Top Ten Movies of 2016 — Number Five

At this point in the life cycle of Damien Chazelle’s La La Land — a winding excursion from celebration to backlash to the backlash’s backlash to the backlash’s backlash’s backlash and points beyond — it’s almost impossible to write about this modern musical without ending up with an insufferable think piece. So I’m going to lean into it. As the signature films of 2016 are bandied about, few feel more detached from our current perilous moment as La La Land. There are no shadows of social and political preoccupations to found in the story of young cultural artists falling in … Continue reading Top Ten Movies of 2016 — Number Five

Now Playing: La La Land

Damien Chazelle wastes no time in establishing exactly what kind of movie he aims to deliver with La La Land. As opposed to many other modern screen musicals that are coy about their commitment to the genre, Chazelle’s film opens with a full-scale number staged in the midst of a Los Angeles traffic jam, blue sky above and pavement below. There’s no freeing cut to a soundstage or winking implication that the narrative is dipping into a character’s rousing imagination. Instead, there’s a fleet of performers adorned in bright colors singing and dancing and staring right at the audience with feral confidence. … Continue reading Now Playing: La La Land

Chaplin, Chazelle, Kosinski, Lubitsch, Pressburger and Powell

The Great Dictator (Charlie Chaplin, 1940). The audaciousness of Chaplin making a comedy that mocks Adolf Hitler — predicated at least somewhat on the two men’s shared taste in mustache grooming choices — is undercut, though only slightly, by the fact that he eventually regretted it, openly stating that he wouldn’t have created The Great Dictator had he been aware of the full extent of the Nazis’ crimes against humanity. Delivered as World War II was still in the ramping up process, the film is a brilliantly scathing satire, not just of Hitler’s brutal ambitions but of war itself and … Continue reading Chaplin, Chazelle, Kosinski, Lubitsch, Pressburger and Powell