La La Land – This movie is so glorious I actually cried tears of joy in the theater

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I knew I was going to love La La Land, Damien Chazelle’s new film musical, but I wasn’t really ready for how it made me feel watching it in the theater today.  Damien Chazelle blew me away with Whiplash, an intense movie about a jazz drummer which opened Sundance a few years ago, and garnered J. K. Simmons a Supporting Actor Oscar.  The success of Whiplash let him make the musical movie he’d always dreamed of.

I went to see La La Land alone today because I. Could. Not. WAIT, but I will be dragging everyone I can to go see it on the big screen.  I want to see it as many times as I possibly can.  Critics have swooned, even Manohla Dargis wrote about how swept away she was watching it the second time.

I love movie musicals.  I live and breathe them.  I fell hard for Fred Astaire, adore Gene Kelly and the list goes on.  Those films of the past had magic.  Yes, they were earnest and wore their heart on their sleeve, but can anything convey like a song that heavenly feeling of falling in love?  Musicals have fallen out of fashion in cynical Hollywood as of late.  They are rare or you have to watch a Disney animated film to see one.  I have turned to Indian films to get my musical fix.

 

Today, in the theater, Damien Chazelle gave me the most precious gift.  He gave me a Hollywood musical, steeped in the traditions and with a love for Hollywood musicals of the past, and also fresh and adult and modern.  The movie made me smile from the first frames as an LA traffic jam leads to people getting out of their cars to dance and sing.

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Then we meet Emma Stone’s Mia, a struggling actress and Ryan Gosling’s Sebastian, a struggling Jazz piano player.  They run into each other a few times and banter before this glorious spontaneous dance:

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How gorgeous is that shot?!  The sunset on the hills, her yellow dress and red hair.  How they have those matching shoes.

There are bumps along the way, but one night they go to the Griffith Observatory after seeing Rebel With A Cause.  And then they fall in love, and the music takes them up into the stars.  I seriously started crying tears of joy at this.  I didn’t just choke up.  Tears were running down my face I was so happy.

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I loved all the camera tricks that Chazelle uses.  He’s studied the masters and gone even a step further.  This is a film where Damien Chazelle takes the every day and makes it part of a musical number.  We meet Mia’s roommates and a blow dryer gives Mia a moment worthy of a Bollywood number:

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People don’t just walk down the street to a party – they do this:

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I was only hoping for a few big musical dance numbers, but this a full fledged musical film with songs and dances throughout from start to finish.  The music is all original by Justin Hurwitz who also provided the score for Whiplash.  Ryan Gosling’s character is a jazz musician who is always composing and working on his music, so it makes sense in the film for moments like this one:

 

This is hands down my favorite film of the year.  It’s about a guy and a gal falling in love and struggling to make their dreams come true.  Maybe it doesn’t have the weight of Manchester by the Sea, or the important issues of a film like Moonlight.  But I cried more than once — for joy and for the beauty of it all.  That final sequence just left me again in tears it was so perfect.  So beautiful.  So bittersweet.  This is not a saccharine sappy film.

Chazelle fought hard to get this cast.  He had to really convince Emma Stone to make the leap and she didn’t make it easy.  Ryan Gosling took piano lessons for months so that he could convincingly play the piano in the film without editing cheats.  Gosling and Stone have shown in films like Crazy, Stupid Love that they have that X factor chemistry between them.  This film was almost cast with Miles Teller and Emma Watson.   Thank God Stone and Gosling became available — Emma Stone is likely to win an Oscar nomination for this film.

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La La Land is romance at its best.  Damien Chazelle has captured magic in bottle.  I plan to partake again and again.

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Happy Birthday SRK – My Favorite Shahrukh Khan Movies

unnamedShahrukh Khan was my entree into Indian Cinema.  And it’s all because of Netflix.  Netflix streaming’s algorithm recommended Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge to me because I love romantic movies.  Then I watched Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi and I was a goner.  I think my story is similar to many other non-Desi fans of Indian Cinema — Shahrukh Khan is our gateway to this wonderful world of film.  And the internet and Netflix makes it so easy now to really dive into an obsession.

How big a fan of Shahrukh Khan am I?  This is my phone’s lock screen background:

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I’ve seen 50 of Shahrukh Khan’s 70 plus movies.  Picking my favorite Shahrukh Khan films after the top two is like picking my favorite children.  SRK brings something special even in the worst of films.

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The only Shahrukh Khan film I really can’t stand and won’t watch again is King Uncle, and really that’s a Jackie Shroff Annie remake and SRK is barely in it.

But enough of the worst, on to my favorite Shahrukh Khan films:

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10.  Swades

My love of this movie about an NRI who returns home to India is particularly for this song sequence.  In Yeh Tara Woh Tara, when the projector won’t work in the village, SRK leads the children in a song about the stars.  And we get that classic arms outstretched pose projected on the sheet used for the screen.  Just a magical moment of a song.

