Movie Review: La La Land

I had not heard of this movie, prior to the Golden Globes award show. La La Land picked up many Globes, garnering much praise and capturing my interest. The clip presented during the show revealed that La La Land was a musical, a rare occurrence among today’s films. Even better. I love musicals. 

I was interested enough in the movie to check my local theater to see if it was playing. It was not. With a December release date, I assumed that being unfamiliar with the movie, if it had played in Joplin, I simply missed it. 

Movie Review: La La Land, Here's to the Fools Who Dream
When the Academy Awards nominations were announced last Tuesday, La La Land topped the list with 14 nominations. The movie came back into my awareness, very much so, and supplied this year’s theme song for me, Audition, The Fools Who Dream. Read that blog post HERE

My desire to see La La Land increased, causing me to check movie listings again. It still was not showing in Joplin. Ah well. I knew I would catch it when it released on DVD, especially since I watch all best picture nominated films after the Oscars. 

I had the music from the movie at least. I have listened to Audition and the rest of the soundtrack numerous times. 

Movie Review: La La Land, Here's to the Fools Who Dream
This morning, I asked the Divine, as I do every morning, How shall we play today? In the middle of a busy day, I suddenly received the answer…watch La La Land. My immediate thought was that I couldn’t, it wasn’t playing in Joplin. Check the movie listings, was the response. That nudge came several times…check the movie listings…before I paused in my tasks to pull up my movie app and check my local theater’s show times. 

Down near the bottom of the list I found it, La La Land. I gasped out loud! Why, I don’t know. This is the way life flows for me. This is how the ongoing conversation with the Divine unfolds, day by day. I was excited! I couldn’t make the 3:40 showing, but I was in the theater at 7:00 this evening, with a baggie of apple slices, open to what I would receive. 

Movie Review: La La Land, Here's to the Fools Who Dream
La La Land stars Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, JK Simmons and John Legend. This musical drama was directed, and written by, Damien Chazelle. The film has a PG-13 rating, for very brief adult language, and has a run time of 2 hours and 7 minutes. 

La La Land is the story of a jazz pianist, Sebastian (Gosling), and an aspiring actress Mia (Stone). Both struggle to make a living while in pursuit of their dreams. Seb is passionate about keeping classical jazz alive by opening a night club. Mia has been captivated by acting since childhood, and moved to Los Angeles to pursue her dream. 

Movie Review: La La Land, Here's to the Fools Who Dream

When Seb and Mia meet, both have already discovered that making their dreams reality isn’t easy. Mia has one disappointing audition after another. Seb compromises what he believes about music by playing to uninterested diners in restaurants and in second rate gigs, just to survive. 

Drawn together by their shared desire to be the people they feel created to be, Seb and Mia discover the joys and challenges of encouraging each other, while pursuing their individual passions. 

Movie Review: La La Land, Here's to the Fools Who Dream
This film is so much more than a musical. In fact, it is more a movie about music and acting, about creativity, that features musical   numbers. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are phenomenal, with endearing chemistry between them and sincere, heart touching   performances. 

Neither are exceptional singers, and I loved that. It gives a soulfulness to the film, a heart to the story. They come across as normal people who occasionally break into song. The dance numbers are amazing, and beautifully choreographed. And I was extremely impressed when I read that Ryan actually played the piano in all of his scenes. He practiced two hours a day, six days a week, to learn all the musical pieces. That’s dedication to his art. 

Movie Review: La La Land, Here's to the Fools Who Dream
La La Land is not a typical musical in many ways. The singing and dancing enhance a movie that is for all who have dreams. Whether there is hope still that the dream will come true, or despair that it is too late, whether compromise seems the only way to keep passion alive or fierce stubbornness creates blindness to other possibilities, La La Land inspires, and touches a raw, tender place in the heart. 

Watch La La Land, whispered the Divine. It goes beyond simply watching an extraordinary movie. This invitation is about my own heart and being who I am. Two hours after the credits rolled in the theater, I still have tears in my eyes. I am okay with that. I want to linger in this place for a while, and see what thoughts and emotions rise to the surface. 

If you have a dream, or have ever had one and gave up on it, if fear stops you cold, or regret haunts you, go see La La Land. And then let’s get together, and talk about it. 

Watch La La Land, whispered the Divine.

Day 97: American Hustle


After a busy evening showing property, I got a late start on my first for today, watching the 4th of nine movies nominated for Best Picture. Since Nebraska was again unavailable, I moved on to American Hustle.  After a quick dinner, I brewed a pot of tea, getting to sample one of my new teas from Teavana. The Blueberry Bliss was delicious to sip on while watching this film.

American Hustle stars Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Jennifer Lawrence. It was directed by David O. Russell. This movie was nominated for 10 Academy Awards including Best Actor for Christian Bale, Best Actress for Amy Adams, Best Supporting Actor, Bradley Cooper, Best Supporting Actress, Jennifer Lawrence, Best Director for David O. Russell, and Best Picture. It did not win an Oscar in any category, however this movie was nominated for 96 awards by various organizations and institutes, and won 50 awards. American Hustle is rated R and has a run time of 2 hours and 18 minutes.

