Why La La Land?

Spoilers and snobbery ahead!

LLL d 29 _5194.NEF

With the Academy Awards coming up, I wanted to write a little something about the most buzzed about movie this year, La La Land. It seems whenever a musical or a film focused on dance comes out, suddenly more of my friends and family want to know what I think. As a former dancer and certainly a movie musical aficionado, I get that people might want to know how I rate such a film. Their assumption is usually, “Did you just love it?” Sometimes I do, often I don’t. You see, I am a movie musical snob. My standards for the genre, as well as for the art form of dance within said genre, are probably higher than reasonable, but why shouldn’t they be? When you have a lush history of films that bring together some of the most talented dancers with the most ingenious choreography, along with singers that have defined culture, and filmmakers that pushed the boundaries of what the moving image can do, I think it’s pretty fair to demand a certain quality from a musical.

La La Land doesn’t hold up.

Let me preface this scathing review by telling you that I really wanted to like this film. I really did.

la-la-land-featured-2

While there are certainly things I can appreciate about the film – The acting from Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling is fine. These are two top-notch actors with fantastic on-screen chemistry and like-ablity (even when Gosling’s character is being a straight up dick.) The cinematography is interesting and the array of LA locations summon up a “love-letter” to Los Angeles feel akin to, though not nearly as expertly done, as Woody Allen’s Manhattan. Everyone who knows me can attest that I am a sucker for a romantic movie (even a really crap one) so I must admit that my favorite moment of the film is at the end, when we are treated to an imagining of how things might have been if our protagonists had been less self-involved and made different choices. But that’s about all the positive things I can say about the film. Every other aspect of it left me either bored, annoyed, or even offended.

Firstly, why make this film into a musical? What did it really add? The sorry attempt to equate this film with classic musicals like Singin’ in the Rain or Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, which it did through numerous references and homages, seemed arbitrary, and added nothing to the story. Rather it came off as an ego-centric attempt by director Damien Chazelle to try and imitate those films or worse, educate us about them. I know what a good musical is Chaz! It’s the height of hubris to think that one could match those films’ artistry, especially when you cast your main characters with actors who can’t really sing and can’t really dance.

la-la-land-633x356

So that brings me to the singing and dancing. Here’s how I see it – When the acting in a film is terrible chances are it won’t do well at the box office. When you make a musical you are adding additional skills to the recipe – namely singing and dancing – and those skills matter. Well, they should matter. And if you think they don’t matter, you’re essentially flipping the bird at all the incredible artists who worked tirelessly to legitimize this form of entertainment by upping the standards of both vocal range and dance technique – People like Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Vincent Minelli and Arthur Freed. Part of this just comes down to casting, but blame also befalls the creative team behind the camera.

lalaland

Are you still with me? If so, let me just take a final moment to dissect the element I feel the most qualified to critique – the dancing. Ignoring the fact that Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling make the most awkward attempt at on-screen partnering I’ve ever seen; even if you had Robbie Fairchild and Tiler Peck in those roles, the choreography would still fall flat. Predictable, cliche, lazy even, Mandy Moore’s choreography is fine for a music video or a TV show, but when stacked against a genre, and promoted as a peer amongst such films that exposed the masses to the work of Gene Kelly, Michael Kid, Jerome Robbins, Bob Fosse, and George Balanchine, it majorly misses the mark. I certainly do not mean to belittle the many challenges that may have dictated the way this film was choreographed; I imagine having leads not up to the physical requirements was partly an issue. However, I cannot help but feel that Damien Chazelle has done us a serious disservice by undermining the value of truly innovative choreography. He could have hired any of the best, most artistic choreographers working today – Justin Peck, Christopher Wheeldon, Paul Lightfoot or Alexei Ratmansky and I guarantee, the performances would have been better. As it is, the choreography in La La Land is typical, bland, and totally forgettable. Why do it then?

