La La Land (Damien Chazelle, 2016)

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John Shade
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Re: La La Land (Damien Chazelle, 2016)

#126 Post by John Shade » Tue Feb 21, 2017 8:37 am

Finally got around to seeing this and didn't feel a need to comment other than trying to add to some of the recent observations and the Zizek commentary.

My problem with the Legend sell-out issue relates to some of my other problems with the movie, and a few of its continuity errors (some of them noted in previous posts). Not sure if this spoils anything or not, but here goes: When Mia finally sees the band play, she has a look of utter Puritanical horror while the rest of the crowd seemingly has fun. I guess that means we are supposed to think the song sucks and that the band is a sellout. What bothers me here is that it seems to be the opposite reaction she had when Gosling played in the fun band earlier, the Flock of Seagulls '80s style (which I thought was the best scene in the movie). What's different about the two things, other than one is more successful and, to some extent, original than the other? (The other glaring problem in this section of the movie, or at least for me, was when she calls him and says "You must be in Dallas...or Boston." Just google it with that smart phone--I find this unbelievable.

Since this is a movie ostensibly about genius artists I also find certain things hard to accept, like the one-woman show, the wild success later, etc, etc. Nabokov said if you're going to claim an artist is a genius, then prove it with examples of their art (ok there goes my Nabokov reference for this month).

Other than that this was a very light, often fun movie. I really don't want to be one of the people who tear down something just because it's popular, and I can completely see why this is a success. And yet...this is why I appreciate Zizek's opinion. While I am not sympathetic to Leninism, or overly theoretical approaches to art (save this for a whole different discussion--the Nabokov influence creeping in again), I do agree with his premise in the first two paragraphs. I also find the following interesting:
Consequently, the ultimate version of the film would have been the reversal of the final situation: Mia and Sebastian are together and enjoy full professional success, but their lives are empty, so they go to a club and dream of a fantasy in which they live happily together a modest life, since they both renounced their careers, and (in a dream within a dream) they imagine making the opposite choice and romantically remember the missed opportunity of their life together…
Edit: I also want to add this quote from Zizek because I think it analyzes my problem with the supposed "chemistry" (I didn't see it) from this very non-erotic couple. I couldn't quite tell why they were even together, but I think Zizek found the answer.
There is no choice here between their love and her calling: in a paradoxical but deeply true sense, if she were to abandon the prospect of her acting in order to stay with him in LA, she would also betray their love since their love grew out of their shared commitment to a Cause.

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Re: La La Land (Damien Chazelle, 2016)

#127 Post by mfunk9786 » Tue Feb 21, 2017 11:13 am

JohnShade wrote:My problem with the Legend sell-out issue relates to some of my other problems with the movie, and a few of its continuity errors (some of them noted in previous posts). Not sure if this spoils anything or not, but here goes: When Mia finally sees the band play, she has a look of utter Puritanical horror while the rest of the crowd seemingly has fun. I guess that means we are supposed to think the song sucks and that the band is a sellout. What bothers me here is that it seems to be the opposite reaction she had when Gosling played in the fun band earlier, the Flock of Seagulls '80s style (which I thought was the best scene in the movie). What's different about the two things, other than one is more successful and, to some extent, original than the other? (The other glaring problem in this section of the movie, or at least for me, was when she calls him and says "You must be in Dallas...or Boston." Just google it with that smart phone--I find this unbelievable.
I think you're totally correct about essentially all of this, but especially the communication between the two during this period. If I remember correctly, not only are they seemingly not communicating despite not having their big fight yet, but when we do see them communicate during dinner, she seems totally outraged by the idea that he'll be going on a tour that she... already knows he's on? That he's already on? The writing feels like a first draft/rough outline throughout this entire stretch of the film, and while I definitely consider that a knock against the quality of the screenplay, I would also contend that it's indicative of flaws in the direction too - this is Chazelle's material, and it's on him if he missed the fact that it doesn't fit, doesn't make logical sense, etc. As I mentioned earlier in the thread, there's a ton of gorgeous texture to the film once Stone returns from Boulder City (yuk yuk) but its impact is diminished by those missteps. The film begins clunkily, picks up an exceptional amount of steam, and then hits a brick wall. Chazelle should be thrilled that he didn't total the car and was able to drive it home under his own power.

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Re: La La Land (Damien Chazelle, 2016)

#128 Post by domino harvey » Tue Feb 21, 2017 11:24 am

A continuing or additional tour that was set to last a while. The problem was that a temporary gig had clearly turned permanent, and Stone was concerned that this was evidence of Gosling selling himself short since she knows he hates the music he plays. Your objection that their argument is unrealistic is such a weird thing to be so doggedly against-- this kind of alienation, disappointment, and gradual separation in a long term relationship is realistic, not fantastical-- even if most of us on either side aren't touring with a popular band

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Re: La La Land (Damien Chazelle, 2016)

#129 Post by thirtyframesasecond » Tue Feb 21, 2017 12:10 pm

I don't mind if Legend's character is a sellout or not. His music in the film, much like in real life, is incredibly bad.

