At the Movies: La La Land

February 1st, 2017 12 Comments



When I first started this blog, I made a conscious decision not to write negative reviews of books or movies. It’s far too difficult to create any kind of work of art, and far too easy for any fool to criticize and belittle what he can’t do himself.

But last night I saw something that angered me.

La La Land has been nominated for fourteen Academy Awards, including best picture, best actor, best actress, best director, best original screenplay, best original score, best original song, and more. It received seven Golden Globe Award nominations, and Emma Stone won best the actress award from the Screen Actor’s Guild.

I was suspicious about all those nominations when I saw the trailers on television, but, hey, a lapse in someone’s judgement can result in a dreadful trailer for a great film or a great trailer for a dreadful film, so I went to see La La Land, not with high expectations so much as with an open mind. If I had gone with high expectations, I would have really become enraged.

La La Land is the kind of inoffensive movie to which you can safely take your grandmother and your movie-infatuated ten-year-old daughter, and after I’ve said that, I have exhausted my repertoire of a compliments.

Embarrassingly mediocre, one incoherent cliché after another, it’s “best original screenplay” consists of an impoverished storyline watered down and rebottled from half a dozen real musicals written by real writers and real composers. Has no one ever seen, or does no one remember such trifles as An American in Paris or Singin’ in the Rain, to name the two that La La Land steals from most egregiously? Can anyone with a room temperature IQ and over the age of ten honestly pretend to compare the musical genius of the Gershwin brothers to the mild and modest work of Justin Hurwitz? I won’t insult Alan Jay Lerner’s memory by even bothering to compare his script to Damian Chazelle’s lame, incoherent, and uninspired platitudes.

Unfortunately, this pedestrian version is performed by actors who can’t sing and can’t dance, neither of whom had enough charm or charisma to keep me from wandering out of the theater to get a drink of water I didn’t desperately need. Both Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are good young actors, but neither one of them has singing chops that should ever be heard outside of the privacy of their respective showers, and neither one of them would ever make it through the audition phase of Dancing with the Stars or the first round of So You Think You Can Dance?  Contrast that to Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron. Hell, contrast it to Fred and Ginger in any one of their magical confections.

Darleen tells me Emma Stone won her SAG Award for best actress over Meryl Streep’s bravura portrayal of Florence Foster Jenkins. SAG must have awarded it for best monotonous walking sequence, because I’ve never seen so much unnecessary walking from nowhere to nowhere for no purpose. This in a film set in a city where Steve Martin famously drove next door to talk to his neighbor in LA Story. (I think that was the movie.) Motion pictures are called that because they use visual images to tell a story. That, by definition, means the images you see on the screen must cause the storyline to advance. Random wandering from one spot to another does not advance the story. If Emma Stone had taken her award and walked over to Meryl Streep and presented it to her, it would have left me with a more charitable opinion of Ms. Stone. Her performance in La La Land no more deserves an award than it deserves to be remembered.

It’s not that La La Land is so unspeakably bad that angers me, because it isn’t unspeakably bad. It’s that the Academy and the Screen Actors’ Guild and the Golden Globes committee are so unaware of their own history and the history of magic real Hollywood musicals once offered that they would have the temerity to praise such mediocrity. It’s either ignorance, or they allowed themselves to be bought or bullied.

John Legend was the best thing in it (Legend and a quick glimpse of a beautifully restored blue and white ’66 Corvette in the background of one sequence) and there wasn’t enough of him or his music to keep me or Legend-groupie Darleen in our seats. I’m angry at myself for having wasted two hours desperately clinging to the hope that the damned film might improve and that something, ANYTHING, noteworthy would happen. Where the hell is Kim Jong-Un when you need a little diversion?!

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Evening JP (well it is here in England)

