semi-work purposes. | Digital HD Review – La La Land
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Digital HD Review – La La Land

Digital HD Review – La La Land

“When the infamous Oscars flub occurred, I must admit I felt a strange sense of satisfaction that had nothing to do with La La Land (not at liberty to discuss)… Now after seeing the film, I’ll just say I’m glad that it didn’t happen to Arrival.”

Directed by   Damien Chazelle
Produced by Fred Berger, Jordan Horowitz, Gary Gilbert
Written by     Damien Chazelle
Starring         Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone

So I just finished watching La La Land after putting it off for months and months. All the  La La lovin’ and La La hatin’ going on… thought it best to give it a wide berth until the lame-steria had died down.

 

So I did, and what can I say? Should have just watched it whenever I felt like it. Or never. (I kid, I’m far too curious a person to ever regret seeing a film. Not one of those “I want my $17 and 98 mins back!!!” types). As the credits rolled, I turned to my movie buddy and asked, “Am I dead inside?  I think I might be dead inside…” They shrugged and said “Dunno…”, departed the conversation and went back to reading Geoffrey Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde (or it might have been Clash of Clans… I forget). Hmmm…. I really did give myself over to this film completely, and in return I got nothing but this feeling of emptiness. What is this lack of feeling? I kind of felt like I’d been Punk’d (or whatever the newer version of that is. Screamo’d?). I’d sat and watched this film that on the surface is unadulterated Hollywood “magic”, and in many ways, isn’t a bad film. In other ways, the ones that matter at least to me, it commits the kinds of movie misdemeanours that make me squirm in my seat and slap my knee and whatnot (non-verbal indignation. I try not to talk during movies).

 

When the infamous Oscars flub occurred, I must admit I felt a strange sense of satisfaction that had nothing to do with La La Land (not at liberty to discuss). Now after seeing the film, I’ll just say I’m glad that it didn’t happen to Arrival.

 

What is this warm feeling in my belly?

This is my first review for this blog in MANY years, so I wanted it to be one that I could go all crazy on… Come down with a hot case of celluloid fever while I’m stuck in bed with an actual fever (slowly on the mend. La La Land didn’t help). Alas, I felt literally no emotional or philosophical connection with this film. Just a “huh”. And then nothing…ness. Ness never feels nothing!! I am a sucker for great musicals, I am a sucker for great romances…aren’t I….?

 

 

What shocked me the most is how this film almost had me convinced that I all of a sudden hated musicals. As soon as Gosling started sliding his feet across the floor, I all of a sudden felt my body shimmy uncontrollably, and then an almighty “eeyyyyeeeeeeeewwww!” left my body. It felt like an allergic reaction. Like I was being electrocuted by confusion and disgust simultaneously. What is going on?

“How am I doing?”
“No idea… How am I doing?”

 

To test if I all of a sudden had lost the capacity to enjoy musicals, I rewatched a few classics (Singing in the Rain, West Side Story, Cabaret, A Star is Born… a turbo-charged gay night in….).

 

All still had me tapping my feet, singin’ occasionally, a little misty….it appeared my ability to appreciate the musical genre remains intact. I mean…. how can you not have space in your heart for this kind of magic???

 
 
 
 

 

Whereas Mia (Emma Stone) is a character you have to negotiate before you accept her, Esther Blodgett aka Vicki Lester (Frances Ethel Gumm aka Judy Garland) makes y’heart break and soar, makes y’love A Star is Born (1954) even more. Somebody mentioned here has had a harder road. And it made them extremely good at making the musical a viable, successful genre. The musical is love. pain. loss. redemption. incredible songs. show-stopping dance. don’t rinse, repeat. (lowercase a creative decision).
 
 

 

‘I wanted to believe and I tried my damnedest to believe in the rainbow that I tried to
get over and I couldn’t. SO WHAT!’ – Judy Garland

 

 
 
Judy’s visceral tragic-awesomeness in A Star is Born is electric. She looks like she been through some shit (she HAD),  she’d shed some “winter weight” (read: “can somebody get more pills for Judy?!?!”).  And oh yeah, Judy Garland is a f@#$ing phenomenal singer. All the hubbub about how novel it is that Chazelle cast two actors with no professional singing/dancing ability is almost as aggravating as Gosling’s self-conscious toe-tappin’.

