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CameronH

Musical Mondays Week 40 La La Land

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So...her Aunt inspired a love of classic movies but she’s never seen Rebel Without a Cause?

 

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So...her Aunt inspired a love of classic movies but she’s never seen Rebel Without a Cause?

 

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Oh man, I have so many thoughts about this film. Probably more than any other movie that I think is "rather very good," but not a landmark film or something magnificent (and certainly not reprehensible or anything like that). So do I have entire paragraphs on the opening five minutes of La La Land, YOU BET I DO!

 

I know there was a lot of debate during production about the opening song, whether to include it in La La Land, or whether to even film it. Looking at the movie now, I see the strengths of the sequence, but if someone were to ask me before the movie's release if the number should be included in the film, if I saw it in a vacuum before La La Land became what it became, I think I would have voted to cut it. I get the whole theme of turning Los Angeles into "La La Land," a place where you can manifest your dreams into reality, but the perspective of the rest of the movie is very specific to our central characters, so expanding that the this traffic jam, to all of LA, seems thematically muddled. For example, the very next sequence is Mia going from being treated like grist for the mill as a barista, looked down upon by everyone from customers to her boss, just so she can afford to go audition and be treated like garbage there so then she can pretend to be someone she isn't at a party where she is treated like a non-person by other piles of human garbage. This is all broken up by a wonderful number between her and her roommates, who all have this dream of making it big in Los Angeles, so the song is playing on the same themes as the opening sequence, but it's more focused and relatable since it's with characters we know and like (or at least one character we know and like). The opening sequence is so big and so bright and shiny that it almost detracts from the impact of this number, which tells the audience what to expect from the film more effectively. It's a better "statement of purpose" song (like "Belle" from Beauty and the Beast).

Plus, long, laborious, stressful commutes are one of the few subjective, provable ways that can detract from a person's happiness and overall mental well-being. To show this scrum of humanity, in the "City of Dreams" that inevitably turns those dreams into oily sludge to grease its wheels, in a massive happiness-sucking ouroboros, as a trigger for a song and dance number when the very next dance number does the same job telling a story, only better, just seems disingenuous.

 

On the other hand, it's a fucking great piece of pure cinema. So I don't fucking know. Plus, I don't know if it makes the ending fantasy/Singin' in the Rain homage sequence weaker or stronger. Does the opening lay the groundwork for the audience accepting the pure fantasy of the ending fantasia, or does opening with a sequence of pure fantasy take away the power and surprise of the magical reverie that is the end? I. Don't. Know.

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So as I said I have so many conflicted feelings about this movie that while rewatching it still stressed me out. Time to combine two unpopular opinions, I think of La La Land a lot like I do a Christopher Nolan movie. Visually fantastic. A masterpiece of direction and execution. And all of that is kinda ruined by the characters talking and having a story that you can't really think about.

 

I think a lot of this comes from the fact that I love love love Whiplash so much. Whiplash is a damn near perfect movie. It may not have been flashy visually but its strengths are the lead characters, the writing, and how invested I was in them and how fully realized they were. However, in La La Land I find the characters so lacking and uncompelling. Mia and Seb are both so stubborn and single focused on their careers that it amazes me they even felt anything for each to begin with. It is two people who choose career paths that are extremely difficult to succeed in and hate doing the grunt work to get there. I hate auditioning and being rejected, then don't be an actress. I hate playing popular music, then have fun being artsy at small venues. The seemingly don't understand the industry in which they want to work. I should point out that I get there is an element of fantasy or fairy tale to the story. This isn't suppose to be 100% realistic and there are greater themes about art and truth. That's fine, and I realize that but a lot of the same themes are in Whiplash as well which also has a main character who fails at love and chooses his music and future in it over it. I won't spoil the ending in case somebody hasn't seen it, but the ending while not the happiest feels right.

 

That's where La La Land loses me mostly. I mean the ending of this perfect life they could have had together is very effective and beautiful but my heart is only really half into it because I didn't buy there romance fully to begin with. Seb when explaining his love of jazz to Mia he says it is great because it is about conflict and compromise, yet these are characters that are seemingly unhappy to compromise. They fall apart as quickly as they get together which makes me question how "in love" they were really. In the end these two people get exactly what they want but just not with each other which should come to no surprise as they spent a lot of their relationship trying to help each other's careers more so than putting time into making the love and romance work. Rather than try and make it work they decide to focus and give it all to their craft. Their relationship, for better or worse, put both of them exactly where they wanted to be yet it is suppose to be tragic that they didn't have this great love. This of course echoes the end of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg but that was more tragic because from the get go you had two people in love that the universe cruelly kept apart. They went on to have good lives, but you wonder what could have been. In La La Land, you have two people that have a couple month fling and get to where they always wanted to be. Yes they aren't with each other, but because I never bought that it was true love between them to begin with, there is a slight "so" to it all.

