Having swept the boards at the Golden Globes and up for 14 awards at this year’s Oscars the hit musical La La Land is on a high. But will it have me singing it’s praises?
When aspiring actress Mia (Emma Stone) meets jazz musician Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) it’s not exactly love at first sight. But as their paths keep coming back to each other they find it hard to deny their mutual attraction. But in LA where hopes and dreams are crushed daily can they keep love and ambition alive?
Just like everyone else I seemed to have fallen under the spell of La La Land. From it’s dazzling opening number on a busy highway to it’s poignant ending it’s a fine piece of filmaking by Damien Chazelle. I loved his previous work Whiplash and La La Land shows that he’s no one hit wonder. Whether it’s turning an observatory visit into a dance among the stars or a simple solo in an audition, Chazelle balances the film perfectly.
As the two young dreamers Gosling and Stone once again show off their great on-screen chemistry, and their characters’ passion for their ambitions (and each other) shines through. While they are not professional singers and dancers they admirably throw their all into the numbers and although some may prefer pitch perfect singers I would argue their rawness adds realism and vulnerability to their performances that otherwise may have been too polished.
So why if I’m praising it so much have I not awarded the film with five stars like everyone else has? Well, while I really liked the film, and some parts I absolutely love, I’m not in love with the film like all the critics seem to be. Maybe it’s a side effect of having so much hype behind it that I was expecting it to be a modern classic whereas it’s ‘just’ a really great film. Also there were moments of cliches that really bugged me such as Sebastian realising he has an important photoshoot which just happens to be on the night of Mia’s big theatre opening. Scenes like this brought me out of the moment and irritated me no end.
So close but no cigar. However if you fancy a hark back to old school Hollywood with modern sensibilities and catchy tunes (which is better City of Dreams or Audition/The Fools Who Dream? I can’t decide) then take a shot at La La Land, and see what all the fuss is about.
Rating 4/5 – while it isn’t note perfect this bittersweet musical is still a worthy awards contender
The Oscar race is getting close and a new frontrunner has been found in Adam McKay’s comedy drama The Big Short. But can a movie about the 2008 recession possibly win best picture?
In 2005 Michael Burry (Christian Bale), a hedge fund manager realises that the housing market is unstable and bets against it. His clients are irrate but a few groups of oddballs and outsiders hear about Burry’s theory and place their own bets. However over the next couple of years they realise the financial situation is much worse than they even imagined.
I admit I can get very confused when people try to explain how the housing crisis started. As much as I would like to understand it better I didn’t think a big Hollywood movie would give me the answers or if it did it wouldn’t be an entertaining film to watch. However The Big Shot not only manages to do this, it gives us quite possibly the film of the year (or technically the film of last year when it was released in the States).
If someone had said last year that the director of Anchorman would give us an intelligent, well made and funny film about the recession I would think you were as crazy as the bankers who were behind the housing crisis. But McKay gives us a film that breaks down to the average filmgoer how this all came to be. To achieve this characters like Ryan Gosling’s slippery trader break the fourth role to describe the situation in more detail or we get random celebrity cameos from the likes of Margot Robbie, who appear to explain words like sub prime to us (basically if you hear that word it’s not good). I admit some of it still went over my head but it was much clearer than any other explanation I’ve heard.
As well as being a very smart film it’s also very funny at times, although the laughs soon turned into a terrified, incredulous laugh by the end as the reality hits home. These events did actually happen. Bankers were that stupid and the banks engaged in illegal activity that they still haven’t been held accountable for. And it could all happen again so easily. That’s scarier than any horror movie.
There is a stunning ensemble cast here and no one is slouching on the job. It seems unfair to pick a favourite as everyone is so good but my stand out would probably be Steve Farrell as the foul mouth, grumpy Baum. Shame he didn’t get the Oscar nod although Christian Bale is a worthy best supporting actor nominee. At the beginning it’s thrilling watching these small groups of oddballs bet against the system and you almost want them to win. Until the realisation hits that by them winning we all lose. They may not be the villains but as likeable or as funny as they are they’re not heroes either. I’m glad the film didn’t shy away from showing that.
I found little wrong with The Big Short although it’s a bit light on substantial female roles, especially disappointing as there were women involved in the story as shown in book of the same name. Minor quibbles aside this is probably the best film I’ve seen in a long time and I have liked a lot of movies recently. I couldn’t recommend this enough.
Rating 5/5 – I wouldn’t want to bet against The Big Short come Oscar night