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Cameron H.

Musical Mondays Week 40 La La Land

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I understand that and I get that this bit was probably improv. So, technically, I dont really have a defense. But I also don't think anyone really looks at the rest of what we see at the concert and call that jazz music.

 

That's why I brought up a guitar solo. If Jimmy Page wings a guitar solo, Led Zeppelin is stilll a blues rock band (primarily). They aren't now playing jazz. John Legend's group sounds like pop/rock/funk. Seb playing a couple bars of improv doesn't change the entire genre.

 

I was addressing your statement "So, I can't properly judge it but it doesn't look like much improvisation is going on which is a fundamental of jazz." If improvisation is your only requirement, then it's been checked off by Seb's piano solo.

 

Your definition of jazz is very narrow and it's probably fair to say you like a specific genre of jazz, and that's fine, but you must realize "jazz" is an umbrella term and there is a lot of variation within this classification. For example, check out "nu jazz" - this is probably a good description of the genre of John Legend's song in the movie.

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Talking during a set was frowned upon at every club I've been to. When you have to shell out $65 to see an artist, plus x-drink minimum, you bet you're gonna stfu and listen.

Oh sure, but I always find it funny how the entire crowd is stock still, waiting with bated breath to see what note he's going to plunk out next. After the awesome ensemble work of the prior piece, I just find it funny that everyone's reverentially watching like it's Ray Charles risen from the grave for a one-night only performance.

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Oh sure, but I always find it funny how the entire crowd is stock still, waiting with bated breath to see what note he's going to plunk out next. After the awesome ensemble work of the prior piece, I just find it funny that everyone's reverentially watching like it's Ray Charles risen from the grave for a one-night only performance.

 

Maybe the entire audience saw the fantasy sequence in their head in some mass hallucination.

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Maybe the entire audience saw the fantasy sequence in their head in some mass hallucination.

What if his piano is like some kind of holophonor?

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What if his piano is like some kind of holophonor?

 

Omg, his hands are the devil bot's hands. Makes a lot of sense now.

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Omg, his hands are the devil bot's hands. Makes a lot of sense now.

Would also explain the bend in the wrist!

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I was addressing your statement "So, I can't properly judge it but it doesn't look like much improvisation is going on which is a fundamental of jazz." If improvisation is your only requirement, then it's been checked off by Seb's piano solo.

 

Your definition of jazz is very narrow and it's probably fair to say you like a specific genre of jazz, and that's fine, but you must realize "jazz" is an umbrella term and there is a lot of variation within this classification. For example, check out "nu jazz" - this is probably a good description of the genre of John Legend's song in the movie.

You're right. I won't deny any of this including my somewhat Seb-like preference for traditionalism. After the late 60s to early 70s, I definitely lose interest.

 

I think the movie kind of implies the rest of the concert is more John Legend, less Seb. I'm inferring stuff that technically isn't there.

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I have more to say in response, Cameron, but I'm on my phone and don't want to type it all out, so that'll have to wait. But I definitely want to say that I was in no way accusing you of being disingenuous. My point was that focusing on one moment ignores the context of everything we're shown before that moment.

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I must also admit as somebody that does like jazz and owns albums by Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, John Coltrane, etc. I much prefer Seb's kind of jazz to John Legend's. While I appreciate his efforts to modernize it and make it more acceptable and relatable to the modern audience I'd still rather go to Seb's and listen to his music.

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You're right. I won't deny any of this including my somewhat Seb-like preference for traditionalism. After the late 60s to early 70s, I definitely lose interest.

 

What IS traditional to you though? I'm genuinely curious - are you talking about swing? Blues? Dixieland? I mean, artists like Charlie Parker came on the scene in the 40s and turned tradition on its head. And even if you have a cut-off of 60s/70s, that's still like 60 years of jazz that you do like. You're missing out on some great stuff though!

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I have more to say in response, Cameron, but I'm on my phone and don't want to type it all out, so that'll have to wait. But I definitely want to say that I was in no way accusing you of being disingenuous. My point was that focusing on one moment ignores the context of everything we're shown before that moment.

 

It’s fine. We’re cool. I picked that moment because it was the culmination of the two-hours proceeding it. It doesn’t matter. I just don’t get the woo-hoos at the end of the movie. That’s all. I just feel like it was saying something more than “she became a great actress and now everything is just terrific for her.”

 

We’re allowed to have dissenting views. It’s just my opinion. I just don’t see it as a success story is all.

