It’s shot in cinemascope, it’s big on pizzazz, it’s packed with bold color schemes, the stage lights appear straight out of a dream, it’s big one minute and quiet the next, and every song and tune will replay in your head days after it’s all over. No, you’re not in the 1950s, and no, you’re not in Kansas anymore. This is the present-day reality. So forget about those loud action movies with no respect for the stage, La La Land proves what can and should be done with the long lost art that is the moving picture.
The joyful musical genre has been in the Hollywood cemetery for too long now, but even rarer now is a musical with entirely original music in an entirely original story, which director Damien Chazelle (Whiplash) achieves with expert choreography. While he may give Southern California a bit too overly glamorous of a view with no dark edge, he still recaptures the same zest of West Side Story while cranking the spectacle up a notch. It’s always a challenge for any serious director to stage a film where everyone breaks out into song without it oozing Disney Channel cheese, but Damien Chazelle has done it!
Within Chazelle’s cinematic recreation of Southern California, he fastens our seatbelts through the bumpy relationship between two artists over the course of four long seasons, starting at the heat of Christmas. One is a ruby-red aspiring actress who cannot land an audition, and thus must serve coffee under a careless manager to make ends meet. The other is a Fred Astaire-Dooley Wilson mash-up whose fast fingers command jazz on the piano, no matter what his boss wants him to play. After they first meet over road rage at rush hour, these distracted minds find that destiny has forced them together with coincidental run-ins day after day. Everything after that is as pure and classic as dancing under a full moon.
Once we learn about what these two have in common, boy is it the beginning of a beautiful friendship! He wants to revive Jazz as a modern art form, but she cannot stand listening to it, and this subject alone stems all the other conflicts that these two share over the course of a year. It is a pleasure to see the ups and downs of their romance, even if the other people in their lives are treated by the screenwriter as if they don’t even matter.
Yet it’s not the supporting cast who helps us to understand their relationship, but the numbers that project their thoughts onto the moment. On their first formal meeting, she hears his piano playing as lit by a single spotlight, as if she’s glancing into his own little world. On second formal meeting, they tap dance in front of a skyline at twilight. On the first date, they are swept off their feet—literally, to a dance against the stars in a planetarium. On the tenth date, they sing an Oscar-worthy duet. As time goes by, the dream of making it to the top of the world in Paris quickly diminishes. Her tears swell up along with the audiences’; I’ll even admit I choked up as well, and I’m a man.
This wide variety of tone in music is plentiful yet wisely spare, celebrating the history of cinema magic while wishing the best for its future. Yet also like the oldies it writes its love to, there are one too many white players in the production. There are two African Americans cast, but as dancers on the pier who say not a word, just as blacks were stereotyped in that golden age of Hollywood. If this production was less focused on making a musical spectacular and more focused on showing care and attention to today’s media-frenzied audience, then there would have been a better likelihood for this to surpass those repetitive comic book movies at the box office.
I sincerely hope for the day when people return to their senses and offer their money to movies because of their cinematic quality other than their branding. Considering how much music is now taking over our culture, we could use that reminder of how much music raises our self-esteem when times are hard. After seeing what La La Land can do with both old and new styles of filmmaking, I can absolutely assess that I love musicals all over again! Therefore, I encourage everyone to go see this magical delight to raise the spirits for 2017. After all, tomorrow is another day!
Everybody has a dream of some sort. La La Land tells us about two star-crossed lovers whose contradicting dreams challenged their love for one another. It makes you wonder, what’s most important? Your loved ones or your dreams?
While some people may abandon family time to get that promotion they always wanted, others would miss out on their brother’s birthday party to keep practicing soccer for that future title as “world’s greatest soccer player.” It’s different for everybody, but we all have one specific thing that we want to accomplish before we die. Well let me tell you, autism is no exception for having dreams to push toward.
In fact, dreams for those on the spectrum can be more vividly realized, right down to what will happen in the future and when. They can even have these dreams from when they were very little.
Six-Word Lessons for Dads with Autistic Kids, Lesson #49: What Were Your Strongest School Subjects?
My dreams have changed over time as I got older, as I progressed onto newer interests. I had a dream of creating my own generation of my own Pokémon and getting it made into a real game. I had a dream of joining Pixar, neither of which became reality, as you could probably tell. Right now, my dream is something I never had when I was a kid: where I run my own corporation of fellow critics who help me in analyzing movies based on the criteria I set here. It would turn into my own version of the Oscars, where I make sure every film of the year gets watched by at least one representative under my wing, and at the end of the year, set our own decision on the Best Picture of the year. This would be a more organized, better focused approach to criticism from other critics circle awards that’s intent on awarding art that helps our humanity. Yes, I know, it’s a big dream to have, and it would take a lot of work to get there, but I’m up to the challenge.
Then there are others on the autism spectrum who may have their plans for the future set up for years. I once met a high school sophomore with autism who was already working on a script for his senior project in animation. Wow! But alas, like anybody else following dreams, life gets in the way. A car wreck could cause loss of mobility in limbs, your mode of speech could one day be gone, you could get arrested (hopefully for a crime you did not commit), or you could simply lose interest in your one dream.
One thing that you may be wondering is, “if dreams rarely ever get met, why bother having them at all?”
Six-Word Lessons on Female Asperger Syndrome, Lesson #84: If at First You Don’t Succeed…
Dreams are not always a bad thing to have. There are both benefits and drawbacks to them. If somebody had autism and set up a specific dream and how they would accomplish it, then that proves that they are serious about what to do with their future and will take serious action. They have to be careful though not to get so locked on that one potential future that they cancel out other possible outcomes. They need to understand that they don’t know what the future holds, so they have to consider everything that could go wrong in achievement of that dream.
Without spoiling anything, La La Land discusses that same struggle, when you want to do one thing, and that is the one thing in life you want to do, but the outcome means your dream may never be met. It doesn’t mean don’t dream. It just means to be realistic about your dreams. If you want to win at American Idol someday, don’t say it’s impossible. But it turns out you instead have to leave your audition to comfort your sick sister at the hospital, remember where the priority should be. We’re all capable of doing great, but keep in mind that the way we become great rarely turns out in the way we expect.
- For anybody with autism, don’t get so hooked onto your dreams that you consider no other possibilities. Life always has a way of changing at you, so considering other alternatives to your dreams will foster joy to you and your loved ones.
- Keep your dreams realistic and true to yourself. I would not advise hopes to becoming an expert pianist just because your mom had hopes in you doing so. If you’re reportedly bad at something and/or hate doing it, don’t pursue it! Self-awareness is especially hard for somebody on the autism spectrum, so don’t rely on your own judgment as to what kind of dreams you should pursue.
- Always know that your family and friends have priority over your own hopes for the future. La La Land doesn’t align with this message very well, so I’m telling you now that it’s better for you to never get your own TV show but share good times with loved ones than to be rich but all alone. This is also difficult for those with autism to understand.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see reviewed, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
Glieberman, Owen. Film Review: ‘La La Land’. Digital image. Variety. WordPress, 31 Aug 2016. Web. <http://variety.com/2016/film/reviews/la-la-land-review-venice-ryan-gosling-emma-stone-1201846576/>.
La La Land. Lionsgate. Web. <http://www.lalaland.movie/>.