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Episode 99 - Sign o' the Times vs. Stop Making Sense


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Poll: Sign o' the Times vs. Stop Making Sense (58 member(s) have cast votes)

Which movie should be inducted into the Canon?

  1. Sign o' the Times (9 votes [15.52%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 15.52%

  2. Stop Making Sense (49 votes [84.48%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 84.48%

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#41 JJ95

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Posted 26 April 2017 - 08:26 AM

Oh god! This has to be the worst episode of The Canon yet. Armond White was unbearable. He seemed in no way interested in having a discussion and hitting the coversational ball back and forth. Any ball Amy was hitting into his court - he just let ... drop.

And I don't know if it's because Amy is a woman or if he's that way to everyone, but he was so condecending I almost quit listening halfway through.

On a semi-related note: Amy should get Scott Mantz for a La La Land episode! THAT would be a fun battle to listen to and observe. He's such an outspoken fan of La La Land that would be a blast to listen him and Amy duking it out over that movie. Who's with me? ;-)

#42 alt0782

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Posted 26 April 2017 - 08:34 AM

View Postcbbruuno, on 26 April 2017 - 08:14 AM, said:

Nothing more enjoyable than listening to a Freudian with a condescending tone of voice.������

View Postcbbruuno, on 26 April 2017 - 08:14 AM, said:

Nothing more enjoyable than listening to a Freudian with a condescending tone of voice.������

You can say that again. ������

#43 Lawbster31

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Posted 26 April 2017 - 09:10 AM

So tired of hearing this argument about La La Land. Even the fact that that's the first sentence of my comment annoys me. Seems like next week will be more of the same though, since it's guaranteed to come up in the discussion about Whiplash. Amy brought up in an earlier episode how annoying Stranger Things was (and how TERRIBLE it is to anyone with good taste *sigh*) because it would reference things without necessarily doing anything with it, in a winking manner. I guess she's not aware that not everyone has seen as many movies as her, and that movies and TV can be perceived as referential and fun even without the audience knowing exactly what is being referenced. Maybe she thinks that most people don't get the references like she does, so any enjoyment those people get out of it is uninformed and thus they shouldn't actually enjoy it. I despise this argument on so many levels. She's even made the point before in a couple episodes that "EVERYONE knows the story of Medea/Orpheus/etc, how could anyone miss the reference??". Ugh. I don't mean to come off like a dick, it just annoys me. /rant

As for these two brilliant movies, I'm having a very hard time deciding. Sign has an unparalleled level of fun, and Sense has an unparalleled level of weird. Both movies have incredible music and incredible performances from the bands. But only one of them has the giant suit, which I was aware of (and laughing at) before ever even hearing the music by the Talking Heads so I think I have to go with that, for the cultural impact.

It's strange that both Amy and Armond said Yes to both movies in the end. I think that's the only time where they haven't made a final decision on the show, though the whole point of the show has always been that there are no real rules, so whatever who cares. I'm guessing Devin would have been more committal and forced answers out of everyone and probably would have gone with Stop Making Sense? I'm still just so happy the Canon is back, regardless of my kind of pedantic complaints.

#44 Judas_Priestly

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Posted 26 April 2017 - 09:54 AM

First off, I haven't seen Sign o' the Times, so my vote for Stop Making Sense probably wasn't a fair one; but that didn't stop me from casting it. I've seen it more times than I can count. Both hosts made interesting points. On the racial diversity displayed in both films, it bares mention that all of the extra musicians performing with the Talking Heads [except for the four core members] are black.
On the guests assertion that Byrne is dealing with sex, I was a little surprised that Amy seems to find him so asexual. Sure, the wide-eyed crack-rooster dancing of Psycho Killer aint the pelvis-thrusting of a Prince performance, but you have to look at the less choreographed moments. Take the last minute or so of Found a Job, when Byrne is simply pacing back and forth, nodding his head, and playing the same chords over and over again. He reaches a meditative, shamanistic state where he's focusing on nothing but those chords. Such is the same with a spiritual fugue, or dare I say sexual congress. It's not something to be over-analyzed or intellectualized, it is simply the body taking over where the head won't go. Byrne himself has said of music that a lot of times the body understands it before the brain does. This was the idea behind the siezurelike quaking and shivering during Once in a Lifetime. The music, like the Holy Spirit, is taking over the body and moving it independently of the will.
Strange coincidence that Jonathan Demme died today. I'll never hear American Girl without seeing that woman singing along to it in her car at night.
I will always hear you.

