Tuesday, January 3, 2017

First Movie Review of 2017

...and it just happens to be the best movie I saw in 2016.   No, check me.   It's the best movie I've seen in the last five years.   The last time I left the theater with such euphoria was in 2014 when I saw "Whiplash."

Want to know how this all ties together?   Both "Whiplash" and " La La Land" were written and directed by the same person.   Damien Chazelle is one talented guy and I look forward to seeing the rest of his likely-to-be-marvelous career.

With "La La Land," Chazelle counters the nastiness and cynicism of "Whiplash" with an homage to the old MGM musical of the 40s and 50s.  But the film maker is smart enough to know that simply copying a MGM musical would appeal to only those over the age of 75 and are waiting for the next June Allyson movie to show up on TCM.   Nope, he puts a 21st century spin on it and the blend works magically.   Again, I have not enjoyed a movie this much in years and the extended discussion with my friends after we came out of the theater is sheer testimony to the fact that this production really got to us.

More specifically, it got to me in ways that I cannot describe.   At times, the hopes and aspirations on the big screen mirrored parts of my life.   That's not to say I've ever been tap dancing with Emma Stone up on Mulholland Drive (I wish).  But there are moments and dilemmas that...well...conjured up memories of roads and people not taken.  

For those of you under a rock or waiting for that June Allyson flick on TCM, "La La Land" is about Los Angeles and the show business that is at the heart of the city's very being.  Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are two people trying to crack the success code, she as an actress and he as a jazz pianist.   These two actors have worked together before and should exclusively commit the rest of their celluloid lives to each other.  Here, they duplicate the amazing chemistry they demonstrated in the terrific comedy "Crazy, Stupid, Love."  Their "meet cute" moment in "La La Land" is hardly that and naturally, given the LA setting, occurs on the freeway in a moment of road rage.  After that, we are off to the races as their careers never really gain any traction but their relationship does.

Meanwhile, Emma and Ryan have their respective stories play out against the glorious backdrop of Los Angeles with many locations being places I've actually frequented (One dining scene actually plays out in my favorite restaurant, Jar). The town never looked better and it's magically photographed with the brightest colors imaginable...quite similar to the French musical "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg."  Even people with sight impairment would have no problem seeing this movie.   The color palette pops at every turn. 

Now I have friends on Facebook who have taken issue with the "less-than-smiles-all-around" ending.  They say it didn't work for them given the musical format.   But, indeed, I think the conclusion is ideal because that's exactly how it plays out for most folks trying to grab the brass ring in Hollywood.

Then there are other Facebook cronies who are quibbling about the dance and singing capabilities of Gosling and Stone.  Okay, I get it.   They're not Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse.   But, Gene and Cyd are both unavailable these days and the work of Ryan and Emma is more than serviceable.   Indeed, it works well given where the characters are in the story.   Add to this that Ryan Gosling is playing the piano all by himself.   And if you don't react positively to the song that Emma Stone sings during her audition, you have ice water in the arteries of your brain.

Unless there is a screw-up in the voting, there is no way "La La Land" doesn't win the Oscar for Best Picture.   Damien Chazelle should score for screenplay at the very least and Emma Stone needs to figure out where to put her Oscar for Best Actress.

I guess you can say I loved and adored "La La Land."   It basically tells you that it's okay to dream big.   And that it sometimes only takes one person and a single moment to reach that pinnacle.   

Plus, someday, I may even tell you more about how much this movie connected to my own life.


Dinner last night:  Garlic beef with vegetables.

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