time", which is this precise moment (or at least a few months ago). In other words, when 50 years from now the history of "Obama-era" movies is written, La La Land will be remembered as one of the defining films*. In fact, it may be the last of them. I doubt we're going to be seeing many more La La Land's for the next few years. And it does a beautiful job capturing the idealism (and all the conflicted emotions that come with it) of two very nice, flawed, good-at-heart youthful individuals, even if the film itself can sometimes be naive in its own idealism. It's as fresh and sweet a celebration of youth as a timeless pop song.

Manhola Dargis wrote in the New York Times: "When I went to see 'La La Land' again, I was in a terrible state, and this time I just fell into it, gratefully. I surrendered. Afterward, I realized that this must have been what it was like to watch Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers during the Great Depression." Exactly. And this is why it doesn't make sense for any other film to win Best Picture. In between the Cubs' World Series victory and the anti-Trump march the day after that asshole's inauguration, nothing else gave me such a high, and it doesn't take much of a stretch to imagine that much of the Academy feels the same way. It's the right time for a film like this to win.

And so, a lot of musical "purists" see the 14 Academy Award nominations and sneer at it. Well, I've got news for them. I won't say La La Land is one of the greatest musicals ever made, but look at the list of musicals that have won the Oscar for Best Picture. It's better than most of them. Is it better than most of the love stories that have won Best Picture? Okay, I won't go THAT far...

ETA: If anyone asks me what an "Obama-era" film - or "Obama-era" anything - is, I think of things made with a lot of exuberance and some naivety, like "The Martian" or the musical "Hamilton" or Pharrell's song "Happy". Whether this really IS what the defining trait of works from the "Obama-era" will be most remembered for is anyone's guess. I'm sure it won't be the only trait.
"What the hell?"
Win Butler

Sabin
Laureate
Posts: 6772
Joined: Thu Jan 02, 2003 12:52 am
Contact:

Re: La La Land Reviews

Postby Sabin » Sun Feb 12, 2017 11:40 pm

Sonic Youth wrote
As for what I quoted earlier, I get the point, and I can see maybe a few people legitimately bothered by it. But I don't believe most people complaining about this really are, particularly not my lily-white, non-jazz listening friends who try so hard to be on the correct side of things. It's a faddish train of thought, an idea that someone came up with on their behalf which then got spread around until it received enough exposure and enabled others to be superficially outraged. I'm not dismissing the main point, which I think is at least an interesting observation. I just think most of the outrage is feigned.

Here's my biggest problem, and this goes with your post about "Wouldn't it be more interesting if John Legend was the romantic interest."

These people who are complaining about La La Land's "whiteness" aren't necessarily wrong, which is what makes defending the movie so frustrating. To me, the casting of Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling isn't about a white privilege view of the world. It's a conscious throwback to the great pairings of movie stars from yesteryear, although I suppose anybody making that point could (and likely will, when I do so in public) be accused of white privilege. This is the third time Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone have been paired together. They have chemistry that arrives on the screen before we see them together. Woody Allen did the same thing this year with Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart with Café Society, one of the laziest films he's ever slapped together. And he still couldn't wreck the chemistry between these two. The diminished role of movie stars means we see this happening less and less to the point where people aren't even thinking about it as part of a grand tradition that Damien Chazelle was throwing back to.

Casting John Legend as the love interest would be interesting all right, in that people would walk away from the movie thinking "Huh, that was interesting." Ryan Gosling is playing a callow, neurotic dreamer. That doesn't begin to describe John Legend.
Philomena is one of the year's best Philomenas!

User avatar
Sonic Youth
Laureate
Posts: 7286
Joined: Wed Jan 01, 2003 8:35 pm
Location: USA

Re: La La Land Reviews

Postby Sonic Youth » Sun Feb 12, 2017 11:00 pm

Sabin wrote:I can't convince people to see this movie, and at this point I don't think they should. They're going to go into it with the intention of tearing it down.


But of course. 14 nominations, as Mister Tee said earlier, practically sets it up to fail. My main issue is that they're all theater people and that's significant. They're judging one art form by the standards of another... one which they're highly immersed in but don't seem to recognize the merits of the other. When someone here speaks fondly about how the film pays tribute to an earlier style from an earlier era, or likewise when someone dismisses the film as being insubstantial beyond its own pastiche, I take it seriously because I know the film is being judged and confronted on its own terms... as a film. When criticism begins and ends with "Terrible movie because I didn't like the songs and they could have gotten better singers and the choreography was unimpressive", I think "Envious much?" Not that these aren't valid criticisms - they're very fair criticisms, in fact - but that's also where the critique begins and ends. Of course, these are the same people who rave over the televised "Peter Pan" and "Grease" productions and don't watch any movies more sophisticated or challenging than... well... "La La Land".

