La La Land (2016)

Directed By: Damien Chazelle

Screenplay By: Damien Chazelle

Cinematography By: Linus Sandgren

Starring: Emma Stone & Ryan Gosling

I’m already getting into fights with my friends on this one but they are wrong, not entirely, but they are wrong. This is not a good movie. It’s a fine movie, but it isn’t good.

The biggest problem with this film is consistency. This movie does not know what it is. Is it a musical? A dance movie? A jazz film? A nostalgic ode to Los Angeles and movies of the past? I really couldn’t tell you, and trust me, it’s not all of them although it sure tries to be.

The movie starts off with a big opening number and then has two more musical numbers relatively quickly but then it starts repeating. How many times do we have to listen to the same refrain? To me that’s not a musical. Well what about the jazz pieces? There’s a moment when we get a Whiplash inspired sequence but that ends short too and never really comes back. Instead we get four notes on repeat for the rest of the film.

I’m going easy too cause I think this movie was extremely miscast. I love Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling as much as the rest of America, but the two of them are not good singers in this movie. Someone has told me that Emma Stone has been in stage musicals and there is a moment when she really belts it, so maybe it comes down to bad songs. Either way, it seems like they’re both trying really hard not to completely suck at singing. I call it as I see it (and hear it), and they both did not sound good or even just even appear to have confidence on the screen when they were singing.

There’s a grit to Whiplash that La La Land does not have. And you might say, “But this is a romancing of a situation, there can’t be grit” well go read Shakespeare, or watch West Side Story. Love stories can pack a punch, they can be dirty and grimy, soul crushing, and when talking about two people supposedly at their lowest points in Los Angeles these two have it pretty good. They needed to feel more, want more, that if they don’t find success they will die!

I will say the production design for this movie is spectacular. Some of the camera work and directing decisions are exactly the creative decisions that Hollywood needs right now. But this movie is inconsistent. The styles change a bunch. The movie doesn’t know exactly what it is. There are really good scenes throughout but they don’t feel like they all belong to the same movie or are even from the same time period. The costumes are way nicer than what two people of their status should be wearing. I never felt I understood where these characters were coming from or who they were because of all the inconsistencies. I knew what they wanted, success, but ultimately you’re watching two of the most successful movie stars in the world and I did’t buy any of it.

I think this was a noble effort by Chazelle and I look forward to him making more movies, but I just refuse to drink the koolaid on this one.

God Bless America

Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck (2015)

Directed By – Brett Morgan

Screenplay By – Brett Morgan

Cinematography By – Eric Edwards, James Whitaker & Nicole Hirsch Whitaker

Starring Kurt Cobain

145 min.

As someone who wasn’t old enough to experience the world craze that was Nirvana and Kurt Cobain, Nirvana (and Cobain) have been something (and someone) I’ve had to find on my own. Nirvana was never a band I ever embraced as a teenager but as I get older their music becomes more interesting to me and equally so Cobain a more interesting figure. With things like youtube I have been able to explore Cobain through various interviews and performances but never got the true feeling I understood the man, and like much of the world, have been left wanting something more.

Montage of Heck gives you as much more as there can possibly be. That doesn’t mean it fills that want for more than comes with Cobain, but it does give you more. Even though it still includes plenty of the images and videos that one can find online, MOH excels through access to personal journals and videos that have never been released publicly. The aspect in which one can grasp the most new information and a little more of inside the brain of Cobain is in the journals, filled with lyrics and sketches that Morgan animates and brings to life beautifully.

Personally I think Cobain led such a short life that there is only so much that there is to know about him, Morgan has made something that gives us as much a we probably can ever know about him.

A viewer doesn’t need to know anything about Nirvana or Cobain going into the film and will come out knowing as much as an outsider can about Kurt and as always still left wanting more. But they will have an urge to explore the music and when it is all said and done is all we really have left of him.

God Bless America

Cleo from 5 to 7 (1962)

Directed By – Agnés Varda

Screenplay By – Agnés Varda

Cinematography By – Paul Bonis, Alain Levent & Jean Rabier

Starring Corinne Marchand

90 min.

I had heard about this film for a while and knew it was suppose to be something special but even with those expectations I was enchanted. Cleo from 5 to 7 is creative, original, beautiful, sad, lovely, and so much more. Angés Varda is able to create something that is organic as an artist and formalistic as a filmmaker.

Corinne Marchand is beautiful and heartbreaking and so full of life that she will captivate you completely for the ninety minutes that she is on the screen.

This is a must see for anyone who has a passion for life and a passion for cinema.

God Bless America

Frank (2014)

Directed By – Lenny Abrahamson

Screenplay By – Jon Ronson & Peter Straughan

Cinematography By – James Mather

Starring Jon Burroughs, Maggie Gyllenhaal & Michael Fassbender

95 min.

Frank the character is amazing. Frank the movie is depressing and unrewarding. This is because Frank is not about Frank, it is about the inadequacies of Jon Burroughs’ character, Domhnall Gleeson. And while Domhnall isn’t completely a useless character throughout the movie, he is ultimately untalented and therefore boring and sad. I’m not saying interesting characters cannot be boring or sad, but the reality is when there are two characters on screen and one is as idiosyncratic as they come (i.e. wearing a giant fake head) and the other is a character who never realizes any human potential for talent and the focus isn’t one the fucking guy with a giant head then you’re going to lose me.

The general story isn’t even the problem, it’s the focus. Frank focuses not on the great gift of uniqueness but on the fact that not all of us can be unique. I mean how shitty of a message is that? That not all of us are unique and creative and that some of us are doomed to reach out through social media as our only source of self worth. And the problem isn’t that this movie is saying that some of us do that but why make that the focus? Why make that the main message by choosing this fucking loser as your protagonist?

Think of it this way, if you have Frank be your protagonist, meaning that the story begins with him and ends with him rather than Mr. Domhnall Gleeson and you have Domhnall come into the group and ruin the group with his social media and his mediocrity and yet Frank goes for it because he longs for popularity but then loses his band and then realizes that having a giant head doesn’t matter but embracing his bizarreness and his friends bizarreness is what makes him great and Domhnall is doomed to be a social media modern-era lackey than I can support this movie. The fact of the matter is that that is not how Frank was done and I don’t see myself rewatching this movie even though it has several things going for it.

The acting is great by all three and major props to Michael Fassbender who is arguably the best actor of his generation right now and is in an amazing heavy weight acting battle with Maggie’s brother for the title.

God Bless America