Living in La La Land

I walked into the cinema on a cold late night with my mother. Expectations were high, popcorn was at the ready and phones were off. La La Land did not disappoint. 

The opening musical sequence on the busy roads of LA set the scene for both the plot and overall feel of the movie. From the outset I knew we were both in for a true theatrical experience, a movie filled with dance and song to both lift our spirits and make our hearts break… in a good way. 

The movie was completely saturated with old Hollywood references from the costume and make up design to the song and dance numbers reminiscent of films like Singing In the Rain and West Side Story. I was basically dancing in my chair. Precise choreography combined with charming melodies, picturesque settings and a touch of movie magic (aka special effects) created spectacular sequences which were both appealing to the eye and ear. 

Without a doubt, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling have proved their onscreen chemistry over and over again. And La La Land was no exception. The pair shone as two struggling artists ultimately finding love and hope in each other proving that a little song and dance did not in any way stifle their chemistry. The nostalgic atmosphere, undeniable costar chemistry and an award winning musical score make La La Land the ultimate date night movie. 

However, what appeared to be a stereotypical Hollywood love story becomes something much greater entirely. As my mother and I left the theatre, she looked at me oddly and said “you know Mary, it really does just take one decision to change the course of your life.” This musical movie had somehow made her reflect on her own life and the decisions she made that led her to exactly where she was. (Don’t worry, no spoilers!) And then all of a sudden I was forced to reflect on my own short life and indeed there were very few choices, actions and events which took place at major crossroads in my life so far and I’d have to agree with her.

In one lifetime there may a number of life altering choices we make, so few that we may count them on one hand. Despite the name, the over the top musical sequences and fairytale-like atmosphere, the characters were not living in La La Land. They had to deal with very real tough decisions, heart break, loss, struggle and regret. It would seem that this La La Land backdrop only served to accentuate the harsh realities of life and love. In the end, La La Land is a film of escapism and sensory pleasure. But as the name suggests, it is a world that does not exist, except maybe in the movies….

Age of Ultron: Resistance is Futile

With movie competition high this year, it seems there’s no escaping the Avengers phenomenon. But how do you ask could the bosses at Marvel compete with the last instalment? Just bigger, better and more Avenger goodness. In my opinion, the success of Age of Ultron lies in what made the first movie a success. Only this time on a larger scale. Add in a few more superheroes to throw a spanner in the works, a new badass villain, longer kickass action sequences and the same characters we fell in love with and it’s a winning combination.

It would be easy for the writers, and us, to get too comfortable but they’ve managed to avoid that by adding fresh and unexpected elements (don’t worry, no spoilers) whilst maintaining the essence of the Avengers team; comedically timed humour, drama, internal conflict and character exploration. For me, it was interesting for us, the audience, to suddenly become aware of our greatest heroes’ weaknesses. I guess it would be easy for them to become 2 dimensional heroic out-of-this-world individuals, but by realising their own fears the franchise has once again been able to pull on our heart strings- who would’ve thought, the hulk has a heart and Cap has trouble finding where he belongs in life? Sound familiar? Yes, our personal gods and heroes struggle with the same things we do. Granted, they do look much cooler and sexier as they go through the motions of saving the world (as usual), but still good to know.

I think it all comes down to our own universal inner child. We may grow up and our sensibilities mature and change, but we all at one point had bigger outlandish dreams. We may have pretended to be invincible as we ran around the backyard with a cape. We may have been forced to come down from the roof because we were convinced we knew how to fly. So although Avengers: Age of Ultron is essentially a wonderful example of escapism and a spectacle of the senses in entertainment, it would all be for nothing if it wasn’t entrenched in nostalgia and our own personal desires; to be bigger, better and larger than life. And hey, if that still doesn’t sound appealing, just chuck in a couple of shots of Chris Evans in the tightest shirts you could find. Sorted.

Seeing Grey

Fifty Shades of Grey was undoubtedly one of the most anticipated and controversial movies of 2015. Having said that, I did end up watching it…at home, by myself. The idea of going to a movie theatre to watch it with others did not seem appealing to me. Despite it all, I went into it with an open mind and attempted to give the movie my full attention and the benefit of the doubt. At the end of the movie, I was pleasantly surprised. I wouldn’t say it was life changing but it certainly was not as bad as others had let on.

Granted, as hard as I could try, some scenes legitimately felt like a joke and I wondered how the actors managed to film without rolling on the floor with laughter. Seriously, the script at times felt forced, insincere and manufactured. But then again, the script writers did not have an amazing work of literature to work with. With what they had, they still managed to create characters. Characters who I didn’t fully understand in terms of their actions and thought processes but still realistic. As someone who grew up reading and watching Twilight I couldn’t help but compare the two and was not surprised how similar the two were. The script (with ample amounts of added dirty talk of course), the cinematic close ups and the overarching theme of forbidden love. Down to the moody protagonist and the quirky awkward student, to the forest scene and piano motif. But that was to be expected.

The negative backlash towards the movie I believe is an amalgamation of a number of things. People blaming the movie for irrational and illegal behaviour is wrong and cowardly in my opinion. Everything done in life is a choice and one cannot place the blame on filmography for despicable acts of any kind. I myself have watched the movie and yet do not feel the urge to mentally and physically abuse someone. On the outset, the relationship between Anastasia and Christian is by far an unhealthy one. However, individuals who then feel the urge to abuse someone are the vast minority and are mentally sick or perverted. A movie of this nature simply highlights in people feelings which are already there.

My advice, don’t read too much into it and try not to analyse the movie (although I’m sure your high school english lessons teach you to). At the end of the day, when a movie makes hundreds of millions of dollars around the world, is it so wrong? If critics view this material as perverted and disturbing but it’s what society wants to see, is the movie really at fault? Or, even more disturbingly, is the movie a reflection of society itself? At any rate, the movie has achieved what I believe is the role of movies, to evoke. Take it as it is on the outset and remember, this is a movie adaptation of a book based on Twilight fan fiction. It was never meant to be one of the cinematic greats. Rather it was aimed to bring to life what the general public wanted- the magnetic attraction of a forbidden love with a couple who did more than cuddle.