It's just disconcerting, because the people I know are very intelligent, capable people, very politically motivated, and well-versed when it comes to theater. You'd think when it comes to other things - movies, music, literature, etc. - they would also, not necessarily be experts or connoissuers, but at least bring the same level of sophistication while approaching them. I don't know half as much about movies as many people do on this forum, but I like to think I at least know and appreciate something about filmmaking as an art form and that I can at least recognize high standards. I think most people have that capability. But most seem to not want to be bothered. (There are, of course, exceptions among my friends, and they're very uncommon.) This is why I'm grateful for this board. I'm always learning about new things, as well as new ways to watch films.

As for what I quoted earlier, I get the point, and I can see maybe a few people legitimately bothered by it. But I don't believe most people complaining about this really are, particularly not my lily-white, non-jazz listening friends who try so hard to be on the correct side of things. It's a faddish train of thought, an idea that someone came up with on their behalf which then got spread around until it received enough exposure and enabled others to be superficially outraged. I'm not dismissing the main point, which I think is at least an interesting observation. I just think most of the outrage is feigned.

Anyway, sorry for the rant. More interesting thoughts (I hope) in a bit.
"What the hell?"

Win Butler

Sabin
Laureate
Posts: 6772
Joined: Thu Jan 02, 2003 12:52 am
Contact:

Re: La La Land Reviews

Postby Sabin » Sun Feb 12, 2017 2:17 pm

Sonic Youth wrote
"But it just KILLS me to imagine how much better and more interesting a movie it would have been if John Legend had been the main character/main romantic interest, instead of Ryan Gosling with his terrible 'moody white savior of jazz, a largely black art form' narrative and embarrassingly inadequate singing voice. God forbid Hollywood have the bravery to disrupt its onanistic white nostalgia fest with an interracial romance and/or a POC as something other than window dressing."

I can't convince people to see this movie, and at this point I don't think they should. They're going to go into it with the intention of tearing it down.

I did a wiki search of past Oscar ceremonies. It's hard to imagine they used to take place in April. I don't think Hidden Figures has a chance of winning but if La La Land fit the mood of the winter, then Hidden Figures fits the mood of the spring. And if voting was still happening right now, I think it might do a lot better.
Philomena is one of the year's best Philomenas!

User avatar
Sonic Youth
Laureate
Posts: 7286
Joined: Wed Jan 01, 2003 8:35 pm
Location: USA

Re: La La Land Reviews

Postby Sonic Youth » Sun Feb 12, 2017 11:15 am

"But it just KILLS me to imagine how much better and more interesting a movie it would have been if John Legend had been the main character/main romantic interest, instead of Ryan Gosling with his terrible 'moody white savior of jazz, a largely black art form' narrative and embarrassingly inadequate singing voice. God forbid Hollywood have the bravery to disrupt its onanistic white nostalgia fest with an interracial romance and/or a POC as something other than window dressing."

Because this is now all over my Facebook wall, and you can't have a La La Land thread without it.

There are now two camps ferociously going at it, the Love It and Hate It camp... and the latter camp is entirely, without exception, made up of musical theatre people. (I know a lot of community theater participants.) Which confirms my adage "Never look to a musical theatre person's opinion on musical cinema."

Anyway, lengthier opinion of my own coming later today.
"What the hell?"

Win Butler

ITALIANO
Emeritus
Posts: 3798
Joined: Mon Jan 06, 2003 1:58 pm
Location: MILAN
Contact:

Re: La La Land Reviews

Postby ITALIANO » Fri Feb 03, 2017 6:05 am

mlrg wrote:

Looking forward for further developments


Well, considering that the movie - while a big box-office hit - is now suffering a sort-of critical backlash here in Italy (from those standing ovations, rapturous reviews and Best Actress award at Venice to growing doubts today, especially after those almost unheard-of 14 Oscar nominations), I went there expecting to hate it, and while I didn't exactly LOVE it (the way the audience with me did) I can't deny that I found it pleasant to watch and expertly (too expertly at times) made. I thought it'd be just an exercise, an imitation - and while it is also all that, it has a heart, too, which makes it undeniably charming. It is, of course, the heart of an American director in his early thirties - which is different from MY heart, but most importantly different from the heart of those directors who, while also young, made similar movies in the 50s and 60s. There was a different, more profound but also more instinctual subtext back then, and at the same time a more attractive naivete. And of course Catherine Deneuve and Nino Castelnuovo, the two stars of the often-mentioned The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, were probably, in those years, lesser actors than Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are now, but more spontaneous and moving.