 

 
 
The singing also felt something EVERYBODY behind and in front of the camera didn’t feel comfortable with. Soz, lovers of “The Gos” (new nickname), the man has many a talent, but musicals ain’t his jurisdiction! Stay in your lane, Gosling! You too Stone… this has me gettin’ Duets PTSD right quick. I’m all for guerrilla-style, DIY, minimalist, shoestring filmmaking. But a big budget Hollywood musical? Can we get some professionals in here please? What’s that?…..They all died 30 years ago along with the genre?…..Fine. BRING ME LADY GAGA**…. What’s that? She’s busy interviewing Julian Assange???? This world is so f*$&ed. No wonder I’m all dead inside!
 

 

 
 

 

This “approachable” approach to being the male lead in a musical is the height of disrespect for the genre, but it’s all good, anybody who cares is barely cognisant and/or hooked up to a catheter. I’m opting to find a positive in this and assert Gosling’s ‘dancing everyman’ only serves to intensify the mystique and god-like status of this Gene fellow. In this scene he becomes the consumate ‘dancing everyman’ through an expertly choreographed performance that appears carefree – he makes the act of breaking into song and dance a natural form of human expression like a laugh or a sigh. Gene Kelly fools you into believing he’s just an average guy, kicking about in some puddles.
 

 

 

SPOT. THE. DIFFERENCE.

 
 
 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
There’s no such careful deception going on in La La Land’s song ‘n’ dance numbers, Gos is just average. And he appears painfully aware of his lack of talent.

 

 
 
Anyway, enough musical rantage – let’s dissect the film on the basis of its fundamentals. I will say, there is no real concrete reason that I shouldn’t have liked this film. Love Emma Stone – she’s usually a Ginger Nut bundle of fun. And while I’d argue there’s a bit of a Gosling oversupply going on at the moment, he does have a “je ne sais quoi” and Lars and the Real GirlThe Nice GuysDrive, Blue Valentine are all solid performances. Chompin’ AT THE BIT for ‘2049. OBVIOUSLY.
 
 

 

 
I loved Whiplash, admittedly I haven’t seen Guy and Madeleine on a Park Bench, but Chazelle hasn’t seen my thesis film either so…. I’ll presume it’s a solid debut shot on 16mm. I failed to connect to either Mia or Sebastian, despite being both a filmmaker and a musician. And a massively open viewer ready and eager to relate. Here are a few reasons why:

 

 
 

“I resented how reluctant Seb was to wear those fab pants…” -© 2017 Vanessa Barnett, PhD.

 
 

 

 
The film felt disjointed tonally – the pool party scene just felt like something Chazelle fished out of whatever waste paper basket Amy Heckerling was using in 1994…I also resented how reluctant Seb was to both wear those fab pants and rock out to Flock of Seagulls…”I Ran” is so much f*&%ing better than whatever song it was that served as the recurring motif (Mia & Sebastian’s Theme?)… © 2017 Vanessa Barnett, PhD.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
And dooooon’t even get me started on Mia! Maybe I just can’t bear the thought of losing one of the few solid female comic actors to the slightly darker side. Fact is, I’ve never seen Ms. Stone in a serious role before, and this one, well…don’t wanna get political but… I don’t like it. Ok, done my prerequisite blanket statement so I can dive in and start gettin über petty…she drives a f*&%king Prius (and therefore afford a Prius) … so why the hell would I or anyone else get on board????? I understand the need to finance your film with ‘tasteful’, unobstructive product placement…

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

If you want me to believe your back story, catch the bus or drive an AMC Gremlin* like every other self-respecting cinematic ‘little girl with big dreams’. If you’re driving a Prius on a barista’s salary, you’ve got rich parents and I hate you. Go away. Take your green ribbon-clad set of keys and get the hell out of here.
 

 

AMC Gremlin: Cinemmmaaaaaahhh.

Prius: Not cinemaaaaaaah.

 
 
 And the narrative structure!!? It just felt so choppy and ABRUPT…. In love after a cup of coffee and a shitty disagreement outside a shit party….all loose and slack in the middle like it’s 9 months post gastric sleeve surgery then BOOM – a ‘non-Hollywood Hollywood ending’…how novel, unique AND satisfying. Were we supposed to be shocked it was all a dream? Were we supposed to be okay with the hubby and CHILD disappearing from the narrative with no explanation? I was never ‘swept away’ by the ‘coulda been’ sequence…. arms were folded, lookin’ left to my movie buddy….lookin’ up to the ceiling….tappin’ my feet and NOT to the music…boy, was I a vision of tetchiness! They weren’t even that bummed when they decided to quit bumping uglies and move on with their lives.
 