 

However, as much as I complain here I enjoy 80% of the movie and it delights me to no end. It is absolutely stunning to look at and its whole look and style engrosses you completely and washes over you. I would highly recommend it to anyone. Yet in those moments when the visual flair dies down and we are left with just the two characters I start to realize that I don't really care about as much as the movie hopes I do or thinks I should. Which leaves me conflicted when the movie is over and the spectacle gone.

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Self-congratulatory post coming up:

 

I wasn't sure I had made the right choice in picking this film, because I figured everyone had seen it and everyone was pretty much okay with it it, and it's always nice to see something new (and/or easy to tear down). Then I watched it again and was so pleased with myself, because like we've said, there's SO much to love and SO much to question. So, I'm feeling very happy about my pick, even more so after the two excellent posts immediately above me that says we'll have plenty to talk about this week. I'm running out now so I'll dip back in later, but I just wanted to express my admiration for the debate so far.

 

Also, in that out-take poster that Cam posted (I love how you always use the less common version), Seb and Mia don't kiss in that scene - THAT IS THE WHOLE POINT OF THAT SCENE... "What a waste of a lovely night..." In fact, it shows Seb in his coat ("it's wool") that he has taken off by the time they dance, and Mia in her heels that she takes off before their big soft-shoe. Shenanigans!

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However, in La La Land I find the characters so lacking and uncompelling. Mia and Seb are both so stubborn and single focused on their careers that it amazes me they even felt anything for each to begin with. It is two people who choose career paths that are extremely difficult to succeed in and hate doing the grunt work to get there. I hate auditioning and being rejected, then don't be an actress. I hate playing popular music, then have fun being artsy at small venues. The seemingly don't understand the industry in which they want to work.

 

This is my main problem with this movie. Seb, moments before meeting Mia and apparently falling hard, tells his sister he's not interested in a relationship - he's too focused on building his club. Mia does nothing to encourage his pursuit initially, she just mocks him for a momentary interaction where he's rude to her. Besides some chemistry, I don't understand why he suddenly is all in on her. On top of that, he drives me insane. He wants her to live his lifestyle of doing whatever you want, never compromising your ideals, live by your art but until he finds her for her audition, he does nothing to really help or learn about what she's doing. Unless I'm missing something completely, she's not like doing plays or performing anywhere - she's just doing auditions until he tells her to stop doing that and write her own thing. But he tells her this not knowing if she has any talents in writing! I was really happy that they did not end up together.

 

I have a very specific pet peeve that this movie dials into which is probably why I didn't enjoy it too much. People that say 'don't worry, it'll all work out' about their (or whomever they're talking to) dreams, and then trip into succeeding. I have friends like this - they just do whatever they want and it always works out the way they want it to. It drives me insane. Seb is like that. He's difficult and stubborn but talented and good looking, so he lands on his feet pretty easily and expects that's how the world actually works. I did appreciate his sister and John Legend both telling him he's kind of an asshole.

 

Ryan and Emma have some great chemistry that feels very lived in. I love watching the two of them just hanging out. And I love the visuals of this movie - all those colors! But as a whole, I wasn't super into this one.

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Oh yes: can I also mention right off the top how much I fucking love the title of this movie? It works on so many levels: the nickname for LA, the song and dance aspect (literally singing 'la la'), and the themes of delusion and denial, of a town where everyone's off in 'la la land' pursuing this unlikely dream.

 

Which brings me to the question: why is the coffee shop manager so unsympathetic to a barista that has an audition? YOU ARE IN LA. ON THE WARNER BROS. LOT. SURELY THIS IS NOT THE ONLY ASPIRING ACTOR YOU EMPLOY. I've been an actor asking for time off for auditions before, but it's nearly always been in towns with a far less established theatre industry, so you're generally convincing someone who has never heard of theatre that what you're doing is a real thing. Or, you work in a place where the flexibility is part of the point (like a coffee shop) or a place connected to the industry (like a box office or as an usher, or, I don't know, on a major studio lot), to maximise sympathy... What's the manager's story? Is she an embittered failed actor? I liked that she wasn't the manager in the flash-forward when Mia is a big star, because that would have complicated that moment. So where is she? (Answer: she's nowhere, she's a fictional character played by an actress who was on set for three hours, dummy)

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Oh yes: can I also mention right off the top how much I fucking love the title of this movie? It works on so many levels: the nickname for LA, the song and dance aspect (literally singing 'la la'), and the themes of delusion and denial, of a town where everyone's off in 'la la land' pursuing this unlikely dream.

