Monday, September 18, 2017

1039. La La Land

La La Land
Directed by Damien Chazelle

I am currently stuck in bed with a nasty cold that keeps showing off its impression of the flu (a five star performance, by the way).  I believe that a great musical is a cure for any ailment.  After all, there is nothing like relentlessly cheerful singing and dancing to put you in a good mood.  Unfortunately, this wasn't a great musical and my mood remains, as always, cranky and irritable.

Mia Dolan is an aspiring actress who currently works as a barista in a movie.  Sebastian Wilder is a struggling (and oh so pretentious) jazz musician who dreams about opening his own jazz club.  I can only imagine the comments he would leave on my music blog.  In any case, movies are really running out of reasons why two hot people should initially dislike each other.  This movie's attempt is particularly feeble: Sebastian sort of brushes Mia off when she tries to compliment his music.  Oh, and they kind of annoy each other at a traffic stop.  Oh, shut up and go have sex already.

I suppose I shouldn't be bothered that this film is packed with cliches, as it is clearly an homage to old Hollywood musicals.  Still, I felt as though I was just trudging along from predictable plot point a to predictable plot point b.  And not every cliche they used could properly be attributed to old musicals.  Emma Stone running out of a restaurant during a group date with her boring boyfriend...I know I have seen that before.  And a jazz musician who tries to convince his girlfriend she doesn't hate jazz...that should be familiar to anyone who watches Sex and the City (you guys are going to have to take my word on this one, since I doubt any of you are fans).

I felt like the film was begging me to like it; after all, it was critically praised and I do enjoy Gene Kelly-style musicals.  But the talent just wasn't there.  Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone did their best with the singing and dancing, but I didn't feel hypnotized watching them, like I do when Gene Kelly dances or when Debbie Reynolds sings.  Also 90% of the songs were forgettable.

I did, however, enjoy the ending.  "Audition (The Fools Who Dream)" was beautiful, and Stone's performance made me rethink my assessment of her performance.  The last fantasy sequence was a worthy tribute to the musicals of the past.  Unfortunately, you have to sit through two hours of tripe to get to the good parts.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Emma Stone performed "Audition (The Fools Who Dream)" live.

Features many references to Casablanca.  Now that I'm okay with.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

1038. Babel

Directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

So this is one of those films that made the critics go crazy, garnered all kinds of awards and nominations, but then is all but forgotten about within the next year.  At least, I haven't heard anyone speak of it, but that might just be me (I try to avoid talking to people in general).

In a desert in Morocco, Abdullah, a goat herder, receives a gun and ammo from his neighbor.  He teaches his two young sons, Yussef and Ahmed, how to shoot jackals with it.  The two boys are doubtful that the gun has a wide range and take shots at a tour bus passing by.  They hit one of the passengers, Susan, in her shoulder and her husband Richard spends the film desperately trying to get help for her.  Amelia, Susan and Roger's nanny, learns of Susan's injury and is ordered to take care of their kids longer than she had planned.  She decides to take the kids to Mexico with her for her son's wedding, which is an extremely ill-advised decision but hey, her boss was being a dick.   Oh yes, and we also follow the story of Chieko, a deaf mute Japanese girl who is struggling to express her sexuality and come to terms with her mother's suicide.  Those are two problems, by the way.

I am not the biggest fan of ensemble films.  Speaking of which, I couldn't for the life of me remember what the movie Happiness was called and had to resort to typing "child molester movie Jon Lovitz" into Google.  I hope that didn't raise any alarms.

Back to my point.  Usually with ensemble movies there are one or two storylines that are just not as interesting as the other plots, but unfortunately they serve as necessary bridges to the other stories.  For this film, I was particularly bored with Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett's story, which essentially didn't change throughout the whole movie.  You can tell they just wanted to work with the director, but sadly, they didn't have too much to work with.  On the other hand, I loved Chieko's story, even though I am certain I didn't understand the ending.

In general, it was cool to experience a movie this ambitious.  But I still think Inarritu is a tool.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Brad Pitt gave up a lead role in The Departed to be in this film.  Oh honey.

The color red is emphasized in every story.   What an original concept!