Wednesday, December 14, 2016

La La Land [2016]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB () (3 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (A-)  Fr. Dennis (4+)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB () review
Los Angeles Times (J. Chang) review (B. Tallerico) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review

La La Land [2016] (written and directed by Damien Chazelle) is a lovely, generally happy, sometimes poignant tribute to both "growing up" and L.A. that is already getting a _completely deserved_ El NiƱo scale downpour of deserved Awards nominations.  Yes, there are still a whole bunch of films to see before the curtain falls on this year's Award Season contenders, but this hands-down would be my vote for Best Picture of the Year. 

Part of what made this film work so well for me is that I KNEW THE LOS ANGELES PORTRAYED in this film WHEN I MYSELF WAS IN MY TWENTIES going to grad school at USC in the mid-late 1980s.   Every other waitress at Carrows' or Denny's across L.A. was like Emma Stone's aspiring-actress character Mia (in her current incarnation working as a barrista at a Starbuck's like cafe' on Universal Studio's lot).  And one of the few moments of sadness that I've felt since returning to Southern California (after 25 years) to take-on an assignment at a parish of ours, St. Philip Benizi, in Fullerton, CA, was hearing that Gorky's Cafe, a place where one could reliably have great in-house brewed beer (_long before_ microbreweries even existed) with some great borscht (the only place that could compete with my mother's) while listening to great Jazz at 2-3-4 AM on any Friday or Saturday night, had _closed_ some years ago.  What a tragedy, what a cultural loss.  Hence I could feel Ryan Gosling's character Sebastian's pain, as he dreamed of re-opening "a _real_ Jazz club," as well ;-). 

The the film's locations were truly iconic:  I drove that _insanely high_ 110 Harbor Freeway-105 interchange where the film's traffic jam / opening "dance number" was staged ON MY WAY TO SEE THIS MOVIE ;-).   Thirty years ago, I bought an old SLR camera from a shady dealer at Crazy Giddeon's on Hollywood Blvd, my sister, visiting from Chicago, beside me, PRECISELY TO TAKE PICTURES of "L.A. at Dusk" from the HOLLYWOOD HILLS protrayed so nicely (and so precisely at _exactly_ the right time of early-evening-turning-to-night) in the film.  I knew the then iconic beach bars (by legend "where the Beach Boys started") just off of Hermosa Beach's Pier, where Sebastian takes a contemplative stroll at one point in the story.  The film got the region's psychic geography completely right. 

And then there's the story.  Both Mia and Sebastian are in their twenties, today.  Both have their dreams, dreams that kinda intersect, kinda don't, and we watch their stories play-out, even as we recall similar dreams / stories that we had when we ourselves were young(er). 

And yes, when one's talking about dreams / memories ... a "sound track," at minimum, is required ;-).

Simply a spectacularly beautiful / nice film!  Great, great job!

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