 

Which brings me to the question: why is the coffee shop manager so unsympathetic to a barista that has an audition? YOU ARE IN LA. ON THE WARNER BROS. LOT. SURELY THIS IS NOT THE ONLY ASPIRING ACTOR YOU EMPLOY. I've been an actor asking for time off for auditions before, but it's nearly always been in towns with a far less established theatre industry, so you're generally convincing someone who has never heard of theatre that what you're doing is a real thing. Or, you work in a place where the flexibility is part of the point (like a coffee shop) or a place connected to the industry (like a box office or as an usher, or, I don't know, on a major studio lot), to maximise sympathy... What's the manager's story? Is she an embittered failed actor? I liked that she wasn't the manager in the flash-forward when Mia is a big star, because that would have complicated that moment. So where is she? (Answer: she's nowhere, she's a fictional character played by an actress who was on set for three hours, dummy)

I'm 100% thinking embittered actress. Like she started working at the place just like Mia, but everybody else that worked there were nailing their auditions and left and therefore she became the most experienced worker and forced into management. This is why she's so hard on Mia. She sees her long string of failed auditions and wants to keep her from going to more so she just gives up and soon will have enough experience to promote and with a promotion her own secret exit back to the world of acting!

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I know there was a lot of debate during production about the opening song, whether to include it in La La Land, or whether to even film it. Looking at the movie now, I see the strengths of the sequence, but if someone were to ask me before the movie's release if the number should be included in the film, if I saw it in a vacuum before La La Land became what it became, I think I would have voted to cut it. I get the whole theme of turning Los Angeles into "La La Land," a place where you can manifest your dreams into reality, but the perspective of the rest of the movie is very specific to our central characters, so expanding that the this traffic jam, to all of LA, seems thematically muddled. For example, the very next sequence is Mia going from being treated like grist for the mill as a barista, looked down upon by everyone from customers to her boss, just so she can afford to go audition and be treated like garbage there so then she can pretend to be someone she isn't at a party where she is treated like a non-person by other piles of human garbage. This is all broken up by a wonderful number between her and her roommates, who all have this dream of making it big in Los Angeles, so the song is playing on the same themes as the opening sequence, but it's more focused and relatable since it's with characters we know and like (or at least one character we know and like). The opening sequence is so big and so bright and shiny that it almost detracts from the impact of this number, which tells the audience what to expect from the film more effectively. It's a better "statement of purpose" song (like "Belle" from Beauty and the Beast).

Plus, long, laborious, stressful commutes are one of the few subjective, provable ways that can detract from a person's happiness and overall mental well-being. To show this scrum of humanity, in the "City of Dreams" that inevitably turns those dreams into oily sludge to grease its wheels, in a massive happiness-sucking ouroboros, as a trigger for a song and dance number when the very next dance number does the same job telling a story, only better, just seems disingenuous.

I think it's a fantastic inclusion. For me, it works similar to an overture.The idea is to set the tone of the movie and drop you into the movie's world. The music is fun and light and joyous, but the lyrics always feel a bit sad to me. The whole idea of "Another Day of Sun" is that these people are getting beaten down again and again and again, but they have this "Tomorrow is another day" attitude. To be successful, they have to convince themselves that everything is going to work out in the end...even though it won't for most of them.

 

I think "Someone in the Crowd" does a great job of introducing us to Mia, but the whole song is really just about how she might run into someone that will make her career. It's important because a twist on this is what leads Mia to success, but it doesn't really have much to do with the larger theme of dredging on day after day in the face of constant rejection.

 

Beyond that, I think "Another Day of Sun" is by far the strongest sequence of the movie, so cutting it would be a huge mistake for that reason alone.

 

It is two people who choose career paths that are extremely difficult to succeed in and hate doing the grunt work to get there. I hate auditioning and being rejected, then don't be an actress. I hate playing popular music, then have fun being artsy at small venues. The seemingly don't understand the industry in which they want to work. I should point out that I get there is an element of fantasy or fairy tale to the story. This isn't suppose to be 100% realistic and there are greater themes about art and truth. That's fine, and I realize that but a lot of the same themes are in Whiplash as well which also has a main character who fails at love and chooses his music and future in it over it. I won't spoil the ending in case somebody hasn't seen it, but the ending while not the happiest feels right.

