La La Land (2016)

La La Land (2016)
Written and Directed by Damien Chazelle

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Musicals came into popularity after World War II and provided audiences with a much needed relief from the issues that were going on in the world. They were idyllic, romantic, and in a sense magical; the Ginger Rogers’ and Fred Astaire’s of that era exuded charisma and charm, and viewers couldn’t help, but fall in love with the joyous stories that unfolded on the screen. Writer and director Damien Chazelle, once again brings his musicality as he did in Whiplash to his new film La La Land, and creates a film that is as reminiscent of the past as it is unique to the present. La La Land feels like an ode to classical movies without being cliché or a copy of anything else. Instead it was a magical and rare film that lent itself to unfolding a love story that was beautiful and exciting to watch.

The film is about the lives of two struggling and aspiring performers, Mia (Emma Stone) works as a barista on the Warner Brothers lot and is trying to land any job in the acting biz and Sebastian or Seb (Ryan Gosling) a jazz pianist who wants to live his dream of being a working musician. The two of them are passionate about their dreams and relentless in trying to make them come true, but the realities of trying to make it in Hollywood are tough.

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When Mia goes on casting calls, the agents look at their phones and could care less about her feelings and when Sebastian tries to find music gigs, many of them land him in cover bands with ridiculous costumes.

In a city full of people, Mia and Sebastian happen to keep running into each other and it feels as if they were meant to meet. The two get each other and understand the passion each holds for their art. Sebastian hopes to one day open a jazz club like the ones of the past where Charlie Parker played, and Mia wants to perform in the movies like the ones she adored as a child. Both of them have a yearning to hold onto their dreams and together they help each other deal with the ups and downs that come with the harshness of the music and film industries.

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As the two fall in love, their romance is intertwined with musical numbers. Mia wears a yellow dress with oxfords and glides on screen, reminiscent of a little bit of the naivete that Judy Garland possessed with that of the adorableness of Audrey Hepburn. Sebastian leads Mia in the dancing and singing, dressed in a retro suit and wing-tip shoes, and oozes charisma and charm like Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire. Not to say that Gosling killed it like those dancers used to, but he did well and stood out as a true leading man like those of a yesteryear.

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Gosling and Stone did wonderful in their performances and you could not help, but want to watch them. Stone truly carries the film and deserves an Oscar nod. The true winner of the film is Chazelle, his screenplay and direction were unique and it felt like a movie I have never seen before. He was able to capture the whimsy of those classical films and create a movie that is all his own. Where Whiplash hits you in the face with fear and anger at every cymbal smash, La La Land makes you feel like you are walking on a cloud and living in a bit of a dream.

The music in the film was paired wonderfully with the scenes, the songs never felt boring or too sing-songy like those we are used to seeing in musicals. It doesn’t hurt that John Legend provided his vocals and acting abilities to the film as well. The music was a good blend of jazz and classical and the soundtrack is worth a listen.

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I kept on thinking throughout the movie that it reminded me of Casablanca, a film that makes you feel every emotion in the book. I adored this movie and highly recommend it. You do not have to be a fan of musicals or classic films to appreciate it. The film is timeless tribute to a bygone film era and can be enjoyed by all.

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))Melissa

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Sully (2016)

Sully
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Written by Todd Komarnicki, adapted from the book by Chesley Sullenberger

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Rarely do true heroes want accolades and admiration, think police officers, fire fighters, doctors, etc., instead most of them are quick to say that they were simply doing their job. In Clint Eastwood’s new film, Sully, he depicts the pilot Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) as a stoic, no frills type of hero. This isn’t a film about a man wearing a cape saving the world, instead it is about a man who saved dozens of lives or “souls” as he says, and lived to tell the story that would forever define his life.

The film is set on the real life events that occurred on January 15, 2009, also known as the “Miracle on the Hudson,” when US Airways flight 1549 was set off course by a flock of geese that crippled both engines. Instead of heading back to La Guardia airport as suggested by radio air traffic controllers, Sully and his co-pilot Jeffrey Zaslow (Aaron Exckhart) made the decision to land the plane on the Hudson River. A feat never done before and one that is rarely if ever successful. The plane landed in the water and every single passenger and aircrew member survived. To say that what happened that day was a miracle, is an understatement.

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Much like Eastwood’s most notable previous film American Sniper, he once again brings audiences up-close and personal through life and death matters. The traumatic event isn’t shown as expected, as in the beginning of the movie, instead the events are shown in a dispersed manner. They are cut with Sully’s nightmares of what could have been that day, scenes that look reminiscent 9/11, with the plane coming tremendously close and exploding into New York City buildings. One of the main features of the film that I enjoyed was that all the credit was not given to Sully, the point is made that it was a combined effort of the pilots, first responders, and everyone involved in the rescue that made this event not turn into a disaster.

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The film vacillates between the heroic landing and the life that Sully must now endure, he is now a hero in the face of the public, but in his eyes he was just doing his job. He used his over 40 years of aviation experience and gut instincts to nail the landing and do what he knew was right in order to save everyone. Sully remains uncomfortable with the limelight and when he walks into a NYC bar and sees his face all over the television, he almost doesn’t want to look up and see the news. He can’t seem to contend with that fact. The bartender quickly recognizes him and serves him a drink aptly created after the incident, a grey goose on the rocks with water, of course. We get light moments like this throughout the film, but the majority of it is tense and a bit nerve-wrecking, despite the fact that we know everyone will survive.

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Although he was considered a hero, Sully must face the National Transportation Safety Board and withstand the second-guessing of his actions by investigators Charles Porter (Mike O’Malley) and Elizabeth Davis (Anna Gunn), who believe that he could have gone back to La Guardia without endangering everyone onboard by performing an emergency water landing. The courtroom scenes despite being repetitive were pivotal in helping the audience understand that what Sully did was the right thing and that without his quick-thinking actions it could have been a national disaster.

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Hanks delivers on every level, his performance was subtle and nuanced. There was no dramatic breakdown, or moment where he empties out the mini-bar, instead we get the feeling that Sully is an everyman type of guy who loves his wife and family and just wants to do his job. Hanks remained calm and collected and didn’t over-perform the role, which in this case completely worked. Hanks’ performance took me back to the years where it seemed that he was winning an Oscar every year. It is likely that he could get nominated for his portrayal and it will be well-deserved.

Eastwood hit it out of the park with this one and I enjoyed every minute of the film. This movie deserves to be seen and if you enjoy dramas Sully is the one to watch.

}}Melissa