Sunday, February 12, 2017

Theatrical Review: La La Land

Date: Saturday January 28 2016
Time: 1:10pm
Party: 3 (my mom, sister and I)

Writer/Director: Damian Chazelle (of "Whiplash" fame... I still don't want to see that movie)
Composer: Justin Hurwitz (also of "Whiplash" fame- you know how directors like to work with the same composers a lot of the time)

Duration: 2 hours and 8 minutes (+3 trailers)

Sebastian- Ryan Gosling

Mia- Emma Stone
Keith- John Legend
JK Simmons

Awards and Nominations [as of January 28th]:
GOLDEN GLOBE- Best picture (comedy/musical)
GOLDEN GLOBE- Best comedy/musical actor- Ryan Gosling (still think it should've been Ryan Reynolds- but it was one of the best moments of a kinda unpleasant Golden Globes... Meryl Streep's speech pretty much ruined it]

GOLDEN GLOBE- Best comedy/musical actress- Emma Stone
GOLDEN GLOBE- Best Director- Damian Chazelle
GOLDEN GLOBE- Best Screenplay- Damian Chazelle
GOLDEN GLOBE- Best Original Score- Justin Hurwitz
GOLDEN GLOBE- Best Original Song-
nomination-OSCAR- Best Picture

nomination-OSCAR- Best Actor- Ryan Gosling
nomination-OSCAR- Best Actress- Emma Stone
nomination-OSCAR- Best Director- Damian Chazelle
nomination-OSCAR- Best Cinematography
nomination-OSCAR- Best Costume
nomination-OSCAR- Best Film Editing
nominations-OSCAR- Best Song- "City of Stars" and "Audition (The Fools Who Dream)"
nomination-OSCAR- Best Production Design (used to be called "Art Direction")
nomination-OSCAR- Best Sound Editing
nomination-OSCAR- Best Sound Mixing
nomination-OSCAR- Best Original Screenplay- Damian Chazelle
nomination-OSCAR- Best Original Score- Justin Hurwitz



It's been a LONG time since we've gone to the movies to see an award nominated film upon knowing it was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. The last time was when "Les Miz" came out. Once I got lucky and saw "The King's Speech" and "The Artist" and both of them won Best Picture. Both were at the downtown community theater and both happened to be Weinstein Company films. ("The King's Speech"- we saw the day OF the Oscars. But after seeing "The Social Network," I kinda wished Jesse Eisenberg and "The Social Network" won Oscars instead of "The King's Speech" and Colin Firth... just so the Oscars can go non-traditional for a change).

Anyway... "La La Land" swept all the Golden Globes they were nominated for. Best Actor and Actress, Best Director, Screenplay, Score, Original Song, and of course, "Best Comedy/Musical"... one much more worthy of the category than "The Martian"... yeah, we're not letting that one go anytime soon :P I will have to review that at some point because I did enjoy that one a lot.


I found it kinda interesting that all three trailers were for female-forward movies.

The first was "Certain Women" starring Laura Dern and Kristen Stewart. An IFC film that is running the festival circuit. I don't really know what to make of what it's about.
Next- "Julieta"- which was foreign language, maybe French or Greek. I couldn't tell, but it looked like it was about a same sex female couple. Why that garnered an R rating, it's hard to tell from the trailer. But the context seemed weird... almost like it was a mother falling in love with her daughter.
Then there was this Amazon series "Love & Friendship" based on the Jane Austen novel. It looks like something I'd like to watch if it ever came out on DVD. (We don't do Netlfix, Amazon or streaming in our house... except the occasional YouTube and Hulu).

The Main Event

We get to know our two stars pretty well early on in the movie.

We learn that Mia (Emma Stone) is a struggling actress trying to make it into the business  and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) is trying to break through in his own business-- jazz music.

The two of them meet in a rocky place (a traffic jam of all things... neither of them are in that opening dance number at all for whatever reason), bump into each other randomly a couple other times, and somehow they get together.
Then things start to happen in their careers, more ups and downs, their relationship is tested... we have our typical Hollywood romance with all the trimmings and some musical numbers thrown in to keep up the heart rate.

Characters and Actors

This is the third time these two have been cast together in a movie and were romantically involved. It's great for the actors, of course, to go in knowing each other this well, so they don't need to work on their chemistry too much. Although at first, I didn't really feel that chemistry. I didn't buy into them as a couple. Maybe because he was a little unlikeable at first. But when they had their stumbles, I just wanted so badly for them to stay together.

I'm still teary-eyed thinking about it, but that's not the only reason why I was a complete mess when the movie ended.

I really hadn't seen much of Ryan Gosling. I think he was in "The Big Short" (which I kinda don't remember much of because it was so damn hard to follow). I saw "The Notebook" just like everyone else (but it was such a tearjerker that it was hard to forget what he and Rachel McAdams brought to the movie). And I saw him with Emma Stone in "Crazy, Stupid, Love." I liked him a lot in that movie (but the movie went downhill when the truth came out... that Steve Carell is her dad and suddenly he's not jazzed about them as a couple).

Yikes... I guess I have a problem with a lot of Ryan Gosling movies, but it's not entirely his fault. It's just how they're written.
Sebastian is an interesting character for him, something a little different. I read an article about he's one of those characters who are so into music and their playing and composing that the rest of their life kinda suffers because it's life vs. art and choosing one over the other. He had some comments on jazz that had me thinking about the genre like I never had before. I mean, Prince did some great jazz and "The Rainbow Children" has some great jazz aspects to it, but the overall message of the lyrics gets in the way of that.

