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'La La Land' is the new "standard" for fun in cinema


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#1 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 23 December 2016 - 01:40 AM

'La La Land' is the new "standard" for fun in cinema.

From the very opening number, 'La La Land' delivers a perfect mix of fantastic characters and excellent acting, mixed with vibrant musical numbers that harken back to an era of filmmaking many people forgot about. 'La La Land' is aptly named because the filmmakers are clearly in love with Hollywood, not just in location, but also in the story itself, which revolves around "making it" in the industry. So much of the story hit home, everyone in this industry has the struggles these characters go through and to me, that association made the story ever more entertaining.

I must admit, I've never been a huge fan of musicals. However, the way 'La La Land' dealt with their music, worked very well. They didn't tell the story through singing, they told the story through music. If you think about it, that's the RIGHT way to make a musical because most people don't want to be sung to, but they will gladly hear a nice song that helps fill in a normal dialog scene. This film dives deep into music of various kinds and how people in the music industry are forced to do work they normally wouldn't do in order to fulfill their dreams. In a lot of ways, it's the sad reality of being in a more creative field these days and this film hit's a home run when it comes to telling the truth.

Technically 'La La Land' is extremely proficient with a brilliant concept of dimming lights around actors to "pause" certain moments and sing a song for instance. It's a great device that I haven't seen used in this fashion in a long time. The dance numbers were also shot with one flowing camera move, that made them much more exciting then the more classical fast cutting method. The amount of steadicam work is absolutely insane, it seems like every scene with someone moving was shot with steadicam. You could see the cuts between takes, where they did a digital splice between two takes in order to break long takes up, but it worked well. The film was shot on 35mm with anamorphic lenses (2.40:1 aspect ratio) and it looked pretty good. Very little noticeable grain, though it was for sure a 2k finish. I was a bit dismayed with some over-exposed scenes in harsh daylight, something that could have easily been fixed on set, but it was clearly unfixable in post or they would have fixed it. There were also some issues with focus pulling, but with film cameras and anamorphic lenses, it's really hard to judge focus on complex camera moves. Lighting wise, the film was proficient, but nothing crazy. Lots of big sources at night with a key of some kind. Lots of controlled "set" lighting, which worked SOO well! I felt the set's were fantastic and so professionally done, those moments really stole the show lighting wise.

The music/songs were catchy and some of the jazz numbers within the movie, were even better then the score. Of course, the actors sung and performed all of the songs on their own, including Ryan Gosling having to learn the piano from scratch in a few months of tutoring. Even John Legend has a role in the movie and does a great job, not only acting, but with writing a really nice track for the film.

I loved how the film was edited (most likely written this way), which wasn't as chronological as most movies. There is even an epilogue, kind of a 4th act so to speak, that was absolutely brilliant and unexpected. That mixed with the editing style that held onto longer takes and single's vs the more standard 2 shot, it was just brilliantly made. There were moments where the filmmakers just stayed on a single, non-moving actor talking facing the camera, just looking to the right or left of the lens, for a good solid two minutes. The takes were EPIC and it worked so well thanks to the fantastic cast and I would assume, a lot of ad-lib.

Over-all, I absolutely loved 'La La Land' in every way. Even though there were some technical snafus', and the big tap dance number could have been way better, I felt the movie over-all was extremely strong and VERY fun. You could tell the filmmakers were having fun making it and honestly, I was having a blast watching it. To me, more intelligent "fun" movies like this, are what is lacking in Hollywood. It seems more and more, the studio films would rather be stupid and fun, rather then intelligent and fun. This is where 'La La Land' really changes the paradigm and is just one excellent ride! I don't say this much but I do believe this is the best "general audience" movie I've seen in decades and for sure the best one this year by leaps and bounds.

9/10 4.5 stars out of 5.
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#2 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 23 December 2016 - 02:54 AM

One more thing to mention... I saw this film at the AMC Burbank and they have some strange screens there that look very funny. Last time I went to this theater (few years ago) I thought it was the projectors, but they're all Sony 4k models, so I doubt that was the issue. Today however I looked more carefully and it seems like the screens are designed to reflect light differently then most screens. They aren't completely flat I believe, I think they have some reflective material to them. This makes movies look very strange and more soft then normal I feel. I was very unimpressed with the presentation I saw of this movie. Yet another example of theaters trying present things differently and failing miserably.
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