#45 Robert Boberts

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Posted 26 April 2017 - 09:56 AM

R.I.P. Jonathan Demme

I voted for Stop Making Sense despite not seeing Sign o the Times. I feel bad doing that but White made little argument for why it's a better movie, instead just seeming to be a fan of Prince. I was weary about how a discussion of a concert film would go but Amy did make some good points about the film itself, and the choices of shots.

#46 Judas_Priestly

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Posted 26 April 2017 - 10:08 AM

Funny aside: on the commentary track, Byrne says "This movie doubles as an exercise video. If you do everything in this movie as long and as hard as I do, you'll be in pretty good shape." I believe he says that during the jogging section of Life During Wartime.
I will always hear you.

#47 HoldenMartinson

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Posted 26 April 2017 - 11:29 AM

View PostLawbster31, on 26 April 2017 - 09:10 AM, said:

So tired of hearing this argument about La La Land. Even the fact that that's the first sentence of my comment annoys me. Seems like next week will be more of the same though, since it's guaranteed to come up in the discussion about Whiplash. Amy brought up in an earlier episode how annoying Stranger Things was (and how TERRIBLE it is to anyone with good taste *sigh*) because it would reference things without necessarily doing anything with it, in a winking manner. I guess she's not aware that not everyone has seen as many movies as her, and that movies and TV can be perceived as referential and fun even without the audience knowing exactly what is being referenced. Maybe she thinks that most people don't get the references like she does, so any enjoyment those people get out of it is uninformed and thus they shouldn't actually enjoy it. I despise this argument on so many levels. She's even made the point before in a couple episodes that "EVERYONE knows the story of Medea/Orpheus/etc, how could anyone miss the reference??". Ugh. I don't mean to come off like a dick, it just annoys me. /rant

I think it's because stuff like La La Land and Stranger Things--both things I happen to like, though I definitely prefer the latter--are mostly nostalgia porn. The people who made this have seen a few John Carpenter films? So have I!!! That's so cool!!! What's the artistic bent at play, though? That progress comes from paying attention to the past, or something? For La La Land, that's definitely true, because that's a film all about romanticizing and fetishizing artifacts of a bygone era, and that the moving into the future is scary. That's why Ryan Gosling is uncomfortable playing in John Legend's band--which I don't think the film is making fun of, but rather, the movie is so rooted in Gosling's and Stone's POV that we're supposed to feel sad that he's not making the jazz music he likes, I suppose--and it's also why Emma Stone's breakthrough comes from a story that isn't even about her, but her aunt. The movie rewards them for leaning into others' stories and work for their success, and then rewards them for it, except that they don't get to be together, which would feel justified, but the film wants us to feel sad for them, that they got to have their dreams, but not each other. They're not even real characters, which the film recognizes, by putting a million doppelgangers in the margins at any given moment.

Stranger Things just seems like it wants to preserve all this stuff from a couple decades ago--though, it's all stuff I love, even though I'm not of that era--and it just happens to be a lot of fun, and to have a great cast. Stranger Things does have one of my favorite jokes, which is when Papa Byers is telling Jonathan to take down his poster for The Evil Dead, because it's inappropriate, and that's supposed to be the tip-off for how much of a dick that character is, because we know The Evil Dead will go on to be a cult favorite, and that the dad is disconnected from pop culture in that way, but that's because the show knows that it's for people who enjoy films like The Evil Dead. It's a show that says, "Hey! The fact that you play D&D, and like The Thing--even though it was a flop at this point in time--means you know how to solve this mystery that is specific to your life." It's a show that rewards nerdy exceptionalism in a way that is serendipitous for serendipity's sake. The best that one could say to the benefit of Stranger Things is that it's about using pop culture, and also science, to get young, alienated kids through adolescence and into adulthood. Mike, Will, Dustin, and Lucas are all unpopular, but have fun playing games and watching movies. When Will is swapped out for Eleven, they're able to use their interests to save everyone.

