Recently there was a pretty great article about the Death of Film (culture) on The Ringer
and in it there were a few good quotes that stuck with me. One from Mark Harris about TV v. Film
and how good/great movies are still being made, they just seem to matter less in the culture and are becoming more of a niche, and another one
from Bret Easton Ellis (who says some attention-baiting things from time to time but this one I happened to agree with) is that it's great for filmmakers like PTA who have Annapurna to back them but there aren't really any PTA's being raised. And I got a little pushback on that one, so I clarified "Not sure I've seen a 27 year old filmmaker make a studio film that blew my socks off like Boogie Nights did since '97."
But last night I saw La La Land and have to amend that statement. I liked Whiplash (solid B/B-) and would've been interested to see what he did next but never would have expected him to make the leap that he did here, which is truly a Hard Eight to Boogie Nights level jump in ambition/scale/talent the likes of which I really haven't seen since the 90s. Movies may be on their way out like jazz but La La Land makes the case for film. The best ones still do what TV never can. La La Land is so good & such a delicate tightrope of nostalgia/new that I'm shocked that none of the 90s auteurs got there first! PTA & David O. Russell must be kicking themselves for never making a full-blown musical. Punch-Drunk Love got close but veered Demme instead of Demy.
Also: lots of early PTA influence in this, Boogie Nights to Punch-Drunk Love especially. And I'm sure he was absorbing the same influences PTA was when he was namedropping Astaire/Rogers and Singin' In The Rain before PDL, but he goes all the way with it. And I was concerned it might be too self-conscious but Chazelle sells it. Other than Riley Stearns' Faults (which had some major PTA vibez), this is the first film I've seen that feels like it's aping young PTA and trying to one-up him the way that PTA did to Altman and Scorsese. (Chazelle has mentioned screening Boogie Nights among other classic musicals as inspiration for the film.) If teenagers still watch movies anymore, La La Land should be a total gateway drug to classic cinema like Boogie Nights was for me.
In early 2012, I saw Emma Stone in a Live Read of The Apartment in the Shirley Maclaine part and she blew me away. I'd liked her in films, and she had been funny, but I'd never seen her do anything like this before, and remember thinking (and writing
) that the first director to take advantage of this and give her a party worthy of her talents was going to hit the jackpot. I thought it might be Jason Reitman (since he cast her in the Reading and obviously saw what we saw) or Cameron Crowe who would've seemed the best fit to channel Wilder's bittersweet dramedic tone, but he whiffed. But 4 1/2 years later, with La La Land she finally gets a chance and she is incredible. Third time's the charm for a Gosling/Stone film actually worthy of their onscreen chemistry. With both this & The Nice Guys, Gosling has really gotten good at physical comedy, almost a silent comedian at times. Both of their singing voices are average which only helps the film's ragged edges.
The soundtrack is a grower. I've probably heard it 25 times since last night and now I want to see the film again immediately. I know everyone is talking about Oscar stuff but I kinda hope it doesn't
win Best Picture because it's too good for that. In a year with La La Land, how some critics could vote for that 3-hour unfunny piece of shit
over this, I will never understand. Lots more to say, don't want to tread into spoilers. But the Xixax of 2003 would've loved and dissected the shit out of this one.
This is the best film of 2016.