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I thoroughly enjoyed the soft-shoe work in the 'Lovely Night' scene, particularly the legwork on the bench. And then I started watching Fred and Ginger in 'Swing Time' to get ready for 'Unspooled', and the grace of those two makes Seb and Mia look like a pair of elephants... Of course, who COULD we compare to Fred and Ginger and the way they move together?

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I thoroughly enjoyed the soft-shoe work in the 'Lovely Night' scene, particularly the legwork on the bench. And then I started watching Fred and Ginger in 'Swing Time' to get ready for 'Unspooled', and the grace of those two makes Seb and Mia look like a pair of elephants... Of course, who COULD we compare to Fred and Ginger and the way they move together?

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Crap. I brought the thread to a halt. That wasn't my intention. However I didn't know Damien Chazelle had made a movie before Whiplash.

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Ha! Now you know how it feels lol!

 

But I also didn't know until I started reading these articles about Damien's relationship to jazz and how he portrays jazz in these 3 films. It's interesting to see that in that first film he made it stars a black man and a latina woman.

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It’s fine. We’re cool. I picked that moment because it was the culmination of the two-hours proceeding it. It doesn’t matter. I just don’t get the woo-hoos at the end of the movie. That’s all. I just feel like it was saying something more than “she became a great actress and now everything is just terrific for her.”

Yeah, I totally get it. I just disagree, but I totally didn't want you to think I was saying your point wasn't made in good faith or anything.

We’re allowed to have dissenting views. It’s just my opinion. I just don’t see it as a success story is all.

Good thing, because we do frequently disagree, but I think we manage to do so amicably, like, 90% of the time :)

 

Anyway, I think the issue here is that you and I disagree on what constitutes a success story. I don't think a success story necessarily has to end in super happy feelings. They don't have to high-five and do synchronized cartwheels out of the jazz club (although that would be fun as hell to watch). If there is any regret there about what could have been, it's sort of a "this is the price I paid for getting where I am." And I still think she's successful in pretty much every way. Sure, we don't see much of her life post-stardom, so we don't know FOR SURE if she's happy, but we also don't see anything that really suggests that she isn't. So it's by and large left up to the viewer to decide. For me, she seems happy and successful at the end, and the final club scene is her acknowledging what she had to "give up" (sort of?) to obtain her success.

 

I'd generally say that achieving your goals is tantamount to success. That doesn't mean everything is hunky dory all the time in your life. And I could buy that maybe she still has feelings for Seb, but I also don't think those feelings diminish her success. So I guess what I'm trying to say (in a very circuitous fashion) is that whether or not it's a success story depends on how you define success. And for me, it totally works as the story of Mia's success.

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So something I had been thinking about a lot since I first saw this was what if John Legend and Ryan Gosling had switched parts. Let's take out the star factor from Ryan and the fact that we're not totally sure John can act well enough to carry a movie and basically just focus on what the movie would be like if a black man had played Seb.

A few things about that:

 

1. I would have believed Ryan Gosling as a "Keith" more than John Legend.

2. It would have actually made Keith more of a "villain" if he was whitesplaining how jazz needs to progress to a black character.

3. I'd totally be into it.

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2. It would have actually made Keith more of a "villain" if he was whitesplaining how jazz needs to progress to a black character.

I still think he is whitesplaining jazz to Keith which is why I basically brought up this topic. Keith is telling him how jazz was about going into the future and as a black man I trust his view on jazz a looooot more than Seb.

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I still think he is whitesplaining jazz to Keith which is why I basically brought up this topic. Keith is telling him how jazz was about going into the future and as a black man I trust his view on jazz a looooot more than Seb.

Sorry, too many "hes" again. I meant that having White Keith whitesplain jazz to Black Seb changes that dynamic and makes Keith the asshole. But when it's JL and Gosling, Gosling comes off looking like the asshole.

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Sorry, too many "hes" again. I meant that having White Keith whitesplain jazz to Black Seb changes that dynamic and makes Keith the asshole. But when it's JL and Gosling, Gosling comes off looking like the asshole.

Oh sorry this time I knew which "he" you meant but I guess my point is that in my opinion no matter which character is white I think they need to butt the fuck out of the conversation and maybe listen to the black person telling them what jazz is like lol.

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Oh sorry this time I knew which "he" you meant but I guess my point is that in my opinion no matter which character is white I think they need to butt the fuck out of the conversation and maybe listen to the black person telling them what jazz is like lol.

