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Saturday, December 31, 2016

La La Land

LA LA LAND (2016)

written & directed by Damien Chazelle (Whiplash)

starring Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling

ENJOYMENT: **** (out of 4)

Musicals are cheesy. They're for adults. Adults are boring. Therefore, musicals are boring. If you're anything like me, this may have been the view you held as a child about a film where the cast gets out of their cars to sing and dance on a busy Hollywood freeway in the middle of rush hour. But now as an adult, I must say that I like this movie a hell of a lot. And I'm not the only one. In fact, La La Land is the best reviewed major-release movie so far this year as determined by all audience members on IMDB and has a 9.0/10 average among >10,000 reviewers under 29 years old. This may be because La La Land is the first original musical of the 21st century and was made by a member of our generation (31 year-old writer-director Damien Chazelle, creator of Whiplash). In this world, a woman's dreams are just as important as a man's, and both partners support each other's aspirations as much as their own – for better or worse. 

La La Land is about a young aspiring actress, Mia (Emma Stone), who works as a barista in a movie studio cafe and auditions for many roles, but is stuck. After a disappointing night out, Mia stumbles into a dingy Hollywood restaurant where she hears the heartfelt jazz pianist, Sebastian (Ryan Gosling). This starts a love story that depicts the life of many aspiring artists in Hollywood – a life of auditions, rejections, unfulfilling jobs, old movie theaters, Griffith Park, traffic and grungy restaurants. Both Mia and Sebastian want success in their own careers and support the hell out of each other, but their individual paths may end up at odds with each other's. What unfolds is one of the most engulfing films of the year, full of amazing music (jazz!), colors and beautiful faces. In the end, La La Land is the first movie I've seen in 2016 that I'm excited to see for a second (and third) time. 

Oscar predictions
  • Nominations: Best Picture, Best Actress (Emma Stone), Best Actor (Ryan Gosling), Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Editing, Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, Best Song ("City of Stars")
  • Wins: Best Picture (similar chances as Manchester by the Sea or Moonlight), Best Director (maybe), Best Original Score, Best Song

Manchester by the Sea


written & directed by Kenneth Lonergan (You Can Count On Me)

starring Casey Affleck, Lucas Hedges, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler

ENJOYMENT: **** (out of 4)

On a single day in a life of tragedy and regret, it might be hard to understand exactly the events that led to that point. Who's at fault? Can it it get better? You're in a job you can't stand. You and your wife are separated. You have lost track of your kids. You feel all alone in the world. Then, one day, your one connection to normalcy disappears and you're faced with a choice: do you make a last-ditched effort to engage or do you recede ever more into oblivion? In Manchester by the Sea, Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) is presented with this choice. As his story unfolds through a series of disparate-seeming flashbacks that eventually tell his story, Lee begins to understand who he is as a man, and, more acutely, as an uncle. After a tragedy leaves Patrick (Lucas Hedges) in the care of his Uncle Lee, the two men explore their existence together in the small New England town that gives the film its name. Filled with love and comedy as well as utter tragedy, Manchester by the Sea is the most honest depiction of the trials as well as the joys of life that I have seen all year. For this, and for its impeccable acting, cinematography and score, this is my favorite film so far this year.

Oscar predictions
  • Nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor (Casey Affleck), Best Supporting Actress (Michelle Williams), Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Editing, Best Cinematography, Best Original Score
  • Wins: Best Picture (similar chances as La La Land and Moonlight), Best Director (maybe), Best Original Screenplay
  • Snubs: Best Supporting Actor (Lucas Hedges)