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Re: La La Land (Damien Chazelle, 2016)

#130 Post by mfunk9786 » Tue Feb 21, 2017 12:45 pm

domino harvey wrote:A continuing or additional tour that was set to last a while. The problem was that a temporary gig had clearly turned permanent, and Stone was concerned that this was evidence of Gosling selling himself short since she knows he hates the music he plays. Your objection that their argument is unrealistic is such a weird thing to be so doggedly against-- this kind of alienation, disappointment, and gradual separation in a long term relationship is realistic, not fantastical-- even if most of us on either side aren't touring with a popular band
The argument is framed as a laying the cards on the table after a long stretch of time with... no communication? If the film managed to convey gradual separation as you mention I would withdraw that complaint, but instead it is abrupt and strange. Why haven't Stone and Gosling had open lines of communication about this until now? Why doesn't she know what city he's in? Why does a film post-invention of the cellular phone imply that neither party has expressed these longer term career ambitions in passing until now? Anyone who's spent time touring with a band, particularly one that likely has the resources at its disposal that Legend's does in the film, could tell you that there's a hell of a lot of downtime and that the experience, outside of rehearsal and performances, is largely a dull and lonely one. No text messages? Social media? Sexting?

Perhaps my wife and I have an incredibly symbiotic relationship and I didn't realize how unusual it is, but I prefer to assume that the one in the film is just underwritten, merely a shoddy framework to serve the plot rather than a three dimensional one that exists outside of the swatches that we get. Yes, it's "just a musical," but there's so much potential that's squandered to really make these characters feel like they know one another, and allow the audience to feel like they know them that is not realized in that stretch of the film. I'm not sure that "hey, relationships go sour in real life too," is an adequate defense of it in my view.

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Re: La La Land (Damien Chazelle, 2016)

#131 Post by Brian C » Tue Feb 21, 2017 5:54 pm

mfunk9786 wrote:Perhaps my wife and I have an incredibly symbiotic relationship and I didn't realize how unusual it is, but I prefer to assume that the one in the film is just underwritten, merely a shoddy framework to serve the plot rather than a three dimensional one that exists outside of the swatches that we get. Yes, it's "just a musical," but there's so much potential that's squandered to really make these characters feel like they know one another, and allow the audience to feel like they know them that is not realized in that stretch of the film. I'm not sure that "hey, relationships go sour in real life too," is an adequate defense of it in my view.
Perhaps your wife and you have a relationship that's just healthier and stronger than the one in the film? Which, you know, kinda doesn't work out. I think another way to restate your objection is that the scene shows possibly irreparable cracks in the relationship shortly before they break up ... but when you put it that way, I guess it doesn't really sound like an objection.

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Re: La La Land (Damien Chazelle, 2016)

#132 Post by mfunk9786 » Tue Feb 21, 2017 5:56 pm

I guess all I meant by that is that we communicate about what we're up to in our day to day lives, and I have known absolutely zero couples, particularly long distance ones, who don't do this to some degree. JohnShade did a good job of summarizing some of the interactions in that portion of this film that are sort of bizarre when compared to the way a real couple in the positions of the characters in this film would interact with one another during the time they're not under the same roof.

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Re: La La Land (Damien Chazelle, 2016)

#133 Post by Brian C » Tue Feb 21, 2017 6:22 pm

All I can say is that your objection would make a lot more sense in a movie where we're supposed to believe that this is a healthy couple who will be together forever. As it is, it seems as if you're complaining that the movie shows them having severe communication problems right before they break up. And then you're puzzlingly using the behavior of healthy couples to justify that complaint.

I can't make heads or tails of that. Maybe I simply don't understand what you mean.

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Re: La La Land (Damien Chazelle, 2016)

#134 Post by John Shade » Tue Feb 21, 2017 6:23 pm

It's now dawning on me that when she sees the band she expresses surprise at their sound--now, this could mean that he never played them for her due to his shame/sell-out, but I mean...she looks them up at one point on youtube where they have, if I recall, millions of views--ok--and yet she never looked up a song out of curiosity, in a time when people stalk others for much less? I know this seems like nitpicking. I wonder though if Chazelle thought, "Well, I want them to break up to have this dramatic montage sequence at the end, so let me find a way to do that." The problem then is, if they're so out of tune why should the final scene matter? Wouldn't it really just be another coincidental encounter? What about all the supposed "chemistry"? Unless Zizek is right about their "Cause" and how their relationship was really just a by-product involving sacrifice.