All Mia had to go by at this point with jazz music is Kenny G and elevator music. But Sebastian takes her to a club with some really good jazz musicians and shows her how it's supposed to sound.
It's also a little ironic, considering the way his career eventually does take off.

Mia is the girl that all of us can relate to. She wants so badly to make her dream a reality, but keeps hitting all these stumbles. Lots of auditions that just don't go anywhere. Then she's caught in this whirlwind romance with Sebastian, who she leaves her current boyfriend for (why they had to write she was already in a relationship really made no sense).
Of course, Emma Stone I've loved since "Easy A" and this is another shining moment for her. Particularly her final audition where she sings "Audition (The Fools Who Dream)."

Music and Sound

From the get-go, I knew I was going to be excited about this movie. The opening traffic dance scene was parodied on the opening of the "Golden Globes" (that nobody liked for whatever reason... we all thought it was great). I think anyone who's been stuck in traffic in LA wished that something like that happened if only as a way to pass the time.

The music was so great and there were so many great songs. I almost want to run out and buy the soundtrack.
Another bit of irony: the music sorta helped make up for a technical issue we kept having.

I don't know what was going on with our particular theater that day, but the sound kept having problems. The volume on the voices was quiet and, even worse, muddled. We were in a theater with maybe half a dozen other people (all older than the age of 50) and they took turns going to the concession stand to get someone to fix the sound.
After a while, it just got exhausting to mentally try to stay engaged in the movie and keep track of what was going on. Again, it's lucky that there was a lot of music, so there was less dialogue, but that excuse could only go on for so long.

For the record, the sound started out muddled in the trailers and we had to get it fixed at least 4 times.

Maybe that's why I didn't like "City of Stars" so much. It was hard to hear it, but compared to some of the other numbers, it didn't get me particularly excited. Maybe I was too busy thinking about how unfair it is that this movie got two songs nominated for Oscars. Obviously, they can't both win.

Additional Comments and Spoilers

Yeah, what really got me was that the movie just had a sad ending....

All the movies do this where things are so great for a couple in a romance, but then it all falls apart and the rest of the movie kinda does. Emma Stone helped me get me through it because I wanted to see how her character fared and how her one-woman show (that her relationship with Sebastian inspired her to write-- since it was something she used to do as a kid).

Why is it that people who both are in the entertainment business never stay together? That seems true in real life as well. Nearly every notable Hollywood couple has broken up after long marriages (Robert Downey Jr.'s seems the safest in this aspect because his wife isn't an actress, she's a movie producer and a damn good one).

Anyway... I think I'm going to be mad at John Legend for a while because it was his fault that our protagonists broke up.
Granted, Mia pushed Sebastian to consider the proposal from Keith (his character's name) to join his jazz band. But then they have some stupid fight about it. He's going on tour with them and he misconstrues her comments. She asks if this is something he really wants because the music isn't exactly the kind he introduced her two. He thinks she's saying that she was happier when he was struggling like her because it made her feel better about herself.

We see one performance of it and she seems taken aback by it. It starts out kinda cool and such, but then it just gets way too big and flashy. It teeters more towards R&B than jazz and Sebastian seems like he's in the background more than being part of this team. (At least when he was part of an 80's cover band-- not a bad one by any means-- he could walk away after a couple gigs with no problem).

I would have preferred to see Mia's one-woman show performance than that. We never get to see it, which I was disappointed about. I didn't even know what it was about.

Back to the positive... Mandy Moore did some really great choreography for this movie and I loved the fantasy aspect of it.

A couple of cool little parts: Emma goes by a mural on the jazz club where she sees Sebastian perform for the first time. On it, it had a bunch of old Hollywood stars sitting in theater. Among them, Charlie Chaplin, Marilyn Monroe and James Dean. And there are a few nice references to "Rebel without a Cause" including the movie itself and the two stars going to the actual planetarium from the movie.

I think I'll be getting this movie on DVD as soon as it comes out. Possibly the soundtrack as well. And I'm going to watch it a bunch of times.
Either way, it'll be nice to be able to hear the entire movie without interruption.

How Many Oscars?

I don't see them running away with every award, not counting the whole bit about them having two songs nominated.
The film editing had a few rough patches for me that I didn't like. They show place cards saying the names of the season we're in, but they came about abruptly some of them.

I want badly for Emma Stone to win Best Actress, but considering who she's up again (Meryl Streep doesn't always win... but maybe with her Golden Globes speech they might give her another trophy so she'll have another soapbox moment none of us in my house want to hear again), it's not likely.
Ryan Gosling isn't a shoe-in for best actor either. I see Casey Affleck as a more likely candidate and Denzel, you can never count out.

So I think they'll get at least 10. Take away the acting categories, one song and probably costume (they were nothing out of the ordinary, I don't think).
I want it to win Best Picture simply because I saw it. I go to a movie that's nominated, of course I want it to win. But I wanted to see this even before all the accolades came out. I just heard whispers about it being a great tribute to old Hollywood musicals with a modern twist.

Grade: A
(despite what Saturday Night Live said, the movie was kinda slow in the middle and the ending... even then, I don't think I'd give this a perfect A+).

Odd Side-Note

It's hard for me to hear "La La Land" without thinking about this song by Jax from "American Idol." Her finishing third was one of the most crushing moments I experienced on the show. She'd gone through so much since then, including a bout with thyroid cancer, but she's doing much better now. She also released an EP that I should at least listen to on iTunes.

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