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Podcast: "Lion" and "La La Land"

KateyNick, Joe and Nathaniel talk two Best Picture contenders along with conversational detours that pop up as these detours do. The podcast will return in the New Year. 

Index (43 minutes)
00:01 LION (and movie titles) 
12:15 LA LA LAND (divisive direction!) 
27:10 BEST PIC & LIST-MAKING (tis the season)
31:13 CHRISTMAS MEDLEY (Rent, Kermit, Judy G)

You can listen to the podcast here at the bottom of the post or download from iTunes. Continue the conversations in the comments and please have very happy and safe holidays until we're chatting at you again in January (probably around Golden Globes weekend January 8th-ish). 

Lion & La La Land

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Reader Comments (18)

My problem with the La La opening was: It was gorgeous, but where were these interesting-looking people during the rest of the movie?

As far as the songs themselves go, I think detractors would appreciate them more if they had actually been sung or if the vocals had been more prominent in the mix...

The end of the movie is irresistible, though. (I wouldn't call it a "dream ballet" but *SPOILER ALERT* "Un-Happy Endings"—a little joke for all you New York, New York fans.)

December 23, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

I saw La La Land the other night and just found it highly overrated. Is it an important film? Yes. But is it as good as it sets out to be/thinks it is? No.

None of the songs are that great/memorable. I mean, what kind of musical has an opening number that isn't that catchy? The only song that remained in my head even a few minutes after it ended was City of Stars, and I think that has more to do with the repetition lol.

Also didn't feel like the characters were very fleshed out. It was very two-dimensional "I wanna be an actress!" and "I love j a z z !!!1" to me. I also didn't find Emma Stone to be great at all, she did what any A-list actress could've done with the role. She really excels in movies that are pure comedy and she can let her comedic chops take over because that's her strength, that's what sets her apart. That's why she was so good in the scene where she requested the cover band play "I Ran". But she feels calculated when doing dramatic stuff, like a student in an acting class. And Ryan was alright, but nothing incredible. I don't think these performances will be remembered as like "best of" in a few years.

The ending confused me...and then I realized it's because it was so much STRONGER than the rest of the film. If you want to know what the movie was about, just watch the last ten or so minutes and you'll like it. That's how I felt.

It was beautifully shot, and it's important because it's an original movie musical about daring to dream in times where that's hard, but is it as good as it wants to be, or thinks it is? No.

I really didn't mean to make this a La La Land shitpost lol...but I've been mulling over my thoughts the past few days in my head and this is the conclusion I've come to.

December 23, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip H.

Another podcast! Thank you, it made coming home from work awesome.

I also had a hard time liking La La Land. I was nodding my head so vigorously when Nick mentioned the swirling of the camera in that pool. I think that camera choice represents a lot of what I dislike about that movie. "Why swirl the camera around a pool?! Let me look at the partier's faces, the dancing and singing! Stop hurting my eyes!" Plus, the numbers weren't that strong other than the "Audition" song. Stone was the best part about that movie. Even Gosling who I respect a lot just bored me. I didn't really care about his love of old school jazz. BUT that all makes it sound like I hated the movie. I enjoyed a lot of about it. It's just that I'm confused as to why so many people are naming it one of the year's best.

Nathaniel, I'm trying to guess your top 7. I'm thinking Moonlight, 20th Century Women, The Handmaiden, The Witch, The Lobster, La La Land, and either Embrace of the Serpent, Elle, or Arrival. But I know you'll surprise me when you actually publish the list. Don't forget how much you loved Embrace of the Serpent. I know it's been way longer since you saw that one but remember you liked it a lot. It's on my queue per your rave.

I definitely have a clear favorite of the year––Things to Come. And my other top 6 or 7 are Moonlight, 20th Century Women, The Red Turtle, Zootopia, Toni Erdmann, and Elle (among others I also loved). I still have to see Silence and The Handmaiden, and want to give Julieta another try per Nick's strong admiration.

December 23, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBVR

Toni Erdmann made me laugh so much harder than anything else this year. The running time flew by. Trust me, you want to make time for this one.

December 23, 2016 | Unregistered Commentereurocheese

Bradford Young is attractive enough on his lonesome where I'm not bothered I'm indifferent to his under lit esthetic.

December 23, 2016 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

Yeaaaahh....you guys are dumb. La La Land is a great movie.