One final Zizek quote, as I find his article amusing and fascinating. Is this Zizek's form of trolling? Could anyone else in the world write a review of La La Land and somehow fit in this gem:
Perhaps, there is no greater love than that of a revolutionary couple, where each of the two lovers is ready to abandon the other at any moment if revolution demands it.

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Re: La La Land (Damien Chazelle, 2016)

#135 Post by J Adams » Wed Feb 22, 2017 1:45 am

There are lots of narrative flaws, or issues, in this film. How does that differentiate it from any other musical? E.g., why didn't Emma Stone have any contact with Ryan Gosling for 5 years. It's a device.

I guess my main concern is that people (in recent posts) are focussing too much on cellphone communication failures and such. One might also wonder, do people REALLY sing and dance in parking lots and whatever? Do the Rialto and the funicular still exist? The whole cellphone/youtube issue seems to be a constant issue in current films (hence the numerous horror films where there is no service). Let's not let cellphones and youtube ruin the movies.

Enjoy the movie for what it is. A grand Demy homage, 50 years after Rochefort. And it is great that many critics have recognized the Demy connection.

This is not the best film of the year, but it is the best Oscar film of the year. And I applaud the young director for getting it made.

Oh, and anyone who thinks the John Legend tune is anything other than bland garbage needs to listen to some JAZZ!

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Re: La La Land (Damien Chazelle, 2016)

#136 Post by Magic Hate Ball » Wed Feb 22, 2017 2:33 am

The fight scene blobs out of nowhere, but the whole script is pretty kludged together.

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Re: La La Land (Damien Chazelle, 2016)

#137 Post by domino harvey » Wed Feb 22, 2017 2:35 am

Today I learned a new word, so something good came out of this after all

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Re: La La Land (Damien Chazelle, 2016)

#138 Post by Roger Ryan » Wed Feb 22, 2017 9:19 am

J Adams wrote:There are lots of narrative flaws, or issues, in this film. How does that differentiate it from any other musical?...
I would say most other film musicals do not attempt to reach the level of dramatic realism that La La Land aspires to. The break-up scene comes during a thirty-to-forty minute stretch where the only musical number is the Legend band concert performance so the emphasis is on drama, not songs or choreography. For comparison, Scorsese's handling of a similar relationship break-down between a jazz-lover and show-biz aspirant in New York, New York felt more integral to that film's story than how Chazelle quickly upends things in his film.

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Re: La La Land (Damien Chazelle, 2016)

#139 Post by mfunk9786 » Wed Feb 22, 2017 11:00 am

I am so tired of talking about this film and I promise this is it, but Roger, yes - Chazelle steps out of his comfort zone during those sequences and I don't think they work as well as they should. He doesn't have to do that, I don't know if anyone walks away from this film going "You know what really stood out to me? Emma Stone's reaction at the concert." Just because a film is flawed doesn't mean it's bad. If anything it frustrates me that it's so close to great and doesn't get there.

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Re: La La Land (Damien Chazelle, 2016)

#140 Post by tenia » Wed Feb 22, 2017 12:39 pm

It's just a matter of how annoying the flaws are for somebody. To me, they were kind of problematic, at least enough not to see the masterpiece many saw in La La Land but what struck me most is how disjointed the musical numbers and the rest of the movie are. The musicals are mostly excellent, but the drama in between is heavy, sometimes poorly edited and the main couple doesnt interact well in these.
But does that make La La Land bad ? I dont think so, but it surely prevented me to find it great.

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Re: La La Land (Damien Chazelle, 2016)

#141 Post by Magic Hate Ball » Wed Feb 22, 2017 2:50 pm

Roger Ryan wrote:
J Adams wrote:There are lots of narrative flaws, or issues, in this film. How does that differentiate it from any other musical?...
I would say most other film musicals do not attempt to reach the level of dramatic realism that La La Land aspires to. The break-up scene comes during a thirty-to-forty minute stretch where the only musical number is the Legend band concert performance so the emphasis is on drama, not songs or choreography. For comparison, Scorsese's handling of a similar relationship break-down between a jazz-lover and show-biz aspirant in New York, New York felt more integral to that film's story than how Chazelle quickly upends things in his film.
NY NY does a much better job of combining sugary fantasy film musicals with Cassavetes-esque relationship dramas. La La Land is just La Boheme with a twist ending and less coughing. It's frustratingly shoddy and close-minded for a movie that wants to break the so-called boundaries (ha) of what a musical can do.


