Tuesday, June 13, 2017

LA LA LAND - The Movie of My Generation



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People said that it was an ‘artsy film’, which got me worried. Well, actually, anything that wins six Oscars comes under my immediate and scrutinizing suspicion.

But other people said that if I liked ‘Singing In The Rain’ then I'd like this movie.

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Which didn’t convince me either - I have to really, really have a good reason to sit through Singing in the Rain, which is, in my opinion, a wonderful series of unrelated song and dance routines strung together by a plot that one could call ethereal, or perhaps transcendental. As in, it scarcely exists on our plane of reality, if it does, in fact, exist.

Don't get me wrong; for what it is, Singing in the Rain is a flippin' masterpiece. But some days I want a movie with a more compelling story, y'know?

Anyway.

“This seems like it’s gonna be like Enchanted,” said my wife, during the opening song on a gridlocked California freeway.

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“Is that a good thing?” I asked.

“I’m not sure…” she said.

Well, it wasn’t like Enchanted.

And it wasn’t like Mama Mia, either, the closest adult analogue. It wasn’t even that much like Singing in the Rain, although it had some of the magic that Singing has. It really did. In fact, it had a lot of magic in it from a lot of different inspirations, so many iconic things from our cultural past. We’ve got some Marilyn Monroe, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, a LOT of Casablanca

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No, like a LOT.

We’ve got some eighties throwbacks, definitely some Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, and did I detect some Guys and Dolls in there too?

This move is so steeped in the past that in one scene Ryan Gosling gallantly pulls out a white handkerchief to clean something off before Emma Stone touches it.

NOBODY I KNOW UNDER FIFTY CARRIES A WHITE HANDKERCHIEF.

This movie was SO nostalgic that way. We’ve substituted the painted studio backdrops for CG citiscapes, and now there are cellphones interrupting our characters instead of chance encounters with socially awkward friends, but there is a longing in this movie for those old times.

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It’s a longing that permeates this movie. Despite the occasionally cheery colors, and the now-and-then apparently light musical numbers, that current of sadness runs beneath every scene.

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If anything, I’d say the ghost of Singing in the Rain was here.

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Gone is the happy, hopeful ending that our grandparent’s musicals offered. In its place is something ultimately heartrending - two people giving up the relationship in their life that mattered very most, in exchange for their dreams.

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Dreams that did not, in the end, bring them the real happiness that they were searching for.

Yes, it’s appropriate that this movie is the movie that so many people my age love. This is a movie that symbolizes my generation. It’s a movie that stands for the choices of an era who's people gave up one thing in exchange for another, who gave up love, and family, and relationships that last, in exchange for hollow dreams and the promise of something bigger. But that bigger whatever-it-is has turned out not to be bigger, only smaller, and continually smaller, until it fades into nothing in the palms of our desperate hands.

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This is a desperately sad movie, and it turns out, it didn’t have to be, and perhaps at the end of its runtime, may still be mostly unaware of the full depth of tragedy. Kind of like my generation. We are a desperately sad and unfulfilled generation… but as it turns out, we didn’t have to be.

And we are yet unaware of the full depth of our tragedy.

Many of us go through our lives like this movie through its runtime, and we will feel a sense of longing when it’s all over, like we maybe had it all and gave it away, or could have had it all and turned the best things down.

Does this movie deserve 6 Oscars?

Yes, this movie deserves six Oscars.

The music is beautiful. The cinematography is undeniably beautiful. The acting is first rate. The heart and soul they put into this movie is apparent in every frame.

I will say yes.

But it is not a triumphant yes.

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