Watch as many films as possible (that is, including the bad movies and the "just okay" movies) and get some perspective

December 24, 2016 | Unregistered Commentertonytr

You are missing one of the great actress performances of recent memories for missing Toni Erdmann.

La La Land is great. The backlash (some with actual arguments others with ridiculous reasonings) is disheartening, especially for a movie like this.

December 24, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterguest

La La Land was my most anticipated film of the year. I'm a big musical guy, since a young age, have always loved the genre. Singin' in the Rain is my favourite film of all time. And the trailers and the reviews were so stellar that my expectations were so high (even though I was seriously trying to manage them.)

I still think the movie is one of the best of the year. And I am so happy people are going to see an original movie musical AND a good one at that. It's fantastic. However, I do think the movie is more problematic than people initially let on.

I completely agree about some of the camera work being so blatantly a 'cinematography showcase' especially that pool shot. Wow I thought that was terrible. Particularly when it would've been so much more fun to see the choreography surrounding the pool! I also felt the sound mixing was not great, and that you struggled to hear the singing at times, which seemed drowned out by the music (particularly in the opening number.)

I also wonder whether the film would've benefited from more cuts and edits, rather than the free-flowing, one take shots because I feel maybe that style of editing would've given the film a little more pop. I don't necessarily mean Moulin Rouge! levels of frenetic editing, but I kept thinking what if Kirk Baxter & Angus Wall had cut this haha.

The performances from Gosling and Stone are strong, and I agree that their moments of comedy are better. I felt they were undercut by some poor dialogue and cliched story in parts, which often left Stone (in particular) coming across a bit forced in the more serious moments. I could see the work there and it was still a solid performance, but I don't know how I'd feel if Stone won over Bening, Huppert or Portman's performances. This being said, the film highlighted for me why our top-tier Broadway actor/singers are such treasure. The more versatile, expressive and range in your instrument the better, and Gosling and Stone's lack of experience resulted in, in my opinion, a missed opportunity for more moments of musical expression and all out bliss. Particularly the 'Audition' song - in the hands of a powerhouse vocalist (someone like Cynthia Erivo even) - what you could accomplish! I totally get the naturalism and flaws, if you want to call it that, were what Chazelle was going for, but I did miss hearing full, rich voices.

I do agree that there absolutely needed to be more numbers in the second half! Really feel the film needed it too. We could've had a number after the *SPOILER* dinner fight scene , maybe another on the hill again on the hill after the audition, even one between Gosling and Legend *SPOILER*.

These critiques aside, the film is a wonderful picture to see during the holidays and is exactly what we need right now at the end of a tumultuous year. I do think the leads have wonderful chemistry and the production values, for the most part, are really excellent. I just love the film's first hour.

Lastly, though can we PLEASE STOP with the critique that songs need to be catchy? A song's merit is not in how catchy it is. Meghan Trainor songs are catchy, it doesn't mean they're good. This is such a lazy, old-hat critique that has been used on musicals for decade. I can't think of how many times I encounter people who criticise Sondheim musicals like 'Sunday in the Park with George' and 'Assassins', both of which are brilliant and excellent examples of genius songwriting, for not having catchy songs. Honestly, it's an absurd critique IMO. Personally, I think the two numbers are the film's best songs, and I do wish we'd had another ensemble number towards the end. Loved Hurwitz's homage to Legrand's scores.

Happy Christmas Nathaniel, the TFE team and the podcast club! Love to you all.

December 24, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew

I liked La La Land, and I thought it was technically strong, but the characters and story were a weak link. That lovely ending felt unearned. Nothing that happened before made me think that those characters would have those feelings so many years later. I also found myself surprised at the awards buzz the leads are getting. They did exactly what they were asked to do, but it didn't seem like there was too much to do. The songs were lovely, if a bit repetitive, but I think the way they built upon each other worked well. Overall, "cute", well made, and absolutely appreciated for doing something original, but far from the best of the year (that distinction still belongs to Moonlight, by a wide margin).

December 24, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterVal

I finally saw LLL. The characters and story appinted by other posters are what impend the movie soar inho. Especially the arcs of both protagonist and some "devices" well known and used already by Chazelle. I think he's a fantastic craftman. A young talent. He just NEEDS really hus scripts be collaborative or else, make adpatations of someone elses's. That's the weak link I've already saw with Whiplash. It's like he always burry the non protagonist to ghost wallpapers, except this time with LLL with the character of Jogn Legend, which I found cliche and not that interesting. He has all the idead of the big canvas and misses the human extras like Xmas decorations on a long video clip. Whiplash it's the same. I think he needs a good doses of Altman. That's my wish for Xmas for Chazelle. Stop making stunt work of the people surrounding the protagonists. Use more imaginative subplots. Get a more insightful approach of human beings. Keep the twist endings going. You're good at endings!. Fix those things, and I'll like you better.

