Wednesday, December 21, 2016

La La Land

                                              Dancin’ in (and with) the Stars
 While I’ve seen more than I’m reviewing this week (specifically, Miss Sloane [John Madden] with a knockout performance from Jessica Chastain as an excessively-driven Washington, D.C. lobbyist and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story* [Gareth Edwards] which adds to the previous mythology), I’m saving comments on some of them until 2017 because there are many other activities calling me away during this end-of-year-holiday-season so I’m confining myself in this posting to the film that’s impressed me most lately, the marvelous musical (not an easy phrase for me to utter), La La Land.

*Rogue One …’s greatly helped Disney’s global-grosses-domination—the first studio to amass $7 billion worldwide in 1 year—along with other major hits from this huge-cinema-conglomerate.
                                                             Review by Ken Burke

Take care, curious readers, for plot spoilers gallop rampantly throughout the Two Guys’ insightful reviews.  Therefore, be warned, beware, and read on when you’re ready to be transported to … wherever we end up.  Please protect your eyes from the dazzling brilliance.
                                                   La La Land (Damien Chazelle)
A modern take on the old-fashioned Hollywood genre of the musical where 2 young, aspiring performers (her in acting, him in jazz piano) are facing career difficulties but manage to better focus toward their dreams, finding inspiration from their evolving romance although the road’s more difficult than they imagined; lots of great dance and nightclub scenes.
What Happens: After a comical widening of the screen format to bring us into the elongated space of Cinemascope, we begin with an overhead shot of (sadly for the local residents) a typical day in Los Angeles showing a bright blue winter sky contrasted with a freeway completely at a standstill (shot on a large ramp that happened to be closed at the time).  Rather than a road-rage-scene, however, we’re soon treated to a mass of commuters getting out of their cars to sing and dance to an upbeat tune (“Another Day of Sun”) so we know that we’re in the realm of the musical genre (or some alternative universe, given a tragic story I just read about—in Arkansas!—where a 3-year-old-boy was killed when some asshole shot into the car because his grandmother didn’t pull away from a stop sign soon enough for the idiot’s liking; may he rot in jail for a very long time), especially the kind of musicals where you don’t have to be a professional performer to just burst into a vocal or kinetic display of talent.  We don’t know if this is reality or fantasy, though, because as this opening number finishes the scene cuts to an ordinary shot of the backup, where just a little bit of frustration fires up as a young woman, Mia (Emma Stone), takes a tad too long looking over her upcoming-audition-information for the honking guy behind her, Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), who finally pulls by as she flips him off while he moves out of her life (at least for the next few minutes).  

 Mia, a wannabe-actress/actual-barista in the Warner Bros. Studios coffee shop, flops (again) in that audition (not helped by having to wear a jacket over her coffee-stained-white-blouse because a guy bumped into her as she was leaving for the hoped-for-better-job); later that night she’s morose but finally convinced to go to a big downtown party by her 3 upbeat roommates—all dressed in bright, primary hues with their mutual enthusiasm bursting into another song (“Someone in the Crowd”).

 Mia’s not connecting at the event, though, but as she leaves she finds her car’s been towed so as she’s walking home past a restaurant she hears some marvelous piano music, then she walks in.  Suddenly, we’re back at the freeway pileup with Sebastian pulling away from Mia, going to his sparse apartment where he gets into a regular heated argument with his sister, Laura (Rosemarie DeWitt)about not having a regular-enough-job to pay his bills, then heads off to work his piano gig in that aforementioned-restaurant where he’s told by belligerent boss Bill (J.K. Simmons) to stay true to the house playlist of mandated instrumental Christmas carols rather than veering off into his true musical love, jazz.  He holds out for as long as he can (offering traditional-tunes for indifferent customers) before launching into a lively piece of his own (“Mia & Sebastian’s Theme”) which promptly gets him fired.  At that point we connect back to Mia’s entry, but as she attempts to tell him how much she enjoyed his playing he walks dismissively past her.  Then, on-screen-graphics tell us that we’ve now moved ahead to spring where Mia’s at a poolside-party with music from a 1980s cover band that includes a generally-disgusted Sebastian.  They recognize each other, leave together (but just as a mutual convenience, walking back to their cars) as their patter moves into an energetic sunset song-and-dance number (“A Lovely Night”), with the emerging lights of the city twinkling behind them.  Just as they seem to be making peace, though, Mia gets a phone call and leaves (she’s casually dating Greg [Finn Wittrock]), although she mentions a hopeful-call-back for a role that reminds Sebastian of Rebel Without a Cause (Nicholas Ray, 1955) so he come to the coffee shop to make a plan for them to see the film at a repertory house, but she’s about to stand him up that night as Greg drops by to remind her of a planned dinner date.  Midway through the meal, though, she rushes off (on foot, even in vast L.A.) to join Sebastian, but as the plot moves to the Griffith Observatory scene the film stock jams, burning up.

