Review of “La La Land”

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Photo: Summit Entertainment and somehow uncredited poster artist

(Lights up. The writer hits play and ‘Mia and Sebastian’s Theme’ begins to charm and inspire through the writer’s headphones.)

On my way to work today, I decided it would be a good idea to listen to the soundtrack to La La Land. It has been less than 12 hours since I left the theater after seeing the film itself and I thought, perhaps, I was emotionally ready.

Here are some of the things I said while navigating around cars and a quicker way to work, while also enveloping myself in the music.

“Why did I do this to myself?”

“This movie is so… STUPID.”

And then, certain moments (such as the one pictured above) filtered from my mental file cabinet and I was reminded just how…emotional I felt sitting in that theater last night.

From the things I said to myself in the car, you might think that I hated La La Land, but it is precisely the opposite. It is dramatically the opposite.

I met up with a friend from high school (and several years before all of that mess) named Hannah. We both adore Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling and that was basically all we knew about the film. I am in this phase now … actually, correction: We are all in this phase now where movie trailers are designed with the entire plot and its various dramatic elements, twists, and themes laid out for us. It is truly sick. Lately, I have seen some improvements, and it is funny because I’ve noticed that the movies that definitely will get our money are the ones who don’t reveal too much about the plot. In their minds, we will love it and they will get paid.

Anyway, I do not trust movie trailers in general, primarily because hello! They’re not even “trailers” anymore, they’re “leaders.” If you understand this, I am pleased.

Apart from not staying true to their original designation, I am hyperafraid of even one aspect of a movie being ruined for me. So, that being said, I am going to go watch the trailer for La La Land, now.

(Intermission)

Alright, so I just watched the trailer and I am thankful that I did not watch it before the movie. I’m thankful that I basically knew nothing about it in general.

Every moment of the film was new to me from the opening song, the punchy ‘Another Day of Sun.’ For the first several minutes of the film, I was brought back to my days of theatrical acting (I did that from the age of 3 until I was 18) and I was genuinely happy with this.

I solemnly swear to be basically spoiler free.

As we meet Sebastian (Ryan Gosling  <3) and Mia (Emma Stone  <3) it is clear that these two are going to be fatefully beelined to one another. However, the way this occurs is very unique. The passion between these two is also the passion that drives them individually – the theme that wraps this movie (ah, pun).

What impressed me about this movie is its sheer normalcy. It didn’t feel like I was watching a musical, let alone one of the Live shows that are ever so popular these days. Anyone know the next one? Please let it be CATS.

The story flits away through the streets of LA, and the pressures of promised stardom are evident from the start. Mia wants to be an actress. Sebastian is a lover of jazz with piano-born fingers, a soft voice, and dreams to open up a jazz club in the midst of the rise of popular music (by today’s standards – i.e. Justin Bieber, Shawn Mendez, and those who must not be named…*three cigarette emojis*). They are both passionate about their crafts, experiencing and experimenting with their motives and inspirations.

The first monologue we see (and hear) Mia perform actually made me tear up. I was just emotional the entire time. I’m not kidding. Never has a movie made me feel so emotional with a single measure of music, a look from across the room, a turn in a different direction.

Let’s talk performances.

Emma Stone was the perfect choice, in my opinion, for Mia. I do not think that this is a role for someone we see too much. I was very excited to hear Stone’s singing voice because that is always an adventure. Remember when you first heard Meryl Streep sing, whether it was in Mamma Mia!, Postcards from the Edge (ugh Carrie <3), or Rikki and the Flash.

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Gosling and Stone as Sebastian and Mia

It was an interesting experience for me, I promise you. And let us dream to forget those singing roles given to the likes of Russell Crowe (you made me hate you). Anyway, back to Stone. Part of the appeal of Mia’s character is her looks (physically and as a talent). In one scene, she walks past the other women auditioning for a role and they are all taller than her and their hair is even more dramatic. In a sense, the audience (of La La Land) is more entranced with the toned down, solemnity presented in Mia’s struggle for stardom. Stone convinced me of this struggle and I also love actors acting as actors.

Ryan Gosling (whom I fell for when I saw Blue Valentine) was very impressive.

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Gosling as Sebastian in one of my favorite scenes

I loved Sebastian’s passion for jazz, his understanding of it, and the subtle way he drifts through the movie. Perhaps one of the best parts about this movie is the fact that the performances are so understated (namely Gosling’s). Singing isn’t the integral part. It’s music and dreams. As well, Gosling and Stone do not have the theatrical voices that are featured in the ensemble. It’s as if their singing (and perhaps this is actually the truth), is just for each other.