Most of the actors in the movie, called a comedy drama, are favorites of mine. So whatever the story was about, I was prepared to like it. Cradling my cup of hot tea, I was ready to be entertained. And entertained I was! From the opening scenes with Christian Bale’s character creating an elaborate comb over, to the closing scenes with Jennifer Lawrence’s  portrayal of sassy Rosalyn, I watched with a smile on my face. This wasn’t a slap-your-sides-funny type of movie. It was a cleverly humorous film with nuggets of truth tucked among the one liners.

Irving Rosenfeld, played by Bale, and Sydney Prosser, played by Adams, are con artist partners who are also romantically involved. Caught in a sting operation, they are promised they will be released without jail time if they will assist the Feds with four additional arrests.  The Fed team is led by ambitious and unpredictable Richard DiMaso, played by Cooper, whose main desire in life is to make a name for himself. He goes after the mayor of Camden, NJ, Carmine Polito, played by Renner, who wants to revitalize gambling in Atlantic City but has struggled to raise money for his project. The cast is completed by Jennifer Lawrence, who plays Irving’s zany wife, Rosalyn.

The story twists and turns around a ploy to catch Mayor Polito taking bribe money to help his city, and becomes a much bigger operation than anyone imagined. Amid the conning and the striving and the humor is a memorable story about what is real…in life, in relationships, and within ourselves. Each character is struggling to discover who they truly are and how to live, really live, as that person.  Irving says, “We are all conning ourselves, one way or another. It’s how we survive.” Learning to move beyond survival and into life is at the heart of this  film.

American Hustle claims, at the beginning of the movie, to be based on real events. I researched that claim to find that it is loosely based on the FBI ABSCAM operation of the late 1970’s and early 80’s. The characters are all portrayals of real people. I heartily enjoyed the performances of this amazing cast of actors and the freshness of the movie. I adore cleverness. American Hustle is certainly that and at the same time, it’s a candid look into the human desire to be seen and appreciated for who we are.

Day 90: Dallas Buyers Club


This Monday, I’m back to my regularly scheduled watching of the Academy Awards Best Picture nominated movies. My attempt last week was abandoned in favor of saving a kitten’s life. (He is doing great, btw.) I went to the DVD store to rent Nebraska again and discovered it was checked out. I moved on to Dallas Buyers Club for today’s first.

Dallas Buyers Club was nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor. It won in three categories: Best Make-up & Hairstyling, Best Supporting Actor for Jared Leto and Best Actor for Matthew McConaughey. The movie also stars Jennifer Garner and was directed by Jean-Marc Vallee.  It is rated R and has a run time of 1 hour and 57 minutes.

I had seen a couple of previews for this movie and clips during the Oscars broadcast. I didn’t fully understand, from those brief viewings, what this movie was about. Based on a true story, Dallas Buyers Club is the story of electrician and rodeo fan Ron Woodroof, played by Matthew McConaughey, an ordinary, fun loving guy who gets a life changing diagnosis. He is HIV positive. In the mid 1980’s, HIV and AIDS were poorly understood and only one trial drug, AZT, was available as a possible FDA approved treatment.

Woodroof is given a month to live. After the AZT he obtains illegally almost kills him, Woodroof begins a journey of discovery about his illness and alternative treatments that are available. He finds an ally in a doctor in Mexico who teaches Ron that there are non toxic drugs and vitamins that can help fight this killer disease, none FDA approved or available in the US. With the help of Rayon, played by Jared Leto, these two unlikely entrepreneurs establish the Dallas Buyers Club as a way to get drugs and vitamins from around the world to those who desperately need them. The Club charges a monthly fee to its clients in exchange for all the drugs and treatments they need. The FDA looks the other way until the operation and the number of people being helped grows too large. It then becomes a war between Woodroof and his colleagues and the FDA, who refuses to approve the unconventional methods being used to extend the lives of AIDS patients.

Jared Leto’s portrayal of the transvestite Rayon was beautifully tragic and worthy of recognition and the numerous awards he won. A gentle, tortured soul, Rayon was key to building the Club. McConaughey gave an outstanding performance as a man on a mission to save himself and as many others as possible, before time ran out for him also. I believe he deserved the Best Actor award.

This was an amazing movie and a glimpse into a world I’m not familiar with. I felt compassion and deep sadness as I watched Rayon’s life slip away. I understood Woodroof’s anger over the way the FDA regulated and controlled which drugs were available for treatment and their apparent lack of interest in alternative treatments.  

Frustrated by being blocked at every turn by the FDA, Ron Woodroof laments to his doctor friend, Eve, played by Jennifer Garner, “Sometimes I feel like I’m fighting for a life I ain’t got time to live. I want it to mean somethin’.” Laying her head on his shoulder, she assures him, “It does.” I can join her in saying the same thing to the real Ron, who died in 1992, of AIDS…your life mattered. You made a difference. And your life continues to impact others. What a legacy to leave.