 Not to be outdone by a mechanical malfunction, Sebastian drives them up to the real location (open but with no one else in the whole place) as they soon find themselves dancing, not on the floor but up in the created sky where they glide around in the clouds (to the tune of “Planetarium”), clearly falling in love, ending with an iris-in-transition to a resolution of full-screen-blackness, confirming that we’re now truly in 
the realm of old-school-Hollywood-moviedom.  (However, previously there was a bump in their road when she told him she hates jazz, to which he replied that it’s about innovation, she needed to hear it live so he took her to a favorite club of his where she began to see the motivation for his passion, including wanting to buy his own club so that he could preserve the music in its pure form; this led them to more flirtation as they danced together around various L.A. landmarks to “City of Stars.”)  As we iris out to the next scene after the Observatory, we find things are moving quickly in their romance as they now live together, she’s taken his advice to write her own 1-woman-play to get around her audition-blockade while he’s getting regular work at that jazz club he likes.  When we move into summer, though, their lives take a turn when old friend Keith (John Legend) offers Sebastian the keyboard role in his group, The Messengers, which he takes because of the money involved (ultimately, to buy his longed-for-nightspot) but resists because of the showboat nature of Keith’s approach to jazz, which Mia chastises Sebastian for as being untrue to his standards, but he retorts that she’s yet to score with her acting talent, then goes on the road with his group as the lovers begin to pull apart.  As fall arrives, he shows up unexpectedly one night so we assume they’ll reconcile (as well as get us back to the kind of spontaneous movie-musical-interludes that’ve been missing for quite a bit of the film's running time) but his desire to stay with this life of recordings, touring, and rising fame (still just for the income) pushes her further away.

 Later, their romance breaks down completely when a mix-up on the scheduled day of a photo shoot forces him to miss the opening night of her play (So Long, Boulder City) in a small theatre, not even giving him time to tell her about the conflict, so when he arrives after the show’s finished (with barely a dozen showing up to see it) she’s distraught, decides to head back home to Boulder City, NV after all; soon, though, a casting director (one of those few at her show) calls Sebastian’s apartment, looking for Mia with a great opportunity for a film.  He drives to Boulder City, finds her, convinces her to give it a chance, takes her back to L.A. whereupon she learns this film will shoot in Paris (her dream city) after 3 months of developing the story around the principal female, with the audition consisting of her simply telling some sort of story to get a sense of her presence so we finally find ourselves back in a magical musical number (yet serious, with great dramatics in delivery, “Audition [The Fools Who Dream”]) which proves successful with Sebastian encouraging her to follow this great opportunity while he plows his savings into his club, with the intention that they’ll always be able to love each other.  Suddenly, we’re 5 years into the future, she’s a big star, married (to another guy we’ve never seen before) with a baby, out for a night on the town with her husband.  However, we return to the opening situation of backed-up-traffic which causes them to take an exit, then drop into a jazz club which she realizes is Sebastian’s.  He notices her from the stage, plays a familiar tune (the very melodic “Mia & Sebastian’s Theme”) sending the film's visuals flowing into a fast-paced-montage of their lives where they immediately connect at his old restaurant, he goes with her to play in Paris hotspots while her movie’s in progress, they marry, all of which leads us back to the reality of Seb’s club where it’s clear this was just a fantasy rather than some sort of life-mulligan as Mia leaves with a last-longing-look at Sebastian who’s happily-settled at last, at least on stage.

