Why The Year’s Most Awarded Movie Will Be A One-Off
I liked ‘La La Land’ but I can understand why there’s a back(whip)lash going on in this most hated and moribund of genres. It looks as if the film is set to sweep Baftas and Oscars this year (with ‘Moonlight’, I hope), which in the last couple of months has meant a green light for twenty musicals in the Hollywood pipeline. But here’s why they won’t work, and why the Stone-Gosling starrer is a one-off.
- It’s only a musical for the first twenty minutes, then repeats the first three songs, losing inspiration in the middle and only returning for That Killer Ending.
- It’s a clever greatest hits package that crosses Jacques Demy with Vincent Minelli, with the opening from ‘Les Demoiselles De Rochefort’, the middle from ‘Singing In The Rain’/’An American In Paris’ and an ending from ‘Les Parapluies De Cherbourg’, all wrapped up in an indie movie format. Even Scorsese’s ‘New York, New York’ (with which it shares similar script cues) knew it needed a big number at the end, although the studio cut it on the initial release.
- It’s an homage with a trick up its sleeve – a lack of irony. Which is a good thing, because all those ironic movies of the last few years have worn out their welcome. It also has a faint sense of toughness which is bound to be replaced by saccharine in future film wannabes.
- Any new films will be unable to repeat the trick because they’ll be based on shows like ‘Wicked’ (already deeply ironic) or will be written for the screen in mimicry of ‘La La Land’, and good luck with that.
- The lessons of the past show that after the smashing debut of ‘Grease’ some astoundingly rubbish musicals were made (‘Sergeant Pepper’ with George Burns, anyone?’). The same thing happened after ‘Easy Rider’ appealed to yoofs (‘Skidoo’ with Carol Channing, anyone?) Lightning in a bottle, both times.
- If you take the songs out of ‘La La Land’ it’s the same film, which makes it a ‘scene-number-scene-number’ musical, not an integrated one. Tim Burton’s loss of nerve with ‘Sweeney Todd’ shows the problem. He couldn’t bear the idea of having groups of people singing in actual musical style, and cut every number that did, thus ruining the film (although it didn’t help that he cast Helena Bonham-Carter).
Of course, ‘La La Land’ is a lovely, clever trick – LA can’t look this good because certain scenes craftily show the LA of the past. I’m surprised they didn’t sneak the shamefully demolished Pan Pacific Auditorium in there (see below; I went the week before the wreckers arrived to replace it with a glass box). But anything is better than any more lame superhero movies from DC, so perhaps we’ll be surprised. Don’t hold your breath.