Yet, we are in the 2010s now, and we can't forget this. As a tribute to a cinema which doesn't exist anymore, La La Land is, I feel, sincere and well-meaning. Needless to say, whenever a director today revives a genre which (like musicals made directly for the screen, but also, for example, westerns) is by now long-dead, the risk of being a bit "artificial" is very real, but that's because in any popular art form "genres" are in themselves "content" - they belong to an era not only because they are fashionable, but because they are more deeply connected to that time and to the people's feelings and needs of that time. So it's easier when you are part of that "emotional" climate. And again - for an American born just before the internet revolution and grown up during it - Chazelle has done the best that he could do, his admiration for a certain "style" is genuine, and anyway he at least chose a great style to show his admiration for. Plus, I think he decided to play the American-ness of the material in an intelligent way - not hiding it, but rather profiting from such pop-culture elements and cliches as Hollywood, jazz, sunny California, the myth of success... It's not a stupid movie, and it's quite carefully planned.

The two actors - again - are good - Gosling being the better of the duo in absolute terms, but Stone having the showiest role (and the showiest song). I don't see anything wrong with them being Oscar-nominated, considering the level of acting in mainstream American movies today. They are definitely not bad. Winning would be something else - but we know even too well (and I am even more sure now having seen the movie) that it will happen to one of them.

mlrg
Adjunct
Posts: 1006
Joined: Tue Dec 07, 2004 11:19 am
Location: Lisbon, Portugal

Re: La La Land Reviews

Postby mlrg » Thu Feb 02, 2017 6:01 pm

ITALIANO wrote:
The Original BJ wrote:
ITALIANO wrote:I know that Original BJ meant it as a praise, but seeing this movie compared to Sleepless in Seattle and Jerry Maguire AND considered worse than Room (!) doesn't exactly make me look forward to seeing it...


I think you might actively detest this one!


I actually rather liked it.


Looking forward for further developments

ITALIANO
Emeritus
Posts: 3798
Joined: Mon Jan 06, 2003 1:58 pm
Location: MILAN
Contact:

Re: La La Land Reviews

Postby ITALIANO » Thu Feb 02, 2017 5:56 pm

The Original BJ wrote:
ITALIANO wrote:I know that Original BJ meant it as a praise, but seeing this movie compared to Sleepless in Seattle and Jerry Maguire AND considered worse than Room (!) doesn't exactly make me look forward to seeing it...


I think you might actively detest this one!


I actually rather liked it.

Sabin
Laureate
Posts: 6772
Joined: Thu Jan 02, 2003 12:52 am
Contact:

Re: La La Land Reviews

Postby Sabin » Mon Jan 02, 2017 5:09 pm

Owen Gleiberman called La La Land the best film of 2016 which was a little surprising considering he declared the film "Not great" when he reviewed it at Toronto. He recently wrote a piece describing his uptick for Variety that I wanted to share:



A Second Look at ‘La La Land’: Why It’s Not Just Good, But Great
Chief Film Critic
Owen Gleiberman

“La La Land,” in theory, is a movie that needs no explanation. The simplest thing you could call it is “an old-fashioned musical” — which means, of course, that it’s a big colorful splashy cornball swoon of a movie, one that traffics in the kind of billboard emotions (Love! Sadness! Joy!) and timeless Hollywood forms (Singing! Dancing! A Lavish Freeway Production Number Done In One Unbroken Take!) that can hit audiences like a sweet shot to the heart. That’s the beauty of it, right?

Yet “La La Land” isn’t just old-fashioned. It’s the new-fangled version of a sprawling Tinseltown classic. It’s Old Hollywood meets Jacques Demy meets “New York, New York” meets postmodern indie backlot passion. It’s a grand Los Angeles epic that features “mainstream” sentiments, but it’s also a subtle and idiosyncratic journey that’s almost entirely unpredictable. (Half an hour before it ends, you’ll have no idea where it’s going.) It’s Boy Meets Girl meets the precarious freedom of 21st-century love. It truly is a romance, but it’s also about what it takes to be an artist in a world that may or may not believe in art anymore.

I liked “La La Land” a lot the first time I saw it, but I confess that I didn’t fall head over tap shoes in love with it until I’d seen it a second time. That’s just the way it happens with certain movies; even a great one can kick in more fully on the second date. Here are a few thoughts as to why Damien Chazelle’s film, for all the spangly seduction of its surface, is a movie whose very rapture is elusive and off-center. (Once you’ve hooked into it, though, the rapture seems more heightened because of its off-centeredness.) “La La Land” isn’t just a stylized nostalgia trip of champagne montages and harmonizing hearts. It’s a filmmaking trifecta — it hooks the heart, the eye, and the mind. And once it snags you, it keeps getting better. Here’s why — though please know that I can’t talk about “La La Land” without revealing crucial aspects of it, so if you’re looking to see the movie unspoiled, don’t read on.