So What? La La Land’s already been written up quite a bit as an homage to a classic Hollywood genre of the long-gone-Studio Era, but looking at how it presents itself as a musical provides a bit more complicated response.  With that opening scene finished off by a shot of just a huge line of cars at a standstill on a freeway ramp* we get no clear transition from the cast's previous exuberance so we could easily surmise that it was all a fantasy in the minds of the stuck drivers (who weren’t complaining about their fate at the beginning anyway, as the camera rolls past a good number of cars where the occupants are calmly wiling away their enforced-time by singing along with their radios) just as Chicago (Rob Marshall, 2002) mostly gives us musical numbers that occur within the minds of the performers (“Cell Block Tango" as the female inmates on Murderers Row provide their accounts of terminating their maddening-men, “Razzle Dazzle“ as shyster-lawyer Billy [Richard Gere] explains his obfuscation-strategy to free his guilty clients, etc.) that we see on screen.  Then the gears shift to the type of musical where everyday people sing and dance spontaneously as they live in an alternative-universe that contains such spirited enthusiasm as part of its existence (as with gangsters singing “Luck Be a Lady” during a dice game in Guys and Dolls [Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1955]) when Mia’s roommates drag her off to the party that results in her notice of Sebastian’s restaurant-riff that gets him fired (despite Mia being an aspiring actress we get no sense that includes musical work so she and her roommates aren’t doing their let’s-go-to-the-party-number [“Someone in the Crowd”] as anything but exuberant young women out for a night in the big city).

*This marvelously-energetic-scene almost didn’t make it into the film’s final cut until it was at last determined to be essential to establishing the mood of the entire enterprise so it was put back in.

 On the other hand, Sebastian’s lavish-breakaway from his required-Christmas-tunes begins to lead us into another direction, that of Cabaret (Bob Fosse, 1972) where all but one of that film's musical numbers (in the countryside biergarten scene) are performed on stage in the context of professional entertainers plying their trades, just as our current film then shifts to the pool party scene where Sebastian’s band is forced to do A Flock of Seagull’s "I Ran (So Far Away)" at Mia’s request as a shot back at him for being so rude to her as he left that less-than-holiday-joyous-restaurant job.

 The musical approach of La La Land takes yet another turn as Mia and Sebastian leave that party only to find themselves engaged in an graceful dance number ("A Lovely Night") high up above the city (right off Mulholland Drive, I think) which to me is quite reminiscent of the "Isn't This a Lovely Day (to be Caught in the Rain)" showpiece that we find long ago in Top Hat (Mark Sandrich, 1935) where Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers perform a similar initially-resistant-yet-easily-connecting-lovers'-duet while under a gazebo’s roof as a rain storm pours down around them, with the situation in this older movie also very similar to what we see in La La Land because one character (Jerry Travers [Astaire]) is a professional entertainer (a dancer rather than a pianist, though, so his graceful movements can be more rationalized within the context of Top Hat) and the other (Dale Tremont [Rogers]) isn’t (so her smooth response to his smooth moves—both artistic and romantic—are indicative of the type of emotionally-embodied-[but well-rehearsed] “spontaneity” discussed by Jane Feuer in “The Self-Reflexive Musical and the Myth of Entertainment" [if you'll entertain reading an academic article as part of a film review; it’s also found in various editions of Barry K. Grant’s Film Genre Reader]), just as Mia hasn’t yet come into her own as an actress, but, again, one more focused on line delivery than song and dance anyway.  As our newly-intrigued lovers connect more fully a bit later, though, they’re off to the Griffith Observatory for their dance into the heavens (which somehow includes clouds not part of the night sky produced by the Planetarium’s star-maker-machinery) so now we’re in the realm of full fantasy not unlike in Mary Poppins (Robert Stevens, 1964) where the main character not only flies but leads us into a chalk drawing that comes to life in a magical world as extensive as that ever-expanding-suitcase in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (David Yates; review in our November 24, 2016 posting).