 
Now all of a sudden we’re supposed to join Gos’s ‘lil weep sesh over the ivories?

 

Ploise. When defendin’ the endin’ (as he’s inevitably been compelled to do), Chazelle has alluded in interviews that there is something so strong emotionally between these two characters, that the two ‘scenarios’ presented can co-exist, even only ‘in dreams’ (sorry to bring you into this Roy…. David…). Fine. I’m glad there was a meaningful connection going on somewhere in this film. Would have been nice to see it at some point.

 

Maybe I’ve became too jaded about the themes and the thangs driving the narrative – love, success, creative fulfillment…who cares, we’re all going to die….I’m a goner and likely sooner than you… I’m up to 10 cigs a week now….what has happened to me? I got older. And wiser since my last post. All the shit these two care about in La La Land gets less important as you get older. This is a young person’s film. I’m too old for it. I’m too old for a ‘lovely’ musical about love. With dancing in it. Damn you, Chazelle! Whiplash was damn near sensational but this was too big of a leap. Kevin Smith jumped from Clerks to Mallrats, and there were a bunch of shitty to decent, modestly-sized films he had to do before he realised, “I was f*&%ed as soon as Mallrats came out” and now he doesn’t care anymore. Maybe he turns it all around with Yoga Hosers. (Haven’t seen it yet).

 

 
 
If you want to see a film which encapsulates the experience of being lured into the Hollywood system, consumed, then expunged – watch Mulholland Drive. Then watch Waiting for Guffman because you might need cheering up afterwards. And watching Corky St. Clair put on a play is WAAAAAAAY more entertaining. The guy brought Backdraft to the stage, trust me, you’re in safe hands.

 

 
 
 

I feel I’ve made my feelings on this film abundantly clear, so I’ll let MiMi and Sebby close this one out…

 

 

[Sebastian:]

And there’s not a spark in sight
What a waste of a lovely night…

[Mia:]

And maybe this appeals
To someone not in heels
Or to any girl who feels
There’s some chance for romance
But, I’m frankly feeling nothing

[Sebastian:]
Is that so?

[Mia:]
Or it could be less than nothing

[Sebastian:]
Good to know
So you agree?

[Mia:]
That’s right

[Sebastian and Mia:]
What a waste of a lovely night

 

 
 

* After stumbling across the greatest movie database in existence a few years ago (namely the Internet Movie Cars Database or IMCDb), it has long been one of my favourite places on digital earth. It is within this tremendous resource I found that the Gremlin has long been a firm favourite of the starry-eyed go-getter featuring in:

7 Things to Do Before I’m 30 (2008 TV Movie)

10 Items or Less (2006)

Sisters (2006)

Raise Your Voice (2004) – Yes! It’s the car Hillary Duff receives as a grad present so she can set off for L.A and chase down her dreams of being a superstar!!! It’s a really nice yellow one too…..

Freaks & Geeks (1999) – it’s the car Kim Kelly (Busy Phillips) inherited from her free-spirited aunt. She physically assaults people if they try to take it away from her. It’s her one and only sense of freedom and independence yadayada.

I challenge you to go there and not waste at LEAST an hour clicking and muttering “oh yeah….that car is in everything”.

 

** Guess who’s slated to drag Bradley Cooper and his two left feet all over the soundstage in the latest A Star is Born reboot?

 

REVIEW UPDATE:

 

I have a confession to make – when I wrote this review, I was in a verrrrry agitated mood. And given as I wrote me cute ‘lil dot points while I watched the film, I was probably in a ‘shirty’ state when I saw the film. Translation? My mind perhaps was open, but my heart was most likely closed. So….I will at some point REWATCH this film and let you know if a positive mindset changes my mind on this film. I will already make one minor concession – since consulting the auto-oracle (the ICMDb), I’ve learned Mia’s Prius is a 2005 model, which could be potentially more affordable than I’d assumed. The issues with her vehicle looking like a bland pile of dog excrement and a blatant product ‘integration’ still stand.  In the meantime, if you want to see a visually stunning film about LA livin’ – may I suggest Less Than Zero, or even The Neon Demon(Neon‘s not everyone’s cuppa, but it DEFINITELY holds your attention).

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