Here we go again.
It must be remembered that Hollywood is a world unto itself – a hubbub of a bubble; the ultimate echo chamber.
And this year the cries bouncing off that bubble and echoing around in that chamber is that Damien Chazelle’s “La La Land” is the musical masterpiece of the year.
We beg to differ.
After a recent viewing of “La La Land” with an average audience – not an “industry” audience, mind you – the crowd upon exiting was left muttering “what were all those critics talking about?”
What we saw was a mumbling, disjointed mish-mash with not one memorable song or performance. Ryan Gosling did his best with the material he was given but playing against Emma Stone he might as well have been hitting tennis balls against a brick wall. Stone’s acting goes from A to Z with nothing in between. No shading. We get the tearing, blurting bits that we saw so well in, well, “Birdman,” for example. And she keeps throwing that back at us.
As musicals go, this one didn’t. Go.
From the opening sequence, once the actors open their mouths to sing the words got lost and we knew we were in the hands of a second-rate director. The composition within the frame was crowded and without perspective, not unlike a smartphone user who’s never sure where the action is so they just point where the movement goes. Cinematography is an art. A cinematographer has a grand vision that encompasses light, composition, movement, depth, color all in a complex language that conveys a dramatic purpose to a film.
In “La La Land” the cinematography was non-existent.
And don’t give any credence to those critics who cite the beauty of the “shots” such as Griffith Park. A camera held still and rolling “film” on an object is not cinematography.
Most of the scenes in “La La Land” were so underlit that Stone and Gosling’s faces were in shadow. And when they are supposed to be singing, audiences want to SEE the mouths of the actors.
Dramatic tension. As in Chazelle’s “Whiplash” this film has a tacked-on, fake dramatic turning point that comes out of nowhere and appears in one scene at a dining table. Coming from left field, audiences are blind-sided. “Well, guess we’re going in that direction.”
Chazelle is still an immature filmmaker. Here he’s not unlike a trolley car driver who’s got his passengers on a trip then decides to jump the track. Passengers – except for gullible Hollywood-ites – don’t enjoy bumpy rides.
The most egregious example of a director who is clueless over what to do with a musical bit is Stone’s little audition song toward the end. It’s meant to be powerful yet, Chazelle has Stone frozen in place, not moving a muscle, under a hard spot, for the entire song. We’ve never seen someone sing a song as if they were standing in front of a firing squad, but this bit would surely qualify.
The film’s ending is an example of what happens when you give a director final cut. They always find a way to make it longer and confusing and waste any goodwill they might have garnered from the audience up until that point.
There’s more. Much, much more.
And we’ll write about that when we find the time.
At this point we’ll remind everyone to rush out and see Hollywood’s fav flick from last year – “The Revenant.”
Oh, you don’t want to waste your time on that boring slogfest, either.