 But after that spectacular star-dance-number we’re right back in the world of rationalized-music-only (what academic writers call “non-integrated,” where all of the musical performances are based on the reality of actual professionals who are either rehearsing or in the process of delivering their well-polished-goods for an audience, as opposed to “integrated” musicals where just about anyone and everyone can sing and/or dance at will whether presented in a fantastical setting [as with The Wizard of Oz; Victor Fleming, 1939] or the world we all seeming live in [even when shown as the extreme situation of Everyone Says I Love You {Woody Allen, 1996} where actors not usually known for their melodic vocalizations—such as Alan Alda, Drew Barrymore, Goldie Hawn, Julia Roberts, even Mr. Allen himself—are required to sing, somewhat as a commentary on the arbitrary nature of this type of musical]) so we’re once again focused on Sebastian’s successful but ill-fitting-career in a more-showbiz-form of jazz.  As we move on toward the end of La La Land, though, we’re back to the original situation of fantasies in the character’s mind (shared on-screen with us) in the case of Mia’s successful tryout for her Paris film (“Audition [The Fools Who Dream]”) and her (or could it be their?) blissful-yet-melancholy-montage of what life could have been for Mia and Sebastian had events gone differently,* with this later sequence of quickly-edited-joy slapped back to the cold-reminder of only what might have been (despite both of them now clearly settled into successful lives), very reminiscent of the magnificent-fantasy-finale of An American in Paris (Vincente Minnelli, 1951)—yet another of endless-references/tributes to the extended tradition of movie musicals that Chazelle is joyfully-celebrating in La La Land.  Thus, what he’s constructed here isn’t intended to emulate any 
particular style that we'd find throughout the more-traditional-musicals being evoked in this film (along with the famed southern CA location where they were largely produced on studio soundstages and backlots) but instead is more what contemporary academic writers praise as post-modern bricolage of gathering disparate elements in order to note the known qualities of things as another tactic of appealing to Jane Feuer’s “myth of the audience” (this is my secret strategy to force you to at least skim through her above-noted-article to see what this means) as well as create a new experience from this collage of older references within their newly-devised-context.

*This is a somewhat questionable premise if he wants to run a jazz club in L.A. rather than following her around the globe for the various film shoots which would inevitably take her away from L.A. because film careers no longer allow such Hollywood-based-stability, which we know would eventually lead to him feeling like a burdensome appendage to her blossoming fame (see either musical version of A Star Is Bornthe original in 1937 [William A. Wellman] was just straight dramato watch James Mason fade away compared to Judy Garland 1954 [George Cukor, 1954] or Kris Kristofferson do the same relative to Barbra Streisand [Frank Pierson, 1976]) or would eventually break up their marriage anyway, just as her move to Paris (For what, 7 months at most?) proved to be too long away for their actual long-distance-relationship.  Still, in musicals—even more than most fictional movies—it’s not a good idea to do such questioning or the whole thing may too-easily fall apart.

 A reasonable, final question about all of the above is whether La La Land will resonate for those who don’t have any direct connections to the references noted (and many others scattered throughout this film that admits through memories by the character of Mia a love for old movies, even non-musical-ones such as the grand-classic-Casablanca [Michael Curtiz, 1942]); in that Chazelle’s imaginative-conceptualization played well with me, connecting up nicely with a cluster of musicals' moments from stories of this type that I do have positive feelings about (despite me being generally uninterested in this massive genre as a whole, just as Mia was at first not receptive to jazz—you'll find a bit more on my hesitancy in the next section below), so I don’t know what it’s like to be an old-musicals-novice.  However, just as I can speculate that you don’t have to know the entire Star Wars mythology to at least appreciate what’s at stake in the ongoing war between the Empire and the rebels in Rogue One … (although if you don’t know who Princess Leia [Carrie Fisher] is then that quick reveal of her younger self at the end [Hush! I've warned you about Spoilers!] would likely leave you wondering what all the commotion in the theater was about) nor do you have to be gay and/or Black nor be in a mixed-race-relationship to appreciate the harsh cruelty of unearned-human-suffering depicted in Moonlight (Barry Jenkins; review in our November 10, 2016 posting) in the former case, Loving (Jeff Nichols; review in our December 1, 2016 posting) in the latter, so I feel confident that La La Land can stand on its own regarding the depiction of deep-felt-love, the struggles to find acceptance in the career of your dreams, the daily-difficulties of making relationships work when personalities/ sensibilities of the involved couple require on-going-negotiation, and—if you’re not repulsed by characters suddenly breaking into song (as I can be, depending on the overall cinematic context)—the strong quality of all these musical performances, especially Gosling’s skill at the keyboard.  