 

I don't think it's that Mia doesn't understand the industry. It's more that it's wearing her down. She's become more and more exhausted from auditioning for all of these parts while being blown off. Then she finally meets someone who inspires her, and she decides she's going to try to make her own thing that will create her success...and she fails miserably (except she really doesn't, but that's not really the point). I get the feeling that we're running into Mia quite some time into her attempt to become an actress, and she's already close to giving up and moving back to Boulder City. It's not like this is her going into her first audition and being upset she didn't get the part; it's someone who has been worn down to her breaking point.

 

Seb, on the other hand....well, I have a lot to say about him because he kind of sucks. But I'll post more on that later because this is already running long, and I have to get to work.

 

But I will close with this fun bit of trivia: Callie Hernandez plays the roommate in the red dress in "Someone in the Crowd" (she was also in Alien: Covenant and The Endless last year and will be in this year's Under the Silver Lake if it ever gets fucking released). Anyway, she's from Austin, and she was a manager at this boutique my friend used to work at. Apparently, she was a hard boss and made my friend cry.

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I know there was a lot of debate during production about the opening song, whether to include it in La La Land, or whether to even film it. Looking at the movie now, I see the strengths of the sequence, but if someone were to ask me before the movie's release if the number should be included in the film, if I saw it in a vacuum before La La Land became what it became, I think I would have voted to cut it.

 

I vote keep it! It works for me 100%. It reminds you that there are countless people who go to LA to "make it" in the business. I bet you could've told a story about each person. Who is yellow dress? Who is the second yellow dress? The tie guy? The Rosie the riveter? It also tickled me that something dreary and rage-inducing thing like a traffic jam on the freeway is turned into a musical number that's so unashamedly exuberant and joyful that when I saw it in the theater, it made me tear up.

 

Also, in that out-take poster that Cam posted (I love how you always use the less common version), Seb and Mia don't kiss in that scene - THAT IS THE WHOLE POINT OF THAT SCENE... "What a waste of a lovely night..." In fact, it shows Seb in his coat ("it's wool") that he has taken off by the time they dance, and Mia in her heels that she takes off before their big soft-shoe. Shenanigans!

 

Mia was wearing a completely different dress too. However, if I may get into the nitpicky section of the post, the real movie poster annoys me every time I have to see how Seb's left wrist is bent down and ruins the extension of his arm. You'd never ever see Fred Astaire doing that. And yes, I get that having 2 leads who are regular people singing and dancing in a musical is part of the charm of the movie, but it only makes me wonder what the movie would've been like had the 2 leads been cast with people who could make it seem effortless.

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giphy.gif

 

Oh man, I have so many thoughts about this film. Probably more than any other movie that I think is "rather very good," but not a landmark film or something magnificent (and certainly not reprehensible or anything like that). So do I have entire paragraphs on the opening five minutes of La La Land, YOU BET I DO!

 

I know there was a lot of debate during production about the opening song, whether to include it in La La Land, or whether to even film it. Looking at the movie now, I see the strengths of the sequence, but if someone were to ask me before the movie's release if the number should be included in the film, if I saw it in a vacuum before La La Land became what it became, I think I would have voted to cut it. I get the whole theme of turning Los Angeles into "La La Land," a place where you can manifest your dreams into reality, but the perspective of the rest of the movie is very specific to our central characters, so expanding that the this traffic jam, to all of LA, seems thematically muddled. For example, the very next sequence is Mia going from being treated like grist for the mill as a barista, looked down upon by everyone from customers to her boss, just so she can afford to go audition and be treated like garbage there so then she can pretend to be someone she isn't at a party where she is treated like a non-person by other piles of human garbage. This is all broken up by a wonderful number between her and her roommates, who all have this dream of making it big in Los Angeles, so the song is playing on the same themes as the opening sequence, but it's more focused and relatable since it's with characters we know and like (or at least one character we know and like). The opening sequence is so big and so bright and shiny that it almost detracts from the impact of this number, which tells the audience what to expect from the film more effectively. It's a better "statement of purpose" song (like "Belle" from Beauty and the Beast).

Plus, long, laborious, stressful commutes are one of the few subjective, provable ways that can detract from a person's happiness and overall mental well-being. To show this scrum of humanity, in the "City of Dreams" that inevitably turns those dreams into oily sludge to grease its wheels, in a massive happiness-sucking ouroboros, as a trigger for a song and dance number when the very next dance number does the same job telling a story, only better, just seems disingenuous.