I realize that many aren’t watching the dancing with the same kind of intensity as I may be. I acknowledge that “silly musicals,” even modern ones, are a fantastic gateway for people to get into more complicated representations of the genre. I think that’s incredibly valuable and in this regard, I can conclude that this film does what it needs to do, and I can even be grateful for that. But I cannot condone a film that spends 30 million dollars on a musical meant to be on the artistic level of An American in Paris that instead serves up a sham of production, with terrible choreography, awkward dancing, weak music, and a paper-thin storyline that we’ve already heard a dozen times. It doesn’t move the genre forward, it is simply a sad attempt to imitate it.

screen-shot-2015-05-01-at-10-31-52-am

I will say one thing I liked, were the costumes. Well done Mary Zophres!

I am sure the film will win loads of Oscars. But in 50 years will it hold up the way all those classic musicals from the 40’s and 50’s do? I seriously doubt it.

35 before 35

I used to have this birthday tradition where I would come up with a list of goals based on the age I would turn the following year – 20 goals before 20, 30 before 30, etc. I actually haven’t done it since I turned 30. After that point it seemed like the list was just too long (and maybe I was feeling just a bit too old!) But this year, I want to bring it back.

Gidget and the Brooklyn Brodge

Me and the Brooklyn Bridge on my birthday.

I just turned 34 last week and while I had an incredible birthday, the lead up to it was stressful. I’m not sure why exactly, but 34 is a “scary age” to me. It means I’m officially in my mid-thirties and that triggers my need to tally up all the “supposed to’s” in my life I have yet to accomplish. Like, aren’t I “supposed to” own a house by now, and aren’t I “supposed to” have like 3 kids? Aren’t I “supposed to” not go out so much and I thought I’m “supposed to” have a lot more confidence in myself by now, right?

I realize the “supposed to” thing is nonsense. And quite honestly, I think in many ways, I am doing just fine in that regard. But I also realize that sense of panic, the feeling that I’m not living my life to the fullest, does spark from that fact that in some ways, I’m not. I’m guilty of falling into a daily routine that’s safe and lined with excuses for not accomplishing certain goals – I’m tired, I’m stressed, I’ve got too much work to do, etc.

Making a birthday list of goals (and publishing it online) has pushed me to do more, see more, and make the most of year’s past. It holds me accountable and forces me to at least try to check off as many items on my list as possible. So I’m going to do it again. Not all the items on my list are big things, but they are all things I am going to try to do before December 23, 2017.

So here goes. My 35 Before 35 List –

  1. Learn to bake (and get good at it!)
  2. Back up ALL my photos (this is going to be a huge project!)
  3. Take a weekend trip to Laguna and visit the places I did as a kid
  4. Go to Scotland
  5. Read 1 book a month
  6. Downsize my closet
  7. Get rid of all the e-waste we have stored away (old laptops, cords, cameras; I don’t know why I’m keeping all this stuff!
  8. Write more letters (anyone want to become pen pals?)
  9. Digitize all my contacts (I still have a paper address book, which I think is handy, but it would be nice to also have everyone’s address in an excel file.)
  10. Stop saying “sorry” for everything, when I should be saying something else.
  11. Learn to watercolor
  12. Have a scrapbooking weekend with my mom
  13. Stop working after hours (at 8pm I’m going to stop looking at my phone and I won’t look at it again till 8am the next morning. That gives me 12 hours of respite.)
  14. Volunteer. Somewhere. Preferably where I can help kids.
  15. Blog at least 3 times a week (I say this all the time. I’m determined to follow through this year!)
  16. Make 1 new friend (is this a pathetic one? Whatever, if I don’t force myself I won’t do it.)
  17. Reconnect with 1 old friend. (And I mean beyond Facebook.)
  18. Stay on top of my dental appointments (already have one scheduled for the 3rd.)
  19. Get my eyes checked so I can buy new specs (my prescription is expired.)
  20. Talk less. Smile more.
  21. Figure out a better system for organizing all our writing projects
  22. Print out all the pictures I want to scrapbook
  23. Scrapbook (verb.)
  24. Devise a weekly spending budget and stick to it
  25. Go hiking
  26. Go stargazing
  27. Meditate more
  28. Spend an evening at the Cicada Club
  29. Use the power of 4 and stay calm
  30. Embroider a bit
  31. Buy a car
  32. Keep my current and future car clean on the regular
  33. Laugh more
  34. Dress boldly and make no apologies for all my weird outfits
  35. Watch more classic films that I’ve never seen before!