 My much-more-musicals-embracing-wife, Nina, is somewhat disappointed the entire film’s not as escapist as the trailer makes it out to be so please do note there’s more complexity here than is advertised, but with that warning in place I'm confident that most of you (except those of the Kelly Vance-persuasion; see my comments just below) will find La La Land to be immensely enjoyable.

Bottom Line 
Final Comments: La La Land has been consistently touted as one of the best cinematic offerings of 2016 (see the 1st Metacritic link below in the Related Links section for the ongoing tally of various awards and critics’ Top 10 where you’ll find it right up there along with Moonlight and Manchester by the Sea [Kenneth Lonergan; review in our December 8, 2016 posting] among the top honorees so far) with some additional high praise from the critics’ collective sites of Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic (94% positive reviews at the former, an average score of 92% at the latter—more details in those links below), with a lot of superlatives being offered (Mick La Salle from the San Francisco Chronicle: “It’s a beautiful and hopeful film, coming at a time when there isn’t much beauty or hope in our movies, and it’s the type of picture — a sprawling, exuberant musical drama — that hasn’t been seen in decades […] And none of it seems old fashioned — classic, yes, but fresh and vital.”), although some naysayers are saying “nay” in a forceful manner (another critic from my local SF Bay area, Kelly Vance of the East Bay Express: “The temptation to dismiss La La Land out of hand is almost overpowering […] As for the make-or-break spontaneity that every musical romance desperately needs to survive, watching La La Land is like a dinner of pre-chewed food.”).  As noted, I’m not generally a big fan of musicals, at least the typical 1930s-‘40s Hollywood variety where endless revues, performances, and operettas were churned out in order to help pleasantly-distract a nation plagued by the Depression and WW II, with paper-thin-plots concocted to get from one musical number to the next for the appreciation of those too far away from big cities to see the same sort of well-financed-drivel (I know, now I’m into Kelly Vance-territory myself) on a live stage. 

 There are also a good number of the later "operettas" (as I see them) based on Broadway shows that don't thrill me much either, especially one of Nina's favorites, Paint Your Wagon (Joshua Logan, 1969), but that's because I have so much trouble trying to digest Lee Marvin and Clint Eastwood attempting to sing.  But there are many musicals (some of them cited in the comments above) that I find quite engaging, either because of serious messages (West Side Story [Robert Wise, Jerome Robbins; 1961], Jesus Christ Superstar [Norman Jewison, 1973]) or amazing production values (Singin’ in the Rain [Gene Kelly, Stanley Donen; 1952], Phantom of the Opera [Joel Schumacher, 2004]), although Les Misérables (Tom Hooper, 2012; review in our December 30, 2012 posting) failed to capture me on either count, but with La La Land I became, then stayed, very entranced.