 

On the other hand, it's a fucking great piece of pure cinema. So I don't fucking know. Plus, I don't know if it makes the ending fantasy/Singin' in the Rain homage sequence weaker or stronger. Does the opening lay the groundwork for the audience accepting the pure fantasy of the ending fantasia, or does opening with a sequence of pure fantasy take away the power and surprise of the magical reverie that is the end? I. Don't. Know.

Oh man, so much this. I do not like the opening song. It's super well made on a technical level. The song itself is fine I guess. It ruined the entire movie for me though.

 

I went into this movie so hyped. I worked at a movie theatre that didn't get this opening day. So, I drove to the opposite side of town and paid money to see the first show. In less than 3 minutes, I was over the whole thing. I knew they would all get back into their cars, right back to the traffic jam. So, I felt like I just knew how the whole movie would be. Here's the fantasy now back to reality for the whole movie. Someone In The Crowd does this to a lesser extent but I just knew her car would be towed 2-3 minutes before it shows that sign. And as someone who haaaaaaaates looking for parking big cities, I should have been super on board for this joke.

 

I wanted this movie to pierce through my jaded, I've seen every movie exterior. I needed it from this particular movie and it didn't. I knew it 2 minutes in and the movie reaffirmed it for me, I don't know, 10 minutes later with another joke about cars in LA. I was very let down. The rest of my entire first viewing was me sitting glumly, disappointed except for when I realized Emma Stone's coffee shop was the set for Luke's from Gilmore Girls and I'm pretty sure they walk by Miss Patty's! Then combine all this with how much everyone who eventually saw it asked me about it, wouldn't shut up about it and how I predicted it would win Best Picture back in, I don't know, September because god the Academy loves movies about movies. I was not happy about La La Land.

 

So, I wasn't super excited about rewatching this but I really hoped maybe it was just a weird case of not getting it on the first watch. Maybe I just expected too much. Maybe it was the lousy seat I got in the theatre. Maybe a million things. And the rewatch started with me feeling the exact same way but the movie changes after those two scenes a lot. It grew on me because everything after the first 20 minutes feels like a very different movie.

 

I think having two big production numbers up top sets the wrong tone for this movie. La La Land is a musical, but it's not that kind of musical until the end where, I feel, it earned its big production number by then. I get why people love the opening song. It's a fantastically made dance number and a pretty good song. I absolutely want it cut from the movie.

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Which brings me to the question: why is the coffee shop manager so unsympathetic to a barista that has an audition? YOU ARE IN LA. ON THE WARNER BROS. LOT. SURELY THIS IS NOT THE ONLY ASPIRING ACTOR YOU EMPLOY. I've been an actor asking for time off for auditions before, but it's nearly always been in towns with a far less established theatre industry, so you're generally convincing someone who has never heard of theatre that what you're doing is a real thing. Or, you work in a place where the flexibility is part of the point (like a coffee shop) or a place connected to the industry (like a box office or as an usher, or, I don't know, on a major studio lot), to maximise sympathy... What's the manager's story? Is she an embittered failed actor? I liked that she wasn't the manager in the flash-forward when Mia is a big star, because that would have complicated that moment. So where is she? (Answer: she's nowhere, she's a fictional character played by an actress who was on set for three hours, dummy)

Right?! She tells Mia to reschedule her audition, and every time I'm just like, "YOU HAVE TO KNOW THAT'S NOT HOW IT FUCKING WORKS"

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Oh yes: can I also mention right off the top how much I fucking love the title of this movie? It works on so many levels: the nickname for LA, the song and dance aspect (literally singing 'la la'), and the themes of delusion and denial, of a town where everyone's off in 'la la land' pursuing this unlikely dream.