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Re: La La Land (Damien Chazelle, 2016)

#143 Post by domino harvey » Wed Mar 08, 2017 12:55 am

Now here's a great idea-- can't wait to join a crowd in song for "Audition"

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Re: La La Land (Damien Chazelle, 2016)

#144 Post by chavdarpanov » Tue Apr 18, 2017 2:44 am

On first viewing I was quite disappointed. It looked like all that was present in Whiplash was missing here - the drum energy as opposed to a relaxed piano score, the serious theme vs lots of banality. The ending annoyed me even more - as opposed to the real false ending of Brazil, we had here an explained false ending (i.e. a false false ending). However, I noticed some parts of a larger structure, so I went for a second viewing shortly to give the film a second chance with me.

And now, I believe, with all the faults this film possesses, this structure looms large and the idea behind it is quite solidly implemented. We have the Casablanca type of romance.
SpoilerShow
First, there are some references to Casablanca, like the poster of Ingrid Bergman or the filming location mentioned. Then, we have the lights - lots of city lights and street lights, the stars and the name of the Lighthouse club... during the time they are unconditionally together. And then we have the scene when Mia turns off the lamp, simultaneously saying "the end", which we are led to believe that references the ending of her play in the following conversation, but immediately after that she urges him to call Keith and their separation starts from there. "The end" for them is that exact moment and everything from there looks logical from that perspective. Following her sacrifice, he is doing the same when bringing her back for the casting. Watch closely for lights in that period of the film - everything is already dim or lamps are switched off again, like in the theatre. And there are green curtains as if the colour is taken from Vertigo when they sing their song together and then in a second instance when they fight. The song is important, because at the end, as far as I can tell, it is not Mia's or Seb's imagination that false ending - it is the song he plays that creates this world of theirs. They create that song for that purpose, to keep their own world. When each of them vows they would love each other forever, this is daylight and no stars or lamps, nothing and then immediately the camera shifts from the real sky to an artificial decor sky 5 years later. And in Seb's club the lights are back and they are just exuberantly all over the place. This is pure Casablanca romance and I like it.

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Re: La La Land (Damien Chazelle, 2016)

#145 Post by zedz » Wed Nov 22, 2017 12:01 am

I finally caught up with this and thought it was for the most part very well done. Chazelle clearly has a lot of affection for old musicals and can put together a credible pastiche, with dyunamic camerawork and solid blocking. The score and choreography were patchy, but had their charms.

Overall I felt it was a little thin, plot-wise and character-wise, and thinking back to the classic Hollywood musicals one of the big differences was the lack of support for the leads. Everything hangs on Stone and Gosling, and they're good, but there's no Donald O'Connor, or Nanette Fabray, or Ann Miller, or Edward Everett-Horton backing them up. Those classic musicals have a richness, diversity and density that help paper over a lot of cracks very similar to the ones that are apparent in this film. But in La La Land, the secondary figures are perfunctory. We've got Stone's bevy of girlfriends, but they're largely written out after their initial number; Rosemarie DeWitt has one good scene as Gosling's sister before turning into wallpaper; John Legend is basically third billed, but doesn't fare much better; Stone's other partners are so bland that people in this thread thought they might be the same person. There's lots to like in this film, but in this respect especially it feels undernourished.

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Re: La La Land (Damien Chazelle, 2016)

#146 Post by bearcuborg » Fri Jan 19, 2018 9:05 pm

Finally saw this as well, and I can’t say I liked much of anything. The dancing here didn’t elevate anything happening, at least not like a Fred Astaire movie. Dancing in those movies moved the story, In La La Land, it felt like calisthenics. I know the people behind the music seem to be doing everything nowadays, even winning Tony’s-but in this movie it all felt like vapor.

Despite its title, it never integrated Los Angeles.

It was nice to see Rosemarie DeWitt who tends to be my favorite thing in nearly everything she appears in...

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Re: La La Land (Damien Chazelle, 2016)

#147 Post by hearthesilence » Tue May 22, 2018 1:48 pm

I thought the end to La La Land was one of the better things about it, maybe even brilliant...except the basic concept felt a little too familiar. I couldn't place where but yesterday (and a few years later), I stumbled on the answer when I caught Diane Chambers (Shelley Long)'s last appearance on Cheers as a series regular, and the same idea is also the best thing about the entire episode.

Regardless of who did what first, La La Land has an obvious advantage over a mid-'80's sitcom purely on a technical level (and simply put, Cheers ain't cinema), but I have to say the context is much more affecting on Cheers even if it is done with a larger dose of sentimentality. In La La Land, they've already moved on and at least in Emma Stone's case, she's created a new life with someone else. But in Cheers you have a character who's picturing his life with somebody on the eve of their wedding - right down to the children and even grandchildren they'll have - and then later, after he's chosen to "postpone" their nuptials so that his bride-to-be can pursue her other dream, it sinks in that he's very likely letting all that go, and he envisions all that he's losing (a happy future) pretty much as it's slipping away, not long after the fact.

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