 It’s often been noted that neither Stone nor Gosling are among the strongest singers on screen (even Meryl Streep’s better, I'd say, whether she’s being serious in her delivery as at the end of Postcards from the Edge [Mike Nichols, 1990] and all throughout Mamma Mia! [Phyllida Lloyd, 2008] or intentionally pushing her vocal chords to the point of pain [both for her and for our poor eardrums] in Florence Foster Jenkins [Stephen Frears; review in our August 31, 2016 posting]—for which she may find herself once again in some awards competitions this year), but their shortcomings in this area are more than made up for in their solid command of dance as well as Gosling’s ability as an pianist (allowing for their flowing duets plus his massaging of the ivories to be shot in full-frame, long-take approaches, verifying not only this film’s connections to its heritage but also the sense of command of the performing arts that the best musicals display), encouraging us to respect these performers on film (or video) as we would stage actors who draw us into their talented abilities that require staying in command of their act from start to finish without the luxury of quick-filmic-cuts that produce a continuity only by construction, not achieved-near-perfection.  (You can drop the “near” when referring to the best on-screen-work of such great artists as Astaire, Rogers, Kelly, Eleanor Powell, Donald O’Connor, Cyd Charisse, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, the Nicolas brothers, Gregory Hines, etc., although heavy editing in a film-musical can provide its own impact as with the fabulous cutting in some of the Kit Kat Klub scenes in Cabaret).  This sense of immersion into the talents of the lead actors, drawing them closer to each other as they draw us into their fantasy-filled-lives* makes La La Land “sing” for me (even if slightly off-key, with its collage of shifting story-approaches and mood swings), especially with the bittersweet ending that shows us that those manufactured-dreams don’t always work out, even if acceptable-alternative-resolutions might offer us comfort of another kind with equivalent value.

*Echoing the film’s title itself, in its evocation of Los Angeles as the epitome of fertile imagination becoming reality—either for the benefit of those working in the distraction-wonders of the long-celebrated-entertainment-industry or the failed illusions of those whose dreams never come to fruition, trapping them in a blissful fog of unfulfilled-aspiration, even when too enthralled to realize it.

 Unlike the “surprise” happy ending that we get in An American in Paris, where we see Gerry’s (Gene Kelly) failed fantasy about winning over Lise (Leslie Caron) reversed by her sudden rushing back to him in their storybook-narrative, the unexpected melancholy-closure of La La Land—where for just a brief moment we think we could be back in that parallel-reality-structure that originally introduced us to Mia and Sebastian, allowing them a do-over of their relationship that would take us into the more expected result of this story (as if all that we witnessed after he snubs her upon their restaurant meeting [verifying shared irritation from their actual-opening-encounter on the freeway] is intended to catch us off-guard [and finally explain the puzzling situation from the trailer where she says “I just heard you play” followed by a passionate kiss from him, yet in the film at that early point we get just the opposite], as if it were some imagined reality that will now be replaced with the anticipated-ongoing-connection of these seemingly-destined-lovers)—at least isn’t as sad as the much-more-heartbreaking-conclusion of The Purple Rose of Cairo (Allen, 1985) where we find Depression-era-dishrag Cecilia (Mia Farrow) becoming enchanted with a movie character who comes off the screen into her world offering love and escape, only to have it all vanish as she must lose herself by merely watching the otherworldliness of the movies once again while Astaire and Rogers dance into Top Hat's 1930s-escapism.  Still, La La Land’s ending is a twist, telling us what we remember/understand of dreams is often incomplete/misinterpreted, that the true results may well be more complex than we’d assumed as wrinkles in our own space-time-fabric can lead us to unknown results, different from scenarios we might have constructed that never come to pass.*

*Such as the chance meeting that Nina and I had almost 30 years ago in the Berkeley, CA plaza outside the theatre where Paul Simon’s Graceland concert (a different sort of "musical" we can more easily agree on) was just beginning, with neither of us having tickets, just spontaneous conversation that’s "still [delightfully] crazy after all these years."  We didn't know this was how our fates would take such turns, just as Mia and Sebastian apparently expected to see each other again after her time in Paris, even though their paths would diverge while ours—fortunately—merged.