 As I reflect on this movie, I notice more and more. Here are some of the aspects of the film that I love:

  • It is interesting that Mia and Sebastian never really acknowledge the first time they see each other. It’s not in the bar and they don’t talk about the traffic.
  • The wall Mia walks by with the celebrities of times past (i.e. Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Shirley Temple) was very symbolic and honestly a bit sad.
  • The scene with the photoshoot. Cringe cringe cringe. But I loved his tie.
  • The ensemble numbers were amazingly choreographed. Everything about this movie is so extreme but also so subtle. It is hard to explain. Very.
  • Finn Wittrock.
  • John Legend really hit a home run with me. I was so tired of hearing ‘All of Me’ that I basically cursed his name. I acknowledge his talents and all of that but this movie really made me enjoy him and I think a little of his passion for music came through with this role. Also, ‘Start a Fire’ is a hit in my book.
  • This is a love story for this generation. It’s like a breath of fresh air after a punch in the stomach.
  • Gosling’s piano skills.
  • The ensemble was great. J. K. Simmons is a treasure.
  • The planetarium. The silhouettes.
  • The symbolism of the Lighthouse.
  • The name he chose.
  • ‘Audition’
  • The last part of the film, the flashback and recap. Gorgeously shot and so necessary.
  • I also learned that nostalgia is a curse.

Please see this movie. I know a lot of people are freaked out by musicals but it honestly…isn’t one. It has music in it and people sing but I was so impressed by the display of talent and love that it made me want to ask the people around me if they were having a good time.

Because I was.

(Writer reads through, makes a few changes, and goes on his merry way.)

End scene.

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Special Announcement.

In honor of National Science Fiction Day (which takes place on birthday of Isaac Asimov), I am proud to announce my second venture in novel-writing.

My second novel is called Lady On The Moon, and focuses on the experiences of Ella Leveret, whose husband, Charlie, changes their lives forever with a leap into the unknown.

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The concept is based on musings I had with my friend Jenn Rudel, who I’ve known for almost ten years and who is involved with makeup artistry. The story has grown into something quite unique and has the support of the team I work with at Chormeri Books.

Jenn and I (along with Chikodili and Hannah at Chormeri) are looking forward to developing this story over these coming months. I promise to keep you updated on the process and the future of its release.

Thank you for your support,

Erik Parshall

Follow Chormeri Books on Facebook and Twitter.

Follow me on Twitter for updates on the novel.

On Death

Death is nothing new to me, although this year has presented to me the cold truth about the entire concept. It is strange, isn’t it, to view death as a concept? But it is one, while also being a fact of life. Some may roll their eyes and say that death is not a part of life, but I believe it is, for it is through life that we witness and come to understand death.

Only one thing can be compared with death, and that is life.

We have the ability to reflect on the deaths of others. It is a gift to be alive, but, at times, the ability of sentience seems to be a curse, especially in the face of news regarding the slaughtering of hundreds, and the quiet slipping aways of those we have deemed worthy of the crown of celebrity.

I write this on the day of my reflection on the death of Carrie Fisher. While I have seen her in a limited number of films, I understand that she inhabited a spirit of varying mediums. On the day of her death, I became aware of her place in the literary community. Her work has been described, albeit in this case briefly, as a voice in the genre of memoir, self-deprecation, and writing on mental illness. While I knew of her experiences with bipolar disorder and use of drugs, I did not know to what extent she had expressed knowledge of these subjects.

It amazed and interested me, in the hours following the news of her death, that there were but a few posts about Ms. Fisher’s involvement in the conversation about mental illness in the midst of hundreds of articles about her place in the canon of Star Wars. The posts about her personal work came later. That, of course, is not a problem, per se. The concept of celebrity is an interesting one. How does one effectively honor anyone, for that matter? Is it possible to understand every action of a person you, most likely, have never met? How well do you know those that you have?

On a different note, a more critical one, the concept and ensuing conversation of mental illness is one that takes precedence in niche forms of expression. To the general public, it is still something to be hidden. We see it everywhere, but are truly unaware of its manifestations, its causes, and effects.

It is difficult to imagine a world where ignorance is more revealing than knowledge. It is not easy to admit that we, in our nature, are not knowledgeable about everything.

Death has touched the lives of those I know, those I will never meet, and those I do not yet know. Earlier this year, a group of people I knew mainly in high school lost a close friend. Her name was Amy. I, along with a friend and several others close to her, attended her wake. Numbed – perhaps from anxiety, or from the sheer vividness -, I witnessed the grief of those I had once known to be nearly entirely happy. In high school, the good outperformed the bad, even its darkest manifestations. Amy’s death was one that affected me wholeheartedly. Perhaps it is was witnessing the reactions of those I knew were close to her. Perhaps it was seeing her once in life and once more, in person, in death. I was