    We’ve not seen it yet but although we wanted to see it, we are not so bothered if we do or we don’t and I’m glad for your thoughts on it. Awards and praise used to be given to those who thoroughly deserved them, not just because they are popular. For me, the golden age of musicals can never be reborn period. The enormously talented people who wrote, directed, starred in, made the costumes, fixed the hair, researched the era, made the sets etc are not around any more and making a musical is not just getting some good looking people in to sing and dance if they can’t do either. I confess I’m a sucker for Gene Kelly movies, love Singin in the Rain, it’s my favourite film of his and the wonderful Donald O’Connor (walking up the wall) and the beautiful Debbie Reynolds; all gone now and with them the last of the Hollywood greats (especially after the very sad, heartbreakingly so, passing of both Miss Reynolds after her beautiful daughter Carrie Fisher). La La Land can never match up to this era and in my opinion, it shouldn’t have even tried let alone be attracting so much praise, to me it smacks of The Emperor’s New Clothes Syndrome. Hoping that you and Mrs P are keeping healthy and well. Kind regards and much love. Claire in England.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I have to admit that I thought the same thing when I saw the ad for the movie. Of course, it probably will win because Hollywood loves to pat itself on the back. Look, a movie about Hollywood vote for it. I will mention that the movie “The Artist” won the Academy Award for pretty much the same reason. I saw that black and white movie which was a rip-off of “Singing in the Rain” and “A Star is Born.”

  3. Anonymous says:

    My husband and I saw a really good movie recently. It was called “Patriot’s Day.” and is based on the events that happened during the Boston Marathon terrorist attack. There were several times that I was moved to tears. However, some the violence might be hard to take.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Wow…thank you so much for that..I thought it would be really good, but now I’m not going to waste my time or money on that movie…give me Gene Kelly any day !!

  5. Anonymous says:

    I can imagine what Simon Cowell would say to them. It seems all that Hollywood can make now are sequels that no one wants or watered down remakes of old movies.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the warning about this movie. I had seen a trailer for it at my sister’s and honestly thought it didn’t look like it was really worth the bother, your words here confirmed my feeling. I had seen “Singing In The Rain” again shortly before the deaths of Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds and wish movies were still of that caliber these days.
    Lately it seems most of my dvd check outs at our library are in the classics and musicals sections and/or documentary or family films.
    Anything else such as older tv series etc. I usually have in my personal collection.
    Nancy Darlene

  7. Anonymous says:

    I’m not surprised by this review. I didn’t like the trailers so I wasn’t going to waste my money by seeing the movie. I’m hoping Viola Davis takes the Oscar for “Fences” because of the brilliant performance. My fingers are crossed for Denzel Washington to take home another Oscar as well. 🙂

    Happy Super Bowl Sunday! Nachos anyone? 😉

    Carla In California

  8. Anonymous says:

    and I thought I was the only one who doesn’t like it *tehehe* god bless your good taste 🙂

  9. Anonymous says:

    Hollywood receives little to none of my hard earned money anymore. Mostly because I am sick of the anti-American rhetoric that spews off the screen, not to mention the self-aggrandizing preaching from the Hollywood pulpit (award shows). A good friend of mine very much enjoys movies and makes it a point to see all those nominated. His review of La La Land went as follows: “I walked out after twenty minutes.” Your review filled in the details, so thanks. 🙂

  10. Anonymous says:

    After reading your blog I googled reviews and found a lot of people liked this movie. Some did say they thought the singing was just slightly better than the movie goers would have been. Really! If I”m going to see a musical I want to be blown away by the singing. I’ll probably wait until it comes out on Netflix and form my own opinion.
    I do find that a lot of movies don’t live up to their own hype. I thought Gravity was just okay, thought Shawshank Redemption should have won best picture over Forrest Gimp (which had great effects but in my opinion was just an okay movie) and I don’t understand how Citizen Kane is considered one of the greatest movies of all time.
    Nancy Ontario Canada


  11. Anonymous says:

    You won’t catch me dead watchin’ no dang MUSICAL! I know many folks love them, and I woodn’t take tha privelege of havin’ them around from innyone, but I ain’t never had tha’ stummick to git through a whole one myself. My “Nana” NEVER missed a showing of “The Sound Of Music”(they show tha thang on the TeeVee ever dang year, you know), and she determindley tried to git me to watch it at least once while I was a kid, but it never took. Funny thing, I was looking something up about the superb actor Christopher Plummer recently(I was actually meaning to look up something about the equally superb actor Max von Sydow, as I’m continually gettin’ these guys mixed up–they look a LOT alike now that they are in their senior years!), and wuz suprised to learn he DESPISED that iconic role he played in that iconic musical, referring to it as “The Sound Of Mucus”! I nearly choked on my own spit laughing when I read that! My Nana would have been MORTIFIED, had she heard that! Plummer at least acknowledged he loved working with Julie Andrews, at least!…… But why look to Kim Jong Un, for an interesting movie, when there’s a new KING KONG commin’ out?!!!….L.B.

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