 

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9.  Chak De India

I love that SRK did this film about a girl’s field hockey team.  Just a masterful performance and a great message.  He’s let his female co-stars have top billing in his films, and here he lets a whole team of them take center stage.

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8. Don

I recently watched the original Don with Amitabh Bachchan, and I am now even more impressed with how Farhan Akhtar kept the spirit of the original, while updating it and giving it a new twist.  Plus he has the cool seventies music from the original updated and incorporated in this fantastic film.  I love Shahrukh Khan in double roles, just love seeing him create two different personas in the same film, from Baazigar to Fan.  This is one of the best, and so delicious to see him in a dark sexy villain role.

7.  Kuch Kuch Hota Hai

Kuch Kuch Hota Hai can be silly, but Karan Johar can just get me right in the gut with his love story triangles (or quadrangles).  This gazebo scene is just so sexy.  That SRKajol magic!  We get SRK/Rani plus a sweet Salman Khan as a bonus.

6. Om Shanti Ohm

I love Farah Khan and her collaborations with Shahrukh.  Main Hoon Na barely missed the cut for this list, but I have to give it up to OSO.  Farah has given us an homage to classic Bollywood film, launched the debut of Deepika Pudakone, and the song sequences are just amazing.  Farah was a choreographer first, and the great music is paramount in this film.  I will love her forever for making SRK the item guy in the sexy Dard-e-Disco.  We won’t talk about how many times I’ve seen the Dard-e-Disco song video.

I saw Om Shanti Ohm early on in my watching of Hindi films, and I don’t know if I recognized anyone except Kajol the first time I watched Deewangi Deewangi.  This song is my yardstick of how far I’ve come in watching Hindi films.  Farah Khan loves allusions to other Hindi films in her movies, and cameos and this is the king of cameo songs.  I didn’t know Dharmendra or why Shahrukh made that hair gesture with the thin guy I now know is Zayed Khan.  These days, I’m so advanced I know the guy playing Shahrukh’s father in the second half is a big Pakistani soap star (And I’ve watched him play Fawad Khan’s father in Zindagi Gulzar Hai)!  OSO is just that much funnier and you just appreciate it so much more knowing filmi background.  I laughed so hard at the Filmfare scene on a subsequent watch with Abhishek being nominated for Dhoom 4 and SRK being nominated for two identical looking romances in the Swiss Alps with sweaters.

5.  My Name Is Khan

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This may have been the first movie I saw with SRK where he wasn’t playing a version of the SRK persona, but was really acting a character.  Shahrukh plays a man with Asperger’s and his relationship  with Kajol in the first half of the film is just wondrous.  The second half of the film is like looking at my  country through a fun house mirror.  The flood scene somewhere in the South where SRK is taken in by an African American family is a little weird, but it’s still a very moving film with a powerful message.

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4. Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham

KKKG feels like the ultimate Bollywood film.  It’s got just about everybody in it!  I’ve shown this movie as a first Hindi movie to friends because it introduces you to all the major players.  I’ve posted just the reunion scene of SRK with Jaya who plays his mother, and without subtitles, I’ve had people demand to know where they could see this film because of the emotion they saw.  This song,  Yeh Ladka Hai Allah, may be my ultimate SRK and Kajol dance and fall in love number ever.  It is just so, so swoony.  Yeh Ladka Hai Allah, indeed.  And the outfit Shahrukh is wearing is so, so gorgeous.

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3. Veer-Zaara

Veer-Zaara is Yash Chopra at his peak.  Lush scenery, beautiful songs, and an interfaith romance that just makes me tear up each and every time I watch it.  My favorite song sequence of Shahrukh’s ever is Main Yahan Hoon from Veer-Zaara.  Oh, my gosh.  The way Priety is trying to forget Shahrukh as her father forces her to become engaged to Manoj, and yet, she sees Shahrukh everywhere.  He haunts her.  And then goes in for her collarbone in the rain and I swoon.  Every. Single. Time.

 

2. Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi

Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (Match Made in Heaven) was the second Shahrukh Khan I ever saw, and I watched it right after DDLJ.   This is how new I was to my love of SRK.  I actually paused the movie and looked it up, because I could not believe Raj and Suri were the same actor.  I loved the comedic Raj, but quiet nerdy steadfast Suri stole my heart.  Such a great film.  Aditya Chopra is the master.  I watch this film over and over..  It is my comfort and my solace.  Watching this film cemented my love of Shahrukh Khan forever.

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  1. DDLJ  (Could there be any other?)

Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (The Bravehearted Wins the Bride) is the one that started it all.  The first half can be a little silly, reminding me sometimes of a prank filled John Hughes film.  But, oh, man, the second half hits you.  I can’t even really express what watching DDLJ did to me the first time (and every time).  It touched my heart and gave me something I didn’t even know I was missing.  Hollywood rarely makes Rom-Coms anymore, much less musicals.  This film opened my world and gave me the gift that is Indian cinema.  Since I watched DDLJ in the summer of 2014, I’ve watched over 300 Indian films.  Thanks, Shahrukh for making me fall in love!  And Happy Birthday!