There’s a challenge built into the film’s structure. Okay, so you’re sitting there watching “La La Land.” You’ve seen Mia (Emma Stone), a plucky but desperate barista-slash-actress (that hidden underlayer of anxiety is where the potency of Stone’s performance begins), and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a retro-obsessive jazz pianist with a real snob edge to him, meet and square off, bicker like alley cats, do a soft-shoe against the magic-hour L.A. carpet of urban lights, and sing a song (in that same sequence) about how they don’t like each other — which, of course, is the moment they start to like each other. Finally, they go on a date to see “Rebel Without a Cause,” which ends with the two of them heading from the Rialto Theater to Griffith Observatory, where they enter the planetarium and are lofted, in the headiness of their romance, right up to the stars.

That moment is the climax of an intoxicating journey into the sweetness of old-movie love, and it ends with an iris shot right out of a silent film: the image closing down into a tiny circle against the darkness. You’re about an hour into the film — and what you don’t realize, yet, is that that’s the fading moment of its confectionary studio-system daydream aesthetic. From here on in, no more nifty choreographed numbers. No more dancing on air. The glorious sprawling freeway jam that opens the movie? You won’t see another sequence like it. This is all by design, but to go with the flow of “La La Land,” you have to drift for a long time, in the second half, into a very different mood: downbeat, contemporary, a place where production numbers — with their promise of instant mood enhancement — have gone away. You have to realize that you’re now watching…

…a Jacques Demy movie. And here’s what that means. To make “La La Land,” Chazelle drew — in form and spirit — on two celebrated French musicals directed by Jacques Demy in the ’60s: “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” (1964) and “The Young Girls of Rochefort” (1967). There’s a lot you could say about those films — one thing I’ll say right up front is that I’ve never actually been wild about either of them — but they have a doleful wistful quality that’s strikingly and soulfully European. “Umbrellas” is the better of them, and the more radical achievement: Every line of it is sung, but it’s a pop operetta of the everyday, with lyrics that sound like conversation (a lot of them don’t rhyme), and it tells a story that throws you for a loop: It’s about a girl (Catherine Deneuve) who works in her mother’s umbrella shop, the mechanic (Nino Castelnuovo) she’s in love with, and what happens when he goes off to join the military. The two pledge their love to each other, but then…it fades. Why? Lots of reasons, but the real reason is that love, in “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg,” is a delicate and nearly arbitrary thing, a bit like the weather. (The film opens with a summer rain and ends with a cold snow.)

I’ve always had two essential feelings about “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.” One is that it has the single most haunting theme song in the history of motion pictures (and I really mean that). The opening sequence, which consists of nothing more than an aerial view of a bunch of people walking under umbrellas accompanied by…that song, can reduce me to a blubbering baby in about 45 seconds. The music, by Michel Legrand, is grand. And so, believe it or not, is the wallpaper. (Most dazzling wallpaper in a movie. Ever.) But the story, as it unfolds, is…strange. Nearly philosophical in the frosty abstraction of its melancholy. The final scene is two people who were once in love running into each other for the first time in many years, and neither of them bats an eye. Which is supposed to demonstrate something. I confess, though: I’ve never gotten it. And I don’t buy it.

RELATED
'La La Land' film cocktail celebration
‘La La Land’ Director Damien Chazelle Shows His Love for Jazz

But I buy “La La Land,” which takes what’s great about the Jacques Demy musicals — the formal daring, the sweet sadness, the willingness to portray love as a highly imperfect thing — and restores the faith that Demy replaced with a forlorn shrug. “The Young Girls of Rochefort” is probably a more direct stylistic influence on “La La Land”: crowds of people in ordinary dress erupting into song and dance along a roadway, a fusion of MGM and new-wave naturalism. Yet what Chazelle ultimately got from Demy was a feeling, a lush open-endedness: the idea that the ultimate stylized romantic movie form — the musical — could contain a love story about people who drift apart as much as they come together. It’s the same life-goes-on notion that Woody Allen played with in “Annie Hall,” and in “La La Land” Chazelle does it full justice. As much as Jacques Demy (no, I’ll say it: better than Jacques Demy), he made a poetic fantasia about the way old-fashioned love fits into the new-fashioned world. Of course, it helps that he has a co-creator who provided…

The greatest original songs ever composed for a contemporary movie musical. Just think about “Singin’ in the Rain.” There are so many things that make it (arguably) the most sublime big-screen musical of all time, but take away the title song, and you don’t have the full magic. Even the quintessential image of Gene Kelly sashaying through puddles comes at us through those indelible musical notes. The melodies that Justin Hurwitz composed for “La La Land” have that rare kind of luscious defining earworm tastiness, and not to take away from Damien Chazelle’s wizardry, but if the songs weren’t that good, the movie wouldn’t be either.