 When dealing with a film that’s already immersed in music, though, it often becomes more difficult to find a truly appropriate Musical Metaphor (my strategy for ending each of these reviews with an aural experience that somehow captures some aspect I encountered while watching the new cinematic experience under consideration), but given that what I saw in La La Land seems most inspired when the stars are dancing (especially in the stars at the Griffith Planetarium) I decided upon a cluster of videos that celebrate that aspect of the film.  I wish I could find a complete version of the “Broadway Melody” collage of scenes from Singin’ in the Rain, but all I’ve come across are separate videos that almost encapsulate the entire thing so here they are at: (the key aspect of this Metaphor, the early “Gotta Dance” number that moves into a jazzy, sexy duet of Kelly and Charisse; 4:56), (the Kelly-Charisse ballet scene; 3:49), and then (Kelly’s finale; 1:27).  However, given that many a year ago I grew up on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico close to Houston, TX (the island of Galveston, to be specific) I’ve also got to include this video of Houston-based-Archie Bell and the Drells (who “dance just as good as we walk”)“I Can’t Stop Dancing,” at watch?v=47_so3zoAaU (from their 1968 album of the same name) which pairs the song with some fabulous footage of the Nicholas Brothers, providing an infectious rhythm that may just leave you wanting more so if you do here’s Archie and his guys again at with their first hit, “Tighten Up” (from another 1968 album of the same name).  I was already in college in Austin when these songs came out, but it was great to hear tunes from my home-territory making an impact on the national Pop and R&B charts (a level of success this group would never reach again, unlike with Mia and Sebastian whose careers seemed primed to continue on, hers more known worldwide while his would be limited—which was just fine with him—to those jazz aficionados who’d seek out this unique art form at his thriving club for their private pleasure).

 Hopefully, these Metaphors will leave you toe-tappin’ for a week or 2 while I celebrate the holidays and get fully caught up on the best of the new releases.  I’ll see you again in 2017 with best wishes for the New Year to all of my worldwide readers!  (All 32,764 of you over the last month, a new Two Guys all-time-high, with Russia back in the lead [by a mile, literally] at 5,280 pageviews last week, the U.S. trailing far behind at 2,512, France further back still at 450; I have no idea what brings about this response from Putin-land [I’m not even a nominee for Trump’s cabinet unless he wants a Secretary of Run-On Sentences], but I do appreciate every reader from wherever you're located).
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AND … at least until the Oscars for 2016’s releases have been awarded on Sunday, February 26, 2017 we’re also going to include reminders in each posting of very informative links where you can get updated tallies of which 2016 films have been nominated for and/or received various awards 
and which ones made various individual critic’s Top 10 lists.  You may find the diversity among the various awards competitions and the various critics hard to reconcile at times—not to mention the often-significant-gap between critics’ choices and competitive-award-winners (which pales when compared to the even-more-noticeable-gap between specific award winners and big box-office-grosses you might want to monitor here)—but as that less-than-enthusiastic-patron-of-the-arts, Plato, noted in The Symposium (385-380 BC)—roughly translated, depending on how accurate you wish the actual quote to be—“Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder,” so your choices for success are as valid as any of these others, especially if you offer some rationale for your decisions (unlike many of the awards voters who simply fill out ballots, sometimes for films they’ve never seen).

To save you a little time scrolling through the “various awards” list above, here are the Golden Globe nominees for films and TV from 2016.

Here’s more information about La La Land: (6:59 featurette on the Top 5 Things You Should Know About La La Land)

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By the way, if you’re ever at The Hotel California knock on my door—but you know what the check out policy is so be prepared to stay for awhile. Ken

P.S.  Just to show that I haven’t fully flushed Texas out of my system here’s an alternative destination for you, Home in a Texas Bar, with Gary P. Nunn and Jerry Jeff Walker.


  1. I am with you on La La Land, a musical that even anti-song and dance audiences can appreciate at some or many levels. Definitely can see the connections to writer and Director Damien Chazelle's 2014 Whiplash. Could have done without Gosling trying to sing but, again, We can both stars arising, not at the planaterium, but those of Emma Stone and Gosling.

  2. Hi rj, Good to hear from you, Happy New Year! Yeah, La La Land works quite well for me, probably will end up in my Top 10 for the year. Ken