December 24, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterchofer

On the subject of awards buzz: Gosling deserves every bit of it, too bad he won't collect a stack of 'em. Comedy, drama, romance, singing, dancing and piano playing? Come on.

December 24, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Andrew, your comments are very well thought out and articulated. Kudos and even if I didn't entirely agree, I liked reading them.

December 24, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterArkaan

I'm in the same boat as Nathaniel, I think. Upon first watch of La La Land back when it aired during the Telluride film I instantly fell in love with it because it truly is beautiful. Upon second watch in theaters with a more critical lens the other day, I found that while it was problematic and had missteps in terms of directing, etc. it still is a fantastic film. Still holding up as the best film of the year for me.

December 24, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterbeyaccount

I like "La La Land" more now than when I saw it, but it has so many flaws that are easy to pick at, mainly regarding the thin characters and plot.

There's a moment I keep coming back to, though. When Mia the aspiring actress goes to her childhood bedroom, I thought we were about to get the cliche of her looking through a scrapbook or yearbook or programs for old plays she did in school. Instead, we get two shots of posters on her wall. One is a piece of paper with "comedy", "drama", and "theatre" written all over it in different fonts. The other is a piece of paper that literally just says "THEATRE BACKGROUND". It's breathtaking. It's the set design equivalent of an actor accidentally reading stage directions aloud.

Or how else am I supposed to read that moment? If it's an intentional gag, is the movie even more self-aware then I give it credit for, recognizing how vague and archetypal its characters are? Is her hometown actually Dogville?

But I think that sums up a lot of my concerns with the film - it's so busy racing for emotions that the details are sloppy, and the performers' charm has to compensate for a lot.

December 24, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDave S.

Really liked La La Land, but loved the ending especially.

Moonlight is still the best of the year.

Manchester was a good film, overrated I feel, but good.

Fences- can't find better acting in film this year.

December 24, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMiguel

If you criticize "La La Land" for having a "weak" story then you're also criticizing nearly every film it pays homage to for the same thing. In truth, "La La Land" is a more complicated and pathos-filled movie than every film Astaire and Rogers ever made and most of the Freed MGM output from the 40s and 50s.

December 24, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

re Jonathan: I mean, I get that. But if the goal is to pay homage only, then you know, make a documentary about the great musicals. As a narrative film, I think we should at least care a little about the main characters and their romance/life/ambitions. This movie made everything perfunctory. I hated the structure that it hangs that paper-thin plot on. The only reason why the movie is still worth seeing is Emma Stone, and also the fact that most of the musical numbers are charming and memorable.

December 26, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterkin

LLL is an exercise in the post-modern recapture of a genre with the plot locked in that same recapture; that is to say, the plot concerns two artists "making it" in their devoted fields. That's it. Making it in what capacity takes a back seat to simply becoming a "hot" commodity despite the art literally being irrelevant; in Gosling's (his character escapes me) endeavor literally, as he tries to attract attention back to music that would score this very film-which is also called on by another character within- and in Mia's case, it again, doesn't make a difference, as long as she is now the one in the golf cart.

It would have been far more interesting if there were a plot outside the realm of the recreation of a genre . Also, on a less analytic level, for goodness sake man, take time to rewrite. You're telling me that the entire relationship falls apart because he missed one photo shoot?; or , is it because he is constantly on tour (because he seems to give that up as we see him playing at a wedding, apparently having given up on touring)? So, they break up for no reason as their mutual influence thus far has been quite beneficial to them both. And then, they don't speak for six years? Why? Because she goes to Paris to shoot a film for a few months? The ending is forced, dictated by a script that undermines its own plot. In "New York, New York" the dissolution of the relationship is organic; here, it is anything but.
In short, if the film were a study on relationships trying to survive personal success ,it is masked by the style of the film that REQUIRES ultimate compatibility. It is immature, though beautiful to look at which is certainly an achievement. And yes, the last song of the film (Mia's solo at audition) is a rip-off of "the Rainbow Connection." Who doesn't hear that?

January 16, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterScott Maione

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