Everyone will have his or her favorite. The one that’s currently being pushed for the Oscars, “City of Stars,” is my third or fourth favorite. It’s an exquisitely mournful yet seductive number (and the image of Ryan Gosling, with his ordinary-guy croon, singing it to two middle-aged strangers on the Hermosa Beach Pier is one of the film’s most memorable), but I actually prefer the electric infectiousness of the film’s opening mambo, “Another Day of Sun,” which played in my head for three months after I first heard it, and the great “Audition (The Fools Who Dream),” the song sung by Emma Stone in which the film’s emotions of love and loss fuse into its theme: that those who live to create are flaky, difficult, moonstruck, maybe somewhat mad beings who cause distress through their passion — yet the world needs them like oxygen. The song comes at the end of the lengthy detour “La La Land” takes away from singing-and-dancing exuberance, and that’s part of what makes it a deliverance. We’re back in old-musical Heaven! When Emma Stone sings “Here’s to the hearts that ache, here’s to the mess we make,” it has a dramatic/musical/spiritual impact equal to that of Liza Minnelli singing the title number of “Cabaret.” It is that gorgeous, that heartbreaking, that uplifting, that amazing. Stone’s performance is timeless — I have never noticed more the way her large almond eyes evoke Charlie Chaplin — and what reverberates right off the screen is the lilt of that melody. It’s a miracle of melancholy perfection.

That’s another reason “La La Land” gets better the second time you see it: You now have those songs in your system. And why should it be otherwise? Great pop songs don’t necessarily hit us with their ultimate force the first time we hear them; often, on the radio, they kick in that second or third or fourth time. In my own second experience with “La La Land,” I felt like I melted, all the more, into the story those melodies were telling. And I do mean melodies (though the lyrics are lovely). What I heard the second time is how Justin Hurwitz constructed the songs out of bits and pieces of the same musical motifs, so that they flow in and out of each other and merge; it’s really a unified song suite. By the end, the music has become a character in the film (which may be why there are so few actual supporting characters). Just watch the scene near the end where Mia is seated in the nightclub and Sebastian, on stage, sits at the piano and plays, very slowly, with one hand, those notes. Da da da da da…daaa. Those simple six notes tell the entire story we’ve been watching.

Then there’s the “Whoa, I didn’t expect that!” ending. Instead of a shoot-the-works production number, “La La Land” culminates in a shoot-the-works piece of alternate reality: Call it “That’s Entertainment!” by way of Charlie Kaufman. Mia, in that club, imagines the life that she could have had if she’d remained with a certain person — and the first time I saw the film, it looked, quite simply, like scenes-from-a-road-not-take. But on second viewing, I saw that this rapid-fire home-movie hallucination is something more: It’s the very movie we would have been watching had “La La Land” simply been the delectable old-fashioned musical we think, for an hour or so, it is. The incandescence of “La La Land” is that while it isn’t that movie, it contains that movie, and it leaves us in a bittersweet swoon over the happy endings we long for that can no longer be, because they’ve all been replaced by the beautiful mess we make.
Philomena is one of the year's best Philomenas!

Sabin
Laureate
Posts: 6772
Joined: Thu Jan 02, 2003 12:52 am
Contact:

Re: La La Land Reviews

Postby Sabin » Sun Jan 01, 2017 8:56 pm

Let's play a game called "How well did La La Land do this weekend?"

According to IndieWire:

La La Land (Lionsgate) Week 4

$9,500,000 in 750 theaters (+16); Cumulative: $33,200,000

Not that 2016’s now biggest grossing initially platform released film isn’t already a big success, but here’s how big it is. Three years ago, in its expansion to 745 theaters, “Silver Linings Playbook” grossed $4.1 million — less than half of “La La Land.” It went on to gross $132 million.

To state the obvious, this is a major hit with likely additional $100 million or more in domestic gross ahead. This placed at least seventh for the weekend (with a shot at as high as fifth for four days), equal or ahead of two studios’ Christmas releases in four times as many theaters (“Assassin’s Creed” and “Why Him?”).

Combined with its critical acclaim, it’s hard not to see this hitting on all cylinders as it reaches the Golden Globe awards and Oscar nominations, and further expansion over the next few weeks.
Philomena is one of the year's best Philomenas!

