February 18th, 2017

La La Land

Anyone seen this movie? It’s up for a gazillion Oscars, and it’s a musical (of all things). So last night I went to see it.

I liked it more than I’d expected to. One of the more astounding things about the film is that its director/writer and composer are both just barely over thirty, and they’ve been pitching this thing for a long long time. They started working on it as roommates at Harvard, one in the film/media department and one in the music department. Now they are wildly successful, which is appropriate because the movie is (in part) about success in the arts.

Two things in the film I found to be excellent are Emma Stone’s incredibly natural and believable acting and Ryan Gosling’s piano playing. He was a musician before and has been since early in life, but he learned jazz piano for the movie in about three months of training, and his skill is now nothing short of impressive. And yes, it’s him doing all the ivory-tickling, as you can tell from the long and uninterrupted takes that showcase it.

Another noteworthy (and unusual) thing in the film is that—unlike the romantic duos in many movies—you actually believe that these two people love each other.

14 Responses to “La La Land”

  1. Cornhead Says:

    Great movie. And why didn’t neo mention the dancing? The opening scene is a classic. How they filmed that was a mystery to me. The angles were amazing.

  2. neo-neocon Says:

    Cornhead:

    I didn’t mention the dancing because the dancing itself was very ordinary, very standard. However, the fact that Stone and Gosling danced as well as they did was laudable, and the backup dancers were as good as the usual backup dancers, the choreography okay but nothing special.

    In that scene you mention, it was the amazing photography that did the trick of making it look so very very special and really quite spectacular. I agree on that. Also the setting.

  3. Vanderleun Says:

    I’d like to see it but it is only showing about 90 miles away.

  4. CV Says:

    Choreographer Mandy Moore talks about staging that opening scene on the freeway ramp (apparently it was 110 degrees when they shot it):

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/12/16/how-la-la-land-staged-a-dance-number-on-an-l-a-freeway.html

  5. groundhog Says:

    And yes, it’s him doing all the ivory-tickling, as you can tell from the long and uninterrupted takes that showcase it.

    Funny! Special effects have become so sophisticated, I just assumed that’s what it was.

  6. Yancey Ward Says:

    I am not generally a fan of musicals outside of Grease and The Sound of Music, however I will make a point of seeing this movie when it comes to home television since Neo recommends it, and I have a bit of crush on Ms. Stone.

  7. Patrick Says:

    Very entertaining movie. The director also wrote the screenplay for 10 Cloverfield Lane, and he wrote and directed Whiplash, which won an Oscar for JK Simmons. Not bad for a 32 year old, he seems to have a future in the movie business.

  8. Lino Says:

    La La Land is not a masterwork as many musicals of the 40s and 50s are, but it has some pleasant scenes and the merit of at least trying to revive that lost art. It has a bit of originality too: the seemingly light score is indeed powerful and inspired; elegance and french flavour à la Jacques Demy are clearly present.

  9. AesopFan Says:

    Another positive review here.
    http://hatrack.com/osc/reviews/everything/2017-01-19.shtml

    CV: thanks for answering the “real or staged” question.

  10. Tuvea Says:

    21st Century adaptation of a mid-20th Century musical. I highly recommend it. The following are my thoughts without, I hope, spoiling it for those who have yet had the pleasure of viewing it.

    The costumes were wonderful. The dress colors were vibrant, except when the characters were conflicted. The scenery and sets were terrific.

    I liked all the dancing. Perhaps not as elegant as Astaire-Rodgers, still it was appropriate for the film.

    The music was very well done. John Legend’s riff on modern Jazz was interesting. The continuing leitmotif was bitter-sweet as befits the plot.

    My favorite scene was in the Griffith Observatory. Followed by the flashback sequence in the Jazz club.

    As to the plot, it has been mentioned before that films reflect their times. I don’t feel this film could have been made 60 years ago. Not because of any unacceptable content. But because the motivations and actions of the characters may not have been believable in an earlier cultural period.

    I was captivated the whole time. I give it four stars!

  11. Conrad Says:

    It’s a fantastic movie, and I say that as someone who has grown fairly cynical about modern movie-making in general.

    I want to comment on one aspect of the film that I find sort of unbelievable given the subject matter and the fact the film came out in 2016, not 1956. Without giving away too much, this is a MUSICAL ROMANCE, set in HOLLYWOOD, about YOUNG PEOPLE who are incurably ARTISTIC.

    Knowing only that much about the movie, and the fact it came out in 2016, you would probably be pretty confident in predicting that the film would depict some kind of representation of homosexuality. If the lead characters weren’t gay, then at least there’d be a gay-romantic subplot, or a key supporting character who was gay, or SOME character, however minor, who was discernibly gay, right?

    I’m here to tell you that this movie is 100 percent purely heterosexual. And I’m here to suggest to you that, in this era, and given the subject matter and the setting of the film, there is absolutely NO WAY this happened by accident.

    Please don’t hate me for noticing this. I’m not a bigot. I just found it remarkable that (a) someone had the temerity to make a youthful Hollywood musical-romance in this day and age that did not include any gay characters or storylines, and (b) that they got away with it!

  12. Eric Says:

    Conrad,

    Heterosexual romance has at no point diminished as principal subject matter for Hollywood movies.

  13. Kenneth Naylor Says:

    SPOILER ALERT! Do not read the following if you don’t want to know the ending [note added by n-n]

    My daughter and I went to see La La Land on Saturday night.

    While we both enjoyed the movie to a large extent, we did have major issues with the ending: After Sebastian literally *dragged* Mia to the big audition, and lifting her out of the ‘I’m not good enough and I’m not auditioning’ pity-party, the words “5 Years Later” appear and she and Sebastian are worlds apart. As the credits roll, questions abound with no apparent answers:

    – When did they break up?

    – Why did they break up?

    – Who is the new guy (husband)?

    – Does True Romance need to be sacrificed on the Altar of Ambition?

    – When did Sebastian have his ‘Come to Jesus’ moment: realizing he was selling out by playing with the newfangled jazz band? We are jerked from him saying he signed some sort of contract that would have him on the road for a number of years to being the owner of “Seb’s.”

    – If we are to believe in some cosmic hand at play (first- how they met, & second- in the entire city of Los Angeles, she gets stuck in traffic next to the exit to his club and says “let’s pull off here and get dinner”), why not use that ‘power/magic’ to put them back together?

    My daughter said she would have been OK with an ‘Inception’-like ending where the audience gets to decide if she is with Sebastian (who would have changed the future by kissing her instead of brushing past in the bar) or the Nameless Husband. She also says it is apparent that Mia is not happy with the new relationship, as her dress was dark/black and all her other costumes while with Sebastian were bright and colorful.

    We must be odd ducks, because a web search today shows almost no problems with the ending.

  14. Adagny Says:

    Ken Naylor,

    I loved seeing a movie based on jazz but found it interesting that the only notable black character in the movie was portrayed as a sellout, with his “newfangled pop culture jazz band”, whereas the white guy, (Gossling), was the purist, interested in preserving traditional jazz.
    Also I would liked to have seen them put the etenality of the soul and love first, before the superficial intransigence of career success.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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