The Return of the Hollywood Musical with La La Land

la-la-land

Manohla Dargis of the New York Times, wrote an article last week about La La Land and the state of the Hollywood Musical:  ‘La La Land’ Makes Musicals Matter Again

The first time I watched Damien Chazelle’s musical, La La Land, I thought a lot about how it worked, about its form, his craft and how the lickable candy-colored costumes bring to mind both M&M’s and Jacques Demy.  I thought about how Mr. Chazelle and his stars, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, fit into the history of the film musical. When I went to see La La Land again, I was in a terrible state, and this time I just fell into it, gratefully. I surrendered. Afterward, I realized that this is what it must have been like to watch Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers during the Great Depression.

I have a passion for musicals.  Back in the day  — gather children and hear about the dark ages before DVDs – I would set my alarm to get up in the middle of the night when an old Fred Astaire movie was playing on TV.  Then we got a VCR and I’d tape them to watch over and over.  It was pure magic.  The dance becoming part of the expression of the characters that she describes in La La Land is just what I found in Astaire/Rogers numbers like ‘Night And Day’ from my favorite of their films, The Gay Divorcee.  That exquisite Cole Porter music, and their magical romance through movement.

I watched the Gene Kelly musicals, too, but Fred was my first love.  He even dances in roller skates with Ginger in ‘Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off’ in Shall We Dance.

Hollywood has done musicals in the modern era — God bless you Baz Luhrmann for your crazy wonderful movies like Moulin Rouge.

And there have been the sporadic adaptations of Broadway hits, like the dark cynical Chicago and the recent Into the Woods.  (Which gives me the perfect excuse to include my favorite song from Into the Woods, the ‘Agony’ duet of Chris Pine and Billy Magnussen.)

 

There has really only been a sporadic spotty record of musicals from Hollywood in recent years, and not the steady diet I craved.

Then, I discovered Indian Cinema, and that void in my life was finally filled.  For others, the music numbers are an excuse to visit the bathroom, but they are the main event for me.  I love the earnest love stories and the emotions, and just ….ALL of it.  I love the BIG numbers, and the intimate duets in mustard fields.

 

Contemporary American movies could use more s’wonderful, more music and dance, and way, way more surrealism. They’re too dull, too ordinary, and too straight, whether they’re mired in superhero cliches or remodeled kitchen-sink realism.  One of the transformative pleasures of musicals is at even at their most choreographed, they break from conformity, the dos and don’ts of regimented life, suggesting the possibility that everyone can move to their own beat.

Amen, sister.  Amen.

Manohla talks about Damien Chazelle’s passion for the old musicals I love, the Fred and Ginger movies, the Gene Kelly masterpieces.  Every article I’ve read about La La Land just raves and raves that “they don’t make movies like this anymore.”  Thank God someone in Hollywood finally is….again.  I. Can’t. WAIT!  December 9th can not come fast enough.

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