 

Which brings me to the question: why is the coffee shop manager so unsympathetic to a barista that has an audition? YOU ARE IN LA. ON THE WARNER BROS. LOT. SURELY THIS IS NOT THE ONLY ASPIRING ACTOR YOU EMPLOY. I've been an actor asking for time off for auditions before, but it's nearly always been in towns with a far less established theatre industry, so you're generally convincing someone who has never heard of theatre that what you're doing is a real thing. Or, you work in a place where the flexibility is part of the point (like a coffee shop) or a place connected to the industry (like a box office or as an usher, or, I don't know, on a major studio lot), to maximise sympathy... What's the manager's story? Is she an embittered failed actor? I liked that she wasn't the manager in the flash-forward when Mia is a big star, because that would have complicated that moment. So where is she? (Answer: she's nowhere, she's a fictional character played by an actress who was on set for three hours, dummy)

While I get that the manager should understand how this works, I managed a movie theatre for 15+ years. It's not a coffee shop, but I dealt with a ton of teens and twentysomethings who needed time off. I get you have a personal life, but my literal job is to run this place and I can't do this and give everyone every request off. Mia is asking for time off which could lead to more time off (if successful). As a former retail manager, I wouldn't say I side with her over Mia but my reaction is definitely think "Oh, so now she's stuck being short staffed the rest of her shift? Fuck that noise."

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While I get that the manager should understand how this works, I managed a movie theatre for 15+ years. It's not a coffee shop, but I dealt with a ton of teens and twentysomethings who needed time off. I get you have a personal life, but my literal job is to run this place and I can't do this and give everyone every request off. Mia is asking for time off which could lead to more time off (if successful). As a former retail manager, I wouldn't say I side with her over Mia but my reaction is definitely think "Oh, so now she's stuck being short staffed the rest of her shift? Fuck that noise."

I don't know. To me the scene reads like the manager is assigning her a shift that isn't on her schedule. She's just like, "Mia, you're working Friday." It's not Mia asking to have time off; it's her telling the manager that she can't take the shift that's being given to her because she already has something then.

 

(Also, god help me if a manager ever responded to my very reasonable reply with "Do I look like I care?")

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I vote to keep the opening number for similar reasons to tom and Fister. I think similarly to tom that is kinda of serves as the "there are countless stories and this is just one of them" type nature. I think it also works well to bookend the film with these variations of a theme. While the ending number is more emotional and melancholy it is another fantasy type number. The opening number is this fantasy of a bunch of people just happy to be out there "living the dream" and trying to make it, while the finale number is a dream about making it. Opening is full of hope as the future is bright and ahead of us, and the other more reflective of where that journey has taken us. In addition the closing number is "there are countless roads the story could have taken and this is just one of them" which is a slight variation on the opening "countless story" idea.

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I liked the opening number but was distracted by the lack of presence of Emma and Ryan. I kept waiting for them to pop up and kept scanning the crowd for them. Maybe if they were included somewhere, it would feel more cohesive.

 

I did like the number though. I'm a sucker for a good synchronized dance.

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I don't know. To me the scene reads like the manager is assigning her a shift that isn't on her schedule. She's just like, "Mia, you're working Friday." It's not Mia asking to have time off; it's her telling the manager that she can't take the shift that's being given to her because she already has something then.

 

(Also, god help me if a manager ever responded to my very reasonable reply with "Do I look like I care?")

I'm sure you're right because I don't remember the specifics of the scene. I thought the manager was just giving her the schedule for next week not telling her to fill in for someone else.

 

I think I just have flashbacks of doing the schedule for years and saying "Please do not tell me in person about your request because you are 1 of 75 people. I will not remember your request. Please use the payroll website. You can ask if I got your request. You can ask me for help in submitting it. Just please use the website because I will not remember it two weeks from now when I'm doing the schedule." And I prided myself on getting every request off for everyone except for twice over the years. So, I wasn't a real hardass about the schedule; I just empathize

 

If the movie really is just one of the countless stories of people in the city of dreams, I guess I'm choosing to hear the story of a beleaguered coffee shop manager on the WB backlot.

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Looks like we might need to take a poll on keeping the opening number or not. I also vote to keep it.

 

Here's the thing I suspect is true about Damien Chazelle: the title of his previous movie (Whiplash) is a big signpost for his artistic method. He wants you to feel that emotional whiplash. So we start with a big, cheery opening number that is actually about being stuck in traffic. All of the film's visual splendor is spent trying to get you excited about a romantic relationship that was never destined to work out. The whole movie tilts on these contradictions.

 

So for me most of the criticisms of La La Land are countered quite effectively by how the story turns out: Seb and Mia do NOT get together in the end. Their relationship actually WAS just a stepping-stone for each of them. So if you don't buy their romance or you think Seb "sucks" or whatever, the movie has actually answered that. It's just that even with those stepping-stone relationships, in the moment they feel like the most important thing in the world, and La La Land communicates that as well. People try to hang on to relationships that aren't working all the time.