Greg
Tenured
Posts: 2550
Joined: Thu Jan 02, 2003 1:12 pm
Location: Greg
Contact:

Re: La La Land Reviews

Postby Greg » Tue Dec 13, 2016 7:28 pm

Here is a surprising excerpt from La La Land's Wikipedia page:

Principal photography on the film officially began in the city on August 10, 2015, and was filmed in more than 60 L.A. locations, including downtown trolley, houses in the Hollywood Hills, Angels Flight, Colorado Street Bridge, Pasadena, Grand Central Market and Watts Tower with many scenes shot in one take and overall in 93 location sets and 48 exterior locations, with 1,600 extras, on two cameras, with anamorphic lenses. It took a total 40 to 42 days to complete shooting, finishing in mid-September 2015.

Chazelle was certainly efficient.
"It is hard to think of anything more disempowering of the 0.01% than to recognize that we don't need them to pay for anything."

Stephanie Kelton

Sabin
Laureate
Posts: 6772
Joined: Thu Jan 02, 2003 12:52 am
Contact:

Re: La La Land Reviews

Postby Sabin » Tue Dec 13, 2016 6:51 pm

Tee writes, “This is a young man’s movie.” And I feel like all compliments and criticisms of this film pivot around this undeniable statement. This is what keeps the film from greatness, but it’s also the reason I felt more exhilarated watching ‘La La Land’ than probably any other film this year.

There are some movies that are so awash in film school cliché that they feel positively dorm room, but Damien Chazelle lands the thing seemingly through force of will. This is clearly a work of passion but also savvy. I was pretty aware that this was something he was selling, but I bought it. He understands what he can use from the structure of a musical: he can bound through shifts in status quos, but he can also pick and choose if he feels like going longer stretches without a musical number than the usual musical, etc. He ballasts the film in his now-expected preoccupation of the “plight of the dreamer.” And if neither Gosling nor Stone entirely come across as three-dimensional, Chazelle is smart about how and when to dramatize their rising and falling dreams. I think smart is the right word. Chazelle knows how to write smart, simple movies. There’s something a little odd about a filmmaker getting a coronation for the simplicity of his vision, but in his case it’s probably earned.

Tee writes that its message of the ending is muddled, but that implies that Chazelle is going for one. If he is going for a message, he’s emphasizing the importance of going after your dreams with the right person. This would be more persuasive if I got the impression they were holding each other back. More likely, I think he’s going for an indulgent (and universal) “What if?” that everybody is going to love. It’s one of the most formidable examples of “Knock ‘em out at the end” I’ve seen in a while.

One of the most interesting elements of the film is slightly glossed over. In one scene when Emma Stone is on the phone with her mother, Ryan Gosling can hear her try to explain the purpose of her one woman show but also why his career isn’t taking off, and she doesn’t have a great answer. Gosling hangs his head in self-loathing and knows he has to sell out to keep this relationship. Chazelle skims over this moment but I think he does a slight disservice to Ryan Gosling’s character. That’s the most LA-authentic quality to this film. She’s a young woman who’s in love with a guy whom she doesn’t know as well as she thinks she does. But Ryan Gosling is in very good form here. I run hot and cold on him but this is one of his finer moments. He doesn’t completely convince as someone who is head over heels in love, but I don’t think he needs to. He’s simply caught up in something – and ‘La La Land’ is very much a movie about being caught up in something. Emma Stone, on the other hand, absolutely convinces as a woman in love. And disappointment. It’s hard for me to think of someone else who could’ve played this role and coupled such expert comic timing (she is a hilarious actor) with authenticity. She sells the big moments, like after her one woman show when she overhears nasty comments (a very OTN moment that she knocks out of the park) but also the little ones, like when she leaves Gosling a message about how she hasn’t seen him in a while as she heads back to her apartment. I don’t know if she’s going to win Best Actress for ‘La La Land’ but she’s one of the main reasons it’s going to win Best Picture. She’s also one of the main reasons a lot of struggling actors in Los Angeles are going to stick with it a little bit longer than they should.

I’ll admit to still floating on this one. Once I come back down to Earth, I’ll be able to parse it out a bit more, but I’m in no hurry. It’s hitting me at a very good time.
Philomena is one of the year's best Philomenas!

Mister Tee
Laureate
Posts: 5835
Joined: Wed Jan 01, 2003 2:57 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Re: La La Land Reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Tue Dec 13, 2016 1:14 am

(I purposely haven’t looked at other comments before writing this, so if I duplicate what someone else has said, that’s why.)