Other than being Easter egg hunts, what are Stranger Things and La La Land aren't really about much. And I don't think anyone is saying you shouldn't like them, but that they're more concerned with references and callbacks than actual, textual meaning.

#48 Lawbster31

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Posted 26 April 2017 - 11:56 AM

View PostHoldenMartinson, on 26 April 2017 - 11:29 AM, said:

Other than being Easter egg hunts, what are Stranger Things and La La Land aren't really about much. And I don't think anyone is saying you shouldn't like them, but that they're more concerned with references and callbacks than actual, textual meaning.


The thing is, people are saying I shouldn't like them, specifically Amy and Armond (and Devin for Stranger Things, I don't actually know his opinions on La La Land, though I wouldn't guess they're positive). Armond said La La Land can only be enjoyed by people who know nothing about the tradition of movie musicals. This show has repeatedly made the case that great movies don't necessarily have to be about more than some simple fun premise (more precisely, Devin has repeatedly made this case). So it annoys me when I'm told that La La Land will never ever ever have a place in the Canon because apparently it's so referential that it's somehow worse than Working Girl and Pennies From Heaven, two movies that are distinctly "fine" in my opinion.

By the way, just to be clear, I'm not saying La La Land is my favorite movie of all time by any means. But I definitely think it's a very solid movie that is facing Avatar levels of post-release internet hatred, and I think "superior minds" are having a blast telling everyone else in the world how horrible the movie is.

#49 sycasey 2.0

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Posted 26 April 2017 - 12:36 PM

View PostHoldenMartinson, on 26 April 2017 - 11:29 AM, said:

Other than being Easter egg hunts, what are Stranger Things and La La Land aren't really about much. And I don't think anyone is saying you shouldn't like them, but that they're more concerned with references and callbacks than actual, textual meaning.


I think La La Land does have textual meaning. It's not necessarily easy to suss out, though, because as in Chazelle's previous film Whiplash, it is about an unresolvable dichotomy. He likes to leave his movies in that space, so people wind up thinking they aren't about anything, when really they are about the contradiction.

Whiplash is about the struggle between one kid's personal happiness and his professional obsession. At the end of the movie he makes a choice: he is going to pursue that obsession, all else be damned. Chazelle is careful to end the film before we see what the results of that decision might be. He literally cuts to black as soon as the music stops. He's not going to tell you if his protagonist was successful or not.

La La Land also opens with clear contradictions. It opens with a bright sunny day and a title card reading "Winter." We then watch people stuck in awful freeway traffic do a cheery dance about what a lovely day it is. The movie is called La La Land. It's named after the city it takes place in, but uses the cutesy, sometimes mocking nickname for that city. So what does that city represent? One song seems to say so: City of Stars. "Stars" are both the actors who appear on screen (something that, presumably, people come to L.A. to be) and also unreachable points of light in the sky.

A whole bunch of dichotomies and double meanings here. These are your clues as to what Chazelle wants to say about human relationships, the nature of chasing dreams, etc. The movie is about achieving one dream while giving up on another, about how it's sad but also sometimes necessary.

Now, I can see arguments that Chazelle takes on too much and gets his points confused, or that his perspective on this is too limited, white-privileged, or lacking in life experience. I might not agree with all of that, but I can see that line of argument. Lacking textual meaning, though? No.

#50 HoldenMartinson

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Posted 26 April 2017 - 01:24 PM

View Postsycasey 2.0, on 26 April 2017 - 12:36 PM, said:


I think La La Land does have textual meaning. It's not necessarily easy to suss out, though, because as in Chazelle's previous film Whiplash, it is about an unresolvable dichotomy. He likes to leave his movies in that space, so people wind up thinking they aren't about anything, when really they are about the contradiction.

Whiplash is about the struggle between one kid's personal happiness and his professional obsession. At the end of the movie he makes a choice: he is going to pursue that obsession, all else be damned. Chazelle is careful to end the film before we see what the results of that decision might be. He literally cuts to black as soon as the music stops. He's not going to tell you if his protagonist was successful or not.

La La Land also opens with clear contradictions. It opens with a bright sunny day and a title card reading "Winter." We then watch people stuck in awful freeway traffic do a cheery dance about what a lovely day it is. The movie is called La La Land. It's named after the city it takes place in, but uses the cutesy, sometimes mocking nickname for that city. So what does that city represent? One song seems to say so: City of Stars. "Stars" are both the actors who appear on screen (something that, presumably, people come to L.A. to be) and also unreachable points of light in the sky.