And that’s it! I’ll keep you updated on my progress as I make my way through this list. Wish me luck!

#TBT to our 4th of July Weekend

Fourth of July 2016A long weekend with no plans, and no work? No problem!  Moondoggie and I took it upon ourselves to take it easy this weekend and even soak up some beach time!

Fourth of July 2016

Fourth of July 2016

Fourth of July 2016

Fourth of July 2016

Fourth of July 2016

After the beach, we drove through Malibu Canyon to Paramount Ranch and had ourselves a little picnic. I love Paramount Ranch.  It was the site of so many amazing films including The Virginian, Sullivan’s Travels, Hail the Conquering Hero, Ball of Fire, Beau Geste,  and even Doctor Quinn Medicine Woman.  And now it remains an exciting public park while still being a popular photo and film location.

Fourth of July 2016

Fourth of July 2016

Fourth of July 2016

Fourth of July 2016  Hope you had a great Fourth of July too!

Gidget Signature

Classic Film Book Club July – I, Rhoda

I, Rhoda July Classic Film Book Club

Keeping in the Mary Tyler Moore show theme of the week, I’m currently about 1/4 the way through Valerie Harper’s memoir entitled I, Rhoda and am simply loving it!  I had no real knowledge about the iconic tv actress besides the fact that she was Mary Richards fabulous best friend on the Mary Tyler Moore Show, which then resulted in her own spin off show based on her character, Rhoda Morgenstern.  Turns out Val and I have more in common than I ever would have suspected!

Valerie Harper began her career as a dancer, with high falutin’ dreams of becoming a prima ballerina (just like me) though her body type was not ideal (again, just like me.)  She ended up being a chorus dancer for legendary choreographer Michael Kidd, another person who had enormous influence on me growing up!

But before I give too much away of what I’ve already read, let me encourage you to go pick up a copy for yourself, as I, Rhoda is the first film in my monthly classic film book club! Read along with me and at the end of the month we’ll have a fun recap!

Happy Reading!   Gidget Signature

 

Father’s Day Favorite Films

When your Dad is a former Disney actor, it’s easy to come up with the perfect films to watch on Father’s Day!  My dad had a pretty robust acting career from the time he was about 6 years old until well into his 20’s, which included a lot of television work and Disney films.  Even though it’s completely self indulgent to say that these are the best classic films to watch on Father’s Day simply because MY dad is in them,  I am just going to go ahead and just go there, cause I can’t think of a better day to highlight some of my Dad’s most endearing on-screen work!

Michael McGreevey Medfield College Trilogy

Medfield College Trilogy Posters.jpg

My favorite films featuring my Dad are the Medfield College or “Dexter Reilly” films as they are sometimes called.  This trilogy of screwball comedies all star Kurt Russel as a brainy, albeit somewhat slow to realize what’s going on, college student keenly interested in science.  My dad played Russell’s goofy best friend, Richard Schuyler in all three pictures.  The trilogy includes The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969), Now You See Him, Now You Don’t (1972; my personal favorite) and Strongest Man in the World (1975).  While each is slightly more silly and bizarre than the last, there is no denying the Medfield College gang is pretty awesome if you’re in the mood for some “mind-smushing-entertainment,” as Millie from Classic Forever calls it.  And plus, they are all fun, wholesome, and appeal to all ages.  Click the titles above to watch the films on Amazon!

Michael McGreevey Medfield College Trilogy

Michael McGreevey Medfield College Trilogy

Michael McGreevey Medfield College Trilogy

Michael McGreevey Medfield College Trilogy

Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads out there!

Gidget Signature