I liked, even loved, many things in La La Land, but don’t know I love the film as a full entity. Damien Chazelle has come up with a slew of good ideas/conceits (way more than I’d have expected, based on Whiplash), but I’m not sure he’s put them together in a way that adds to a coherent whole. I don’t have time for a fully worked-out examination, but some bullet points:

The highly-touted opening number worked very well, but something felt a bit familiar about it. I finally realized: it’s the kind of opening number I’ve become accustomed to seeing in animated features…but I can’t recall a recent one from a live-action film.

I didn’t much care for the roommates-dressing-for-the-party number – the song was humdrum, and the activity surrounding the party was the usual “Hollywood as shallow opportunists” thing. So, for a short while, I wondered if I could really get behind this movie – especially the whole movie-musical concept; maybe I just didn’t like the genre? But then the Stone/Gosling “Waste of a Beautiful Night” number came along and completely won me over. It felt like a lost scene from an Astaire/Rogers film…

…this despite the fact that neither Stone nor Gosling is much of a singer. I’m surprised more people haven’t complained about this, the way they bitched about people like Zellweger in Chicago and Depp in Sweeney Todd. No one here sings as badly as, say Bonham-Carter in Sweeney, but I can’t say I thought either of the leads made me want to hear them sing again. (Stone finally rose to the occasion about halfway through the “Audition” number, but I thought, other than that, she came off mostly breathy and not particularly musical.) Both of them of course have charm in spades, and that got them through, but I wonder if better singers might have improved them film.

I’d thought, going in, that this was going to be one of those films that won an Oscar for music score based on having songs on display -- the way Menken did in the early Disney animation renaissance. But I was wrong: that leitmotif that draws Stone into her first meeting with Gosling, and underscores the final fantasy, is plenty enough to earn the score Oscar on its own.

“City of Stars”, by the way, is a wonderful song – mournful in musical tone but lyrically hopeful – and the scene of Gosling singing it at the pier, with lilac sky behind him, is one of many moments that rate the term “ravishing”.

At about the mid-point of the movie, when I’d finally accepted it as a musical, it seemed to forget it was one: aside from the scene of John Legend’s band performing, I don’t think there was a musical number between the dance at the observatory and Emma’s audition. The dialogue during this song-less section was strong enough (culminating in the “You’ll be on the road for years?” scene), and it wasn’t as if the film lost its way. But it did seem to me to sag a bit in this section. (A semi-snarky thought I had during this part of the story: they finally remade New York, New York – and did it right this time. I liked a lot of Scorsese’s movie, but the arguing scenes in the latter half felt Cassavettes-length, and sabotaged the overall story. This film managed the drift-apart-over-careers thing without making the characters tiresome.)

This “suddenly it’s not a musical” feeling at midpoint was one reason I feel Chazelle didn’t manage to fully integrate his work. But something else I found problematic was connected to his main conceit: the use of old movies as background/contrast to the present-day action. Clearly he’s trying to make some kind of large statement, putting them in such apposition, but I don’t have a clear take on what that statement is – that movies give people dangerously simplistic ideas?; that life doesn’t work out like in movies?; that movies and fantasy provide the dreams we need to endure life’s inevitable disappointment? I’m not saying I’d want any theme explicitly spelled out; it’s just, as it is, the theme feels so amorphous that I’m not sure Chazelle’s even worked it out in his own head. He appears to be trusting to instinct, which works to the degree that the film “plays” extremely well. But I don’t think he’s yet a developed enough artist to do that consistently without achieving greater clarity in his own mind. Which is to say, he got away with it this time, but it could cost him in a future project.

None of this, of course, is a problem for the audience; they’re carried along by the ride. Even with my misgivings, I responded to a great degree. The last reel of the film rallies pretty spectacularly, with, first, Emma’s aria (her clear strongest moment -- though her “Maybe I’m not good enough” acting scene was very moving, as well), and then that glorious final sequence, which, even if it’s muddled in terms of exactly what it means, takes the audience aloft in a way that’s both swoonily and doomily romantic at the same moment. It ends the film on a hugely inventive high, and sends the audience home in a blissful mood. (This sequence also probably just about clinches Production Design and Editing Oscars for the film.)

This seems to me very much a young man’s movie. Which is good, in the sense of the youthful exuberance that runs through the film, and the willingness to take esthetic chances (for me, this is a far more adventurous musical than Moulin Rouge). But Chazelle’s youth limits his world-view: he presents us with protagonists who, it’s assumed, are prodigiously talented, so the conflict – love vs. career fulfillment – is binary. Someone who’s lived a bit (or a lot) longer might point out that there are fine shadings on both sides of that conflict – on the love side, that some love affairs are too undertaken too young to last, or that some people are unable to accept genuine affection in their youth…and, in terms of career, that one or the other might be a bit less talented, less castable, less lucky…that there are people with enormous talent who never break through to the level that both these characters do. (Chazelle having achieved massive success at a relatively young age may get in the way of his understanding this.) I realize I’m talking about expanding the issues in a way that wouldn’t be easy for a musical to deal with. But it’s a sign of my respect for what Chazelle has managed to put on-screen that my desire is to see him go further with it; to make it even richer.