 

Now, that said, while I like this movie a lot, it carries similar themes to something like The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, but doesn't quite have the same emotional maturity. Cherbourg's ending more perfectly lands exactly on the side of the coin: it plays both as melancholy remembrance of lost love and the comfort of knowing that both of our leads have done reasonably well. La La Land lands more heavily on the former (with the whole Gene Kelly-esque flashback sequence dominating the final scene) and doesn't do as much work to convince you of the latter (Guy's relationship with Madeleine in the French film feels much more natural and lived-in than that of Mia and dude from That Thing You Do). It feels like more of a young person's take on the subject.

 

And all of THAT said, I also think Chazelle is an exciting filmmaker and this movie does nothing to lessen my interest in his future career. It was still among my favorites of that year.

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So for me most of the criticisms of La La Land are countered quite effectively by how the story turns out: Seb and Mia do NOT get together in the end. Their relationship actually WAS just a stepping-stone for each of them. So if you don't buy their romance or you think Seb "sucks" or whatever, the movie has actually answered that. It's just that even with those stepping-stone relationships, in the moment they feel like the most important thing in the world, and La La Land communicates that as well. People try to hang on to relationships that aren't working all the time.

For the record, I don't have a problem with their relationship.

 

But Seb totally sucks :)

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I also vote to keep the opening number in, and I think it's my favorite number of the entire movie. Like tbh I think that sets everything up for me and then it just kinda goes downhill from there. Nothing is as strong as that was in my mind. Also funny enough watching it the second time I didn't like it as much as I did the first time, and I think that has a lot to do with the surprise aspect. I had no idea this was going to be a legitimate, reminiscent of the old days, kinda musical. I was expecting the usual shit we get these days and instead we got a real musical that probably would've been made in the 40s, 50s, 60s and that delighted me! So everything from the surprise of the musical numbers to the surprise of the story itself unfolding at the end, I think a lot of that actually needed the surprise factor to really work so when you rewatch it you just don't get the same feelings again.

 

I think I might be in the minority because I loved watching Ryan and Emma just be in a relationship. Their chemistry is literally off the hook and while I would never ever call them Fred & Ginger I would in fact say it's so easy to see why this is their third movie together. Even if something doesn't work (like Gangster Squad) you do end up wanting to watch more of them falling in love together.

 

The thing that bothers me is that you can tell they're not strong singers. Their voices are nice, but this is a musical first and foremost so nice voices don't really cut it. I wanted more every time either one of them started to sing, because I could feel their insecurity about it throughout the songs. The most egregious example was when they were both sitting at the piano singing City of Stars. It is a quiet song, but they just didn't have the voices (in my opinion) to pull off the quiet confidence. I get that because I don't really either. When I sing I need to do it loud because I feel like if I do something quiet and contained my voice will crack and I'm focusing on that the entire time rather than just singing, and that's kinda what I got from them too.

 

The biggest "wtf???" moment though is actually why John Legend was positioned as a bad guy. I mean I know we can get into this "Ryan Gosling is a white man that wants to 'save' Jazz" later because that's an entire post in and of itself, but John Legend wasn't an asshole and he wasn't wrong. He tells Seb that Jazz is about the future and it's about being revolutionary but how can you be revolutionary if you're stuck in the past and the entire time I was like yeah wow he's right does Seb even understand what Jazz was created for or is he just a fanboy that could never truly understand the feelings the people are portraying through it? And lbr here John's song was amazing. It was stuck in my head the rest of the day yesterday after I watched this.

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I think I might be in the minority because I loved watching Ryan and Emma just be in a relationship. Their chemistry is literally off the hook and while I would never ever call them Fred & Ginger I would in fact say it's so easy to see why this is their third movie together. Even if something doesn't work (like Gangster Squad) you do end up wanting to watch more of them falling in love together.

 

The two of them are fantastic together. I really loved them in Crazy Stupid Love as well, and didn't really like that movie too much. They just have such a natural chemistry. I'm pretty much in to see the two of them flirt with each other in any setting.

 

Though, I wonder if that's part of the issue I have with this movie. The those two actors are a well known entity. They're always fantastic together, so the second their characters meet in the movie, it feels like they've known each other forever. Maybe that's just me, but I think that's a lot of 'we've seen these actors before' instead of 'two strangers connect over her teasing him'. Prior to Mia forcing him to play an 80's tune he apparently despises, they've literally just passed each other twice. How did she know it would get the intended reaction? She doesn't know he's a 'serious' musician. That feels like a move you do to someone you know it'd get a rise out of.

