La La Land
Thank you, Damien Chazelle, for giving me La La Land. Watching it, I kept wondering if this was the first time I had really smiled in 2017. (It’s not been a good year.) I mean, it had me from the first minute, when hundreds of people stepped out of their cars stalled on the freeway and began to sing and dance. It is one of the most delightful and astonishing musical numbers I have ever seen, and it appears to have been done in one long take. (It wasn’t, there is digital stitching, but I defy you to detect it.) (It also happened to have been filmed on the hottest days of the year, well over 100 degrees, and they only had that freeway ramp for two days. Must have been horrible.) Everything about this movie is magical. It is all about romance, but where most musicals stick to the old formula of boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl, this one omits the last part. In fact, halfway through, when Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone (who really deserved her Oscar) start to have troubles in their relationship, the movie stops being a musical. No more bright and glossy numbers. But it doesn’t lose the magic. And even if it had, it ends with a number even more amazing than the opener. I have to go all the way back to An American in Paris to recall an extended number as great as this one.
And I’ll just say it right out loud: Faye Dunaway was right, this was the Best Picture of the year, not that highly-overrated downer Moonglow. And something else. Bill Maher has been making a big deal out of his contention that Ryan Gosling can’t sing and can’t dance. Well, fuck you, Maher! You’re wrong. He’s no Gene Kelly, it is true, but who is? Those two worked their asses off learning to do these things, and it all worked for me.
BTW: Ryan Gosling does by far the best fake piano playing I have ever seen in a movie. He worked hard for a long time, and while Liberace’s ghost didn’t have anything to worry about, he could handle the basics, and totally fool us with the hard stuff because his hands were always in the right places on the keyboard, doing the right things, pounding out the jazz riffs perfectly. It’s a wonder to behold.