Man, now I really wish we had THIS movie. I know you said Michael B Jordan earlier, but I'm thinking more along the lines of Wyatt Cenac playing Seb. Have you ever seen Medicine for Melancholy? I imagine a Seb that's very similar to that character. Instead of being upset about the jazz club being turned into a "samba and tapas bar," it would be about gentrification. Like, every single thing the movie is doing with Seb's character would work so much better.

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What IS traditional to you though? I'm genuinely curious - are you talking about swing? Blues? Dixieland? I mean, artists like Charlie Parker came on the scene in the 40s and turned tradition on its head. And even if you have a cut-off of 60s/70s, that's still like 60 years of jazz that you do like. You're missing out on some great stuff though!

Unfortunately, I don't have a concrete answer for you. I worked at a jazz radio station in college. So, I know what I like but I only know enough to probably sound like an ass.

 

Intellectually, I know ragtime is the most traditional jazz because it's first. Everything else builds off of it or builds off something that build off of it. I suppose if someone says "traditional jazz" I'd probably think New Orleans, Dixieland, Creole. Basically Jazz Age era jazz. But if someone says "jazz" without a qualifier like dixieland or afro-cuban or whatever, my mind immediately thinks of something in the bebop through modal jazz eras. Maybe a bit of free jazz. So, the dominant styles of the mid-40s to early 60s. I realize this is a super limited amount of jazz. I also realize bebop doesn't sound like cool west coast jazz which doesn't sound like modal. It's not the only subgenres of jazz I like, but that's what I think of if someone said "Do you want to listen to jazz?"

 

So, this is getting kind of like "is Josie and the Pussycats punk music?" Where my gut says, "lol no" but my brain goes "well, technically, pop punk is under that umbrella..."

I still think he is whitesplaining jazz to Keith which is why I basically brought up this topic. Keith is telling him how jazz was about going into the future and as a black man I trust his view on jazz a looooot more than Seb.

I know what you're getting at here. Jazz is a genre developed by and filled largely with black musicians. And Damien Chazelle has made two consecutive movies where the biggest jazz fans are white. So, it's not an unfounded criticism. I like John Legend's statement to Ryan Gosling that he should work to popularize jazz not just be stuck in Hoagy Carmichel's chair.

 

Remember that episode of Fresh Prince where Will just assumed he would pass an African history class because he was black? This feels like the area we're getting into here if we just assume black people, even just black musicians, are educated in jazz.

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Remember that episode of Fresh Prince where Will just assumed he would pass an African history class because he was black? This feels like the area we're getting into here if we just assume black people, even just black musicians, are educated in jazz.

That's very fair, but I'd like to clarify I was referring to specifically this character. It's clear that Keith is just as educated in the history of jazz as Seb is, so with his own personal look on the genre I do trust Keith's opinion more.

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That's very fair, but I'd like to clarify I was referring to specifically this character. It's clear that Keith is just as educated in the history of jazz as Seb is, so with his own personal look on the genre I do trust Keith's opinion more.

Yeah. I didn't think you meant it the way I originally read it but not a bad idea to get that totally clear for anyone who isn't a regular here who might read this someday.

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Sorry I haven't been around since my initial post, but I am glad my question inspired discussion about the opening number. I am still of two minds about it.

 

As for MBJ vs. Gosling in the role of Seb, I would love MBJ in the role, but I think it would need to be a different movie. Seb in La La Land always struck me as a supremely talented, deluded twat out of touch with his emotions and unable to connect with others emotionally. He only connects with music on a personal level, but has no cultural connection to it, which would definitely change if you were to cast a black actor in that role. I think he's a fascinating character either way because he's so passionate about the things he attempts, be it relationships or music, but he's so flawed that he's destined to crash and burn before he succeeds in anything. I mean, hell, when his sister tries to set him up with a woman on a date, and he asks "does she like jazz?" and his sister responds negatively, his reaction is, "then what are we gonna talk about?" THIS IS NOT A COMPLETE PERSON. This motherfucker thinks it'd be a good idea to name his club after the chicken-eating habits of Charlie Parker. By the end, I think he's able to see that he wasn't complete, and through the fantasy sequence, he can see all the forking paths his life could have taken, so he just has infinitely more perspective. Is he happy? Who knows? Who in LA is really "happy" anyway?

 

And as a heterosexual male, I am hard pressed (real hard) to think of a more gorgeous man than Gosling. Maybe one of the Avengers Chrises? Sorry MBJ.

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