A whole bunch of dichotomies and double meanings here. These are your clues as to what Chazelle wants to say about human relationships, the nature of chasing dreams, etc. The movie is about achieving one dream while giving up on another, about how it's sad but also sometimes necessary.

Now, I can see arguments that Chazelle takes on too much and gets his points confused, or that his perspective on this is too limited, white-privileged, or lacking in life experience. I might not agree with all of that, but I can see that line of argument. Lacking textual meaning, though? No.

See, I think pretty much all of that is there. In fact, I would even argue that the white-washing argument is a little overblown, but they are privileged as fuck.

It's that part that bothers me. Why do I care about these people achieving their dreams? Who are they, anyway? Ryan Gosling gets a really good job playing music that isn't even that bad, and then he turns into a grumpy asshole who can afford to feed himself while still playing music--also, when their argument gets too heated, their food in the oven burns, because subtle filmmaking. I liked it better when his mini-keytar made him look impotent because he wasn't having a good time playing for an 80's cover band--who, again, are not that bad. Sebastian is an undisciplined schmuck who can't spend a couple hours just playing Christmas songs, but who has enough income to waste on antique stools that held the asses of dead people he happens to like.

Same with Mia. She's a nice enough woman with talent, but then does the super irritating thing of constantly asking her manager if she can leave work early. Um, no? You have a job in a city of millions of people, and it wouldn't have been that hard to call in, or trade your shift. But if that doesn't work out, you have an education, and you can live with your parents for a while. Oh no! You might have to live a pretty good, comfortable life--which is sort of what happens anyway. Mia even has a big old poster of Casablanca on her bedroom wall--also, how does she work in a coffee shop, and live in that nice of an apartment, even with roommates?--which is so broad. Obviously, we worship the greats for a reason, but Mia can't do better than one of the most revered films in all history? Again, I do think this is on purpose, because Chazelle could clearly reference something more meaningful, but chooses something as big as he does.

Also, why do we never see these characters hungry? Money is barely an issue, except when it suddenly is. They care about their aspirations, but to what degree? They don't have any actual problems or conflict, other than their lives just aren't going their way right when they want them to. So, emotionally, I'm not invested in the story, even though I can appreciate the spectacle--because this is directed like it's no one's business.

I like your point about duality, because I think the film is aware of it, but it's also aware that nothing really changes. Yeah, it's sunny in winter, which is a sharp contrast with normal seasonal changes, but in L.A., it's always bright and sunny like that. I even like that number in their apartment, where they have this entire dance number that travels throughout their home, and they even use their lamps and so forth to make themselves look even more glamorous. That goes all the way to the end, where Sebastian never actually does anything to make jazz special, despite his claims that he loves and understands it so much, and where Mia ends up with a nice enough business type like her boyfriend from the beginning of the film. Which actually makes that ending set piece so strange to me, because what does it mean? The most popular theory is that it's a "what if?" scenario, but I don't think that's the case. I think it's that they see each other, and re-remember how great their relationship was, even though all the moments that are shown are all the low points of their knowing each other. What is the film saying if it's a "what-if"? What is it saying if it's a reinterpretation of events?

Again, with La La Land, there are clearly ideas and motifs littered throughout the picture, but how many of them actually mean anything? To refer back to the American Beauty episode--there are truths, but where's the insight? Why am I supposed to feel for these overgrown children? What does their story mean? What are they actually giving up? Yeah, sometimes you have to compromise. So what? Their relationship is based off of supporting each other, because the only real thing they have in common is that they're ambitious as artists. They're not even in the same medium.

#51 sycasey 2.0

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Posted 26 April 2017 - 01:51 PM

View PostHoldenMartinson, on 26 April 2017 - 01:24 PM, said:

See, I think pretty much all of that is there. In fact, I would even argue that the white-washing argument is a little overblown, but they are privileged as fuck.