Disregarding the singing, the actors are wonderful – each brings a great amount to the table, makes the movie a more vivid and touching event. That said, I don’t think either screams out “Must get an Oscar!”. Stone’s performance, especially because of that late number, falls into the category of “If she wins, it’ll be far from any outrage, and she might even be my choice in a lesser year”. But, generally, I think of both performances as the sort that make a significant contribution to a major film and rate nominations for that fact, but aren’t individually outstanding enough to rate personal prizes. The film winning will be their reward.

I have to say, for a year that looked so dismal in August – one where one of the few blue chip prospects, Billy Lynn, collapsed utterly – 2016 has turned out to yield a truly solid crop of top films. If this movie, Manchester, Jackie, Moonlight and Arrival end up (as it appears they will) the core of the Oscar race, that’ll make for one of the better recent vintages I can recall.

Uri
Assistant
Posts: 981
Joined: Wed Jan 01, 2003 11:37 pm
Location: Israel

Re: La La Land Reviews

Postby Uri » Thu Dec 08, 2016 4:46 pm

Les demoiselles de Rochefort being a huge favorite of mine, I was rather thrilled to find this particular musical was obviously the main inspiration to LLL (far more than Umbrellas, although the bittersweet outcome of the love story and the passage-of-time structure do relate to that film). From the opening scene, which is a direct reference to the opening scene of Rochefort, to the color-block scheme, the Jazzy Michel Legrandish score, the sun bathed feel, the struggling young artists theme, the coffee shop, and of course, Stone and her coloring being a reminder of the fabulousness of Françoise Dorléac (a point being accentuated by putting Stone at one point in a sleeveless light purple dress just like the one Dorléac was wearing in Rochefort). This, and the fact that I love musicals and backstage movies and that I’m fond of Stone and Gosling – I was ready to love this film, and yet –

It is an interesting piece. As its title suggest, it’s aiming at being a “geographical” musical – one which is about capturing the spirit of a specific town or city – so it all about references and homages to other film musicals of this particular genre: Rochfort, Cherbourg, New York New York (the last scene here is a rip-off from Scrosese’s film), An American in Paris, One from the Heart and Everyone Says I Love You, which was a musical love letter to no less than three cities (NY, Venice and Paris) on one hand and LA films – from Rebel Without a Cause to Cukor’s A Star is Born (more so than Singin’ in the Rain) on the other. All this makes for a thrilling ride for cinephiles, alas it’s a rather futile, empty one. Just like with Whiplash, Chazelle proves he is a prime example of this current breed of film makers, whose only points of reference to the world are other films, so they don’t seem to be capable of creating Art works other than pastiche. LLL is a rather pretty one, and extracting all these referential Easter eggs is fun, but there’s not much else in it. In Rochefoet, Demy masterfully distilled the abstract essence of Hollywood musicals by deconstructing them and than putting it all together in a way which had a fresh pov not only on the genre, but also on Art and Life in general, an achievement LLL comes short of.

p.s. Speaking of “references” – it was a bit too much, having Rosemarie DeWitt having the same biracial wedding she had in Rachel Getting Married to a tee – what was the point of that?

User avatar
Precious Doll
Tenured
Posts: 2700
Joined: Mon Jan 13, 2003 2:20 am
Location: Sydney
Contact:

Re: La La Land Reviews

Postby Precious Doll » Wed Nov 23, 2016 6:12 am

ITALIANO wrote:
The Original BJ wrote:
ITALIANO wrote:I know that Original BJ meant it as a praise, but seeing this movie compared to Sleepless in Seattle and Jerry Maguire AND considered worse than Room (!) doesn't exactly make me look forward to seeing it...


I think you might actively detest this one!


Well I certainly detested Sleepless in Seattle and found Room terribly banal so yes, you are probably right... But honestly all the reviews had led me to think that this was a much better effort. Pity. My God, Sleepless in Seattle..........


Let's face this has got to be better than the director's first effort, the insufferable Whiplash.
"I think he sexually assaulted a child and I don't think that's right…It's gotten very quiet in here, but that's true." Susan Sarandon on Woody Allen, Cannes Film Festival 2016


Return to “2016”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Bing [Bot] and 1 guest