 

I'm still all in on Emma and Ryan, regardless of that. Seb may be awful (as I previously posted) but Ryan is so charismatic he sells it.

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The biggest "wtf???" moment though is actually why John Legend was positioned as a bad guy. I mean I know we can get into this "Ryan Gosling is a white man that wants to 'save' Jazz" later because that's an entire post in and of itself, but John Legend wasn't an asshole and he wasn't wrong. He tells Seb that Jazz is about the future and it's about being revolutionary but how can you be revolutionary if you're stuck in the past and the entire time I was like yeah wow he's right does Seb even understand what Jazz was created for or is he just a fanboy that could never truly understand the feelings the people are portraying through it? And lbr here John's song was amazing. It was stuck in my head the rest of the day yesterday after I watched this.

 

John Legend never came across as a villain to me and I don't think the movie was saying that either. I think at worst he seemed like a guy with a different perspective and I think we were supposed to notice the fact that he was trying to innovate and make jazz more accessible, unlike Seb whose dream was to open old timey jazz club. Neither are right or wrong, although I'd rather listen to John Legend sing, lol.

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The two of them are fantastic together. I really loved them in Crazy Stupid Love as well, and didn't really like that movie too much. They just have such a natural chemistry. I'm pretty much in to see the two of them flirt with each other in any setting.

 

Though, I wonder if that's part of the issue I have with this movie. The those two actors are a well known entity. They're always fantastic together, so the second their characters meet in the movie, it feels like they've known each other forever. Maybe that's just me, but I think that's a lot of 'we've seen these actors before' instead of 'two strangers connect over her teasing him'. Prior to Mia forcing him to play an 80's tune he apparently despises, they've literally just passed each other twice. How did she know it would get the intended reaction? She doesn't know he's a 'serious' musician. That feels like a move you do to someone you know it'd get a rise out of.

 

I'm still all in on Emma and Ryan, regardless of that. Seb may be awful (as I previously posted) but Ryan is so charismatic he sells it.

I took that as she overheard the fight with JK Simmons because she had walked in to hear him play, and then saw how disinterested he was compared to the rest of the cover band at the pool party. Her dancing to "I Ran" in such an exaggerated way was really funny to me and was kinda like the one time where I truly saw that this girl had a personality outside of just wanted to act.

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John Legend never came across as a villain to me and I don't think the movie was saying that either. I think at worst he seemed like a guy with a different perspective and I think we were supposed to notice the fact that he was trying to innovate and make jazz more accessible, unlike Seb whose dream was to open old timey jazz club. Neither are right or wrong, although I'd rather listen to John Legend sing, lol.

I guess I felt like the movie was saying that because Seb was our "hero" and he kept talking about how John Legend was The Worst and how he didn't understand anything yadda yadda. But then when we actually meet John fully and hear his side of things I was suddenly like oh right no Seb is a fuckin idiot. Like opening an old timey Jazz club is a cool idea and loving the music is all fine and good, but I guess it's how Seb goes about all this that makes it seem like John is the villain of this story when really it's Seb himself because he's got his head stuck up his ass.

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John Legend never came across as a villain to me and I don't think the movie was saying that either. I think at worst he seemed like a guy with a different perspective and I think we were supposed to notice the fact that he was trying to innovate and make jazz more accessible, unlike Seb whose dream was to open old timey jazz club. Neither are right or wrong, although I'd rather listen to John Legend sing, lol.

 

Agreed. He's not the bad guy. He's an actual friend to Seb who offers him a job with a successful touring band and calls him out when he's being a jerk about things.

 

The movie has Seb as the lead character (or co-lead), but it's not necessarily saying he's always right. (Again, I think Chazelle's Whiplash provides some good context here.)

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Yes they aren't with each other, but because I never bought that it was true love between them to begin with, there is a slight "so" to it all.

 

But, for me, I don't feel like they're ever really in love to begin with - there was just the potential for love. At most, I would say there is a deep affection for one another because each of them provides something that the other one needs. Mia needs self-confidence; Seb needs humility. I feel like the movie is making a point about how even when we fail - whether that's in our professional or private lives - there's always the potential for growth which makes all experiences inherently "good." This is most clearly illustrated with Mia's one-woman play.

 

The way I interpreted the ending wasn't some kind of "Sliding Doors" scenario where this could have been their life had they done things differently. Given the same chance, they would have made all the same choices/mistakes. It becomes this crazy paradox. The ability to see this alternate reality is only possible because of the wisdom they've gained through the experience. There's no reason to listen to one more song because it doesn't change a thing.

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