It's that part that bothers me. Why do I care about these people achieving their dreams? Who are they, anyway? Ryan Gosling gets a really good job playing music that isn't even that bad, and then he turns into a grumpy asshole who can afford to feed himself while still playing music--also, when their argument gets too heated, their food in the oven burns, because subtle filmmaking. I liked it better when his mini-keytar made him look impotent because he wasn't having a good time playing for an 80's cover band--who, again, are not that bad. Sebastian is an undisciplined schmuck who can't spend a couple hours just playing Christmas songs, but who has enough income to waste on antique stools that held the asses of dead people he happens to like.

Same with Mia. She's a nice enough woman with talent, but then does the super irritating thing of constantly asking her manager if she can leave work early. Um, no? You have a job in a city of millions of people, and it wouldn't have been that hard to call in, or trade your shift. But if that doesn't work out, you have an education, and you can live with your parents for a while. Oh no! You might have to live a pretty good, comfortable life--which is sort of what happens anyway. Mia even has a big old poster of Casablanca on her bedroom wall--also, how does she work in a coffee shop, and live in that nice of an apartment, even with roommates?--which is so broad. Obviously, we worship the greats for a reason, but Mia can't do better than one of the most revered films in all history? Again, I do think this is on purpose, because Chazelle could clearly reference something more meaningful, but chooses something as big as he does.

Also, why do we never see these characters hungry? Money is barely an issue, except when it suddenly is. They care about their aspirations, but to what degree? They don't have any actual problems or conflict, other than their lives just aren't going their way right when they want them to. So, emotionally, I'm not invested in the story, even though I can appreciate the spectacle--because this is directed like it's no one's business.

I like your point about duality, because I think the film is aware of it, but it's also aware that nothing really changes. Yeah, it's sunny in winter, which is a sharp contrast with normal seasonal changes, but in L.A., it's always bright and sunny like that. I even like that number in their apartment, where they have this entire dance number that travels throughout their home, and they even use their lamps and so forth to make themselves look even more glamorous. That goes all the way to the end, where Sebastian never actually does anything to make jazz special, despite his claims that he loves and understands it so much, and where Mia ends up with a nice enough business type like her boyfriend from the beginning of the film. Which actually makes that ending set piece so strange to me, because what does it mean? The most popular theory is that it's a "what if?" scenario, but I don't think that's the case. I think it's that they see each other, and re-remember how great their relationship was, even though all the moments that are shown are all the low points of their knowing each other. What is the film saying if it's a "what-if"? What is it saying if it's a reinterpretation of events?

Again, with La La Land, there are clearly ideas and motifs littered throughout the picture, but how many of them actually mean anything? To refer back to the American Beauty episode--there are truths, but where's the insight? Why am I supposed to feel for these overgrown children? What does their story mean? What are they actually giving up? Yeah, sometimes you have to compromise. So what? Their relationship is based off of supporting each other, because the only real thing they have in common is that they're ambitious as artists. They're not even in the same medium.


This is a much better criticism of La La Land than anything offered up by Armond White, so I thank you for that. I also think much of is fair: the script is a little undercooked in terms of giving us concrete reasons to fully invest in the lead characters. Or rather, it's probably assuming empathy from people who are naturally inclined to empathize with ambitious artistic types (guilty as charged, here).

I did say that I could see an argument against the film along these lines, so yes . . . fair enough. I don't object to this line of criticism, only a blanket statement that there is nothing there textually. There are clearly ideas they are attempting to get across, not just a string of references to other works.

For me a lot of these problems are pretty well papered over by the strength of the visual presentation and the actors' performances. The writing is a little weak here, but in terms of how the romance and "meet cute" are presented visually? Holy cow, yes. That is something I'd be sad to lose. I also think what makes it "work" is that the film ultimately does not try to tell us that this was a great love for the ages, rather that it was one of those "stepping stone" relationships on the way to another phase of life.

#52 HoldenMartinson

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Posted 26 April 2017 - 03:56 PM

View Postsycasey 2.0, on 26 April 2017 - 01:51 PM, said:


This is a much better criticism of La La Land than anything offered up by Armond White, so I thank you for that. I also think much of is fair: the script is a little undercooked in terms of giving us concrete reasons to fully invest in the lead characters. Or rather, it's probably assuming empathy from people who are naturally inclined to empathize with ambitious artistic types (guilty as charged, here).

I did say that I could see an argument against the film along these lines, so yes . . . fair enough. I don't object to this line of criticism, only a blanket statement that there is nothing there textually. There are clearly ideas they are attempting to get across, not just a string of references to other works.

For me a lot of these problems are pretty well papered over by the strength of the visual presentation and the actors' performances. The writing is a little weak here, but in terms of how the romance and "meet cute" are presented visually? Holy cow, yes. That is something I'd be sad to lose. I also think what makes it "work" is that the film ultimately does not try to tell us that this was a great love for the ages, rather that it was one of those "stepping stone" relationships on the way to another phase of life.

You know what? I think I can concede to a lot of this. La La Land isn't just visually strong because of the lavish pieces and references. Most of the themes that Chazelle can't write, he articulates with tiny cues here and there, and even gentler sequences.

Here's my favorite stretch of the film: Mia and Sebastian semi-agree to seeing Rebel Without a Cause. Mia goes on a date with her perfectly nice, but unrelatable boyfriend. This is intercut with Sebastian fidgeting in his seat, waiting for her. Mia, unable to relate to a world that is just pleasantries and noise, gets up and leaves. She chases what she wants, and we know exactly why. Sebastian can relate to her in a way this other guy can't. What Mia does is selfish and impulsive, which works. She gets to the theater, and stands in front of the screen--begging us to hate her, by the way--and makes this big gesture for the one guy she likes, and who motivates her. The two are about to kiss, because they're aware that they're living in a movie. And then the projector breaks, which interrupts their kiss. Rather than just consummating their attraction, they know they can do better. They can have their own Rebel moment. They go to the planetarium from the movie, and then La La Land makes its own movie moment. Mia and Sebastian slow dance in silhouette among the stars. Maybe there's no light coming from them yet, but they still eclipse millions and millions of distant, celestial bodies. This sequence is almost entirely dialogue-free. We see the proverbial and literal dance of courtship. It's frustrating and strange, but it's also magical. These people belong with each other, if only in this moment. And even if they are kind of awful, I'm glad they're with each other, rather than trying to pollute other good people.

Anyway, even though there's a lot that bothers me about La La Land, I do admire the hell out of it.

#53 Susan*

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Posted 26 April 2017 - 04:46 PM

I'm a middle aged feminist. What makes it man-splaining? Don't pop culture critics always offer their opinions as if they are facts? Don't they always act like they know it all? There wasn't a lot of give and take in the discussion, but I assumed it was a product of him not having listened to the podcast and not understanding the format -- like he thought he was being interviewed rather than having a discussion. But even so, I though it was interesting and I agreed with a lot of what he said about one of my all time favorite bands. Plus David Byrne has always been sexy.

I think the passion around La La Land is amusing. Thankfully I don't care much. I HATED Forrest Gump with a Fiery Passion when it was released and it was soooo painful to see it win Oscars. It's a terrible movie and for a long time I couldn't find people who agreed with me. So it's amusing to see the passion coming from other people about their pet issue.

Having said that, as someone who grew up loving Fred Astaire for some peculiar reason (perhaps his movies were frequently on late night TV?), I appreciated the comment that Fred (like Michael Jackson and Prince) worked really really hard to make it look effortless. Let's face it, there are many problems with La La Land, but the most obvious one is the songs aren't memorable. (it's also why the musical Rent is awful)

#54 sycasey 2.0

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Posted 26 April 2017 - 07:54 PM

View PostHoldenMartinson, on 26 April 2017 - 03:56 PM, said:

You know what? I think I can concede to a lot of this. La La Land isn't just visually strong because of the lavish pieces and references. Most of the themes that Chazelle can't write, he articulates with tiny cues here and there, and even gentler sequences.

Here's my favorite stretch of the film: Mia and Sebastian semi-agree to seeing Rebel Without a Cause. Mia goes on a date with her perfectly nice, but unrelatable boyfriend. This is intercut with Sebastian fidgeting in his seat, waiting for her. Mia, unable to relate to a world that is just pleasantries and noise, gets up and leaves. She chases what she wants, and we know exactly why. Sebastian can relate to her in a way this other guy can't. What Mia does is selfish and impulsive, which works. She gets to the theater, and stands in front of the screen--begging us to hate her, by the way--and makes this big gesture for the one guy she likes, and who motivates her. The two are about to kiss, because they're aware that they're living in a movie. And then the projector breaks, which interrupts their kiss. Rather than just consummating their attraction, they know they can do better. They can have their own Rebel moment. They go to the planetarium from the movie, and then La La Land makes its own movie moment. Mia and Sebastian slow dance in silhouette among the stars. Maybe there's no light coming from them yet, but they still eclipse millions and millions of distant, celestial bodies. This sequence is almost entirely dialogue-free. We see the proverbial and literal dance of courtship. It's frustrating and strange, but it's also magical. These people belong with each other, if only in this moment. And even if they are kind of awful, I'm glad they're with each other, rather than trying to pollute other good people.

Anyway, even though there's a lot that bothers me about La La Land, I do admire the hell out of it.


Yes, bingo. Chazelle's visual presentation isn't just surface-level "pretty" (though it is also that), it's also purposeful and tells a story all on its own.

Armond White also slagged Tarantino in this podcast, but I think he's the same way. If you look beyond the surface flash and the references, you find a very precise visual storyteller.

#55 HoldenMartinson

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Posted 26 April 2017 - 08:17 PM

View Postsycasey 2.0, on 26 April 2017 - 07:54 PM, said:


Yes, bingo. Chazelle's visual presentation isn't just surface-level "pretty" (though it is also that), it's also purposeful and tells a story all on its own.

Armond White also slagged Tarantino in this podcast, but I think he's the same way. If you look beyond the surface flash and the references, you find a very precise visual storyteller.

Exactly. It'd be really cool to see him direct someone else's writing. Give him a talented scribe, Chazelle will elevate the material to great heights.

Yeah. I didn't quite agree with his assessment of Tarantino. Literally everything White described as missing from Pulp Fiction is exactly what Pulp Fiction is about.

#56 sycasey 2.0

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Posted 26 April 2017 - 08:27 PM

View PostSusan*, on 26 April 2017 - 04:46 PM, said:

I'm a middle aged feminist. What makes it man-splaining?


Mansplaining, as I understand it, refers to the phenomenon of men pontificating at length about subjects to women who almost certainly know more about it than they do. It's meant to call attention to the assumed superiority of male competence over female. In that sense it's a useful term.

It's also a neologism whose power has lately become diluted by overuse. This column, I think, gets at the problem:
https://www.theguard...ndered-language

Personally, I don't think Armond qualifies as a "mansplainer" here. First of all, he was invited by Amy to the podcast, so I'm going to assume she thinks he is qualified to speak on the subject. Secondly, I don't get the sense that he is "railroading" Amy out of giving her own impressions on the films.

People also used to accuse Devin of mansplaining, and most of the time I also didn't think that was a good description for his behavior. Just being kind of an asshole is not the same thing as mansplaining.

#57 sycasey 2.0

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Posted 26 April 2017 - 08:31 PM

View PostHoldenMartinson, on 26 April 2017 - 08:17 PM, said:

Yeah. I didn't quite agree with his assessment of Tarantino. Literally everything White described as missing from Pulp Fiction is exactly what Pulp Fiction is about.


Ugh, seriously. What did he say? That Tarantino doesn't get that crime movies are supposed to be about moral choices and questions? That's literally the whole point of Pulp Fiction.

#58 Ryan L

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Posted 26 April 2017 - 09:21 PM

I'll add something regarding La La Land: just because somebody is a protagonist does not mean the audience should see them sympathetically or they're "right" about everything. The prime example in the film is, obviously, Sebastian. He's on a crusade to prove to everybody that traditional jazz is right and perfect just the way it is. But, as John Legend's Keith points out, jazz is about innovation and creativity. He basically tells Sebastian after the band practice that being stuck in the past and not evolving is exactly what's killing jazz. It's a conversation that happens to Sebastian earlier when he mentions the name of his proposed club to Mia - Chicken on a Stick - to which she suggests a different name. Sebastian is so set in his monotonous tunnel-vision life expertly shown off in our first moments with him: when he is in his 40-year-old car dressed in a 60-year-old fashion style continually rewinding and replaying over and over the same passage on the 20-year-old technology cassette tape. He simply will not allow for any change from his plan and simply won't consider any other ways out - which directly contrasts how he explains (or man-splains, to some) the beautiful freeform of jazz and why he loves it.

Guess what happens when Sebastian eases up on these things and lets the other side win? Well, Keith's band is a massive hit and their music isn't bad at all. He has huge success with them and gets a fat pay check which is not only enough to support himself and Mia while she pursues her play but also enough for him to open Seb's (again, him caving in to others' ideas) at the end of the film.

Sebastian is almost never right in this movie initially. He's condescending, stubborn, and hypocritical. The film so happens to follow his POV, but it doesn't tell us he's right in being the white savior of jazz. I mean, again, there's literally a scene in the film where Keith points out that Sebastian is wrong. Anybody who thinks the film is glorifying Sebastian wasn't really paying attention.

Also, I fully enjoy that this is a romantic movie where the two protagonists don't end up together at the end. To paraphrase another poster's analysis, it's another one of those stars that they're reaching for but just can't grasp. I'm not saying this film is perfect (the script could've used improvement, whereas the photography and direction are superb), but I really don't understand the fiery hatred of the movie. It feels more out of a place of contrarianism to a successful film rather than real critique.

#59 Ryan L

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Posted 26 April 2017 - 10:05 PM

Okay, that all being said, now for a comment on the topic of this episode!

I've loved Stop Making Sense for so long and have been waiting on passionately for it to be discussed on the podcast. I have never seen Sign O' the Times before and I can't find it fully and legally to watch; I can see some of its component songs as videos, though. I really enjoy the filmmaking and style of the latter, but I honestly wasn't even aware of it until I saw it pop up in the title of this episode - and I consider myself a Prince fan. Maybe not a diehard, but certainly a fan. It's beautifully shot and I find it to be a superb concert film above near every other I've seen, but one of the things I found jarring was the use of dubs on Prince's vocals. It was distracting to say the least, especially when his mouth isn't near the mic and vocals come out. It feels like nitpicking, but if we're picking between these two which is the superior concert film, the sound's matching of the video is probably one of the more important aspects.

To talk about Stop Making Sense a little bit as I decided to rewatch it again again while writing this post, I've always loved how the film shows the stage slowly being constructed around the band after the concert has already started and that even when the full core band is on stage of Byrne, Weymouth, Harrison, and Frantz that the stage is still being set up around them. There black curtain behind the band still hasn't even been closed yet so you still see the brick wall and ladders. There's even a point when one of the stagehands crosses between the band and the camera obstructing our view of the band momentarily. It's only after that 4th song - when the back-up singers and the additional percussionist join the stage, the non-permanent members of the band - that the curtain is finally pulled. Everything prior to this was just setting up the scene, setting up the full experience that this film really is about. The backdrop and lighting for the songs is minimalist - pre-curtain it's all general lighting, then the first few songs with the curtain are simple general lighting, then we get monotone non-moving lights for songs, The lighting then goes to an extreme of backlighting to allow for "This Must Be the Place" to feature the lamp's illumination, an illumination that brings us the projector imagery in this song. The near-darkness makes for some beautiful scenes during "Once in a Lifetime," for the fun strobe effect in "Genius of Love, for great playing with shadows in "Girlfriend Is Better." Prince's film is in sharp contrast with it's showy usage of lights and background. Allowing for stagehands to distract you from the band and even upstage the band by crossing in front of them on camera goes hand-in-hand with the band's drab wardrobe (all except drummer Frantz wear fairly grey-toned washed-out clothes that don't really grab your attention) and the decision to almost never show the audience until the very end all showcase the point of the film: it's about the music more than anything else and you as the film's viewer to judge the performance based on what you see and not how you see others react to it.

Sorry Prince, but this has to be Stop Making Sense.

Another note: I think it's interesting that we're potentially inaugurating Jonathan Demme into the Canon not due to one of his Oscar-nominated or -winning films like The Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia, or Rachel Getting Married but for the first of his concert films.

#60 klmonline

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Posted 26 April 2017 - 10:14 PM

View PostRyan L, on 26 April 2017 - 09:21 PM, said:

...but I really don't understand the fiery hatred of the movie. It feels more out of a place of contrarianism to a successful film rather than real critique.


My fiery hatred of La La Land has nothing to do with the plot or characters. This is a musical with instantly forgettable songs, croaked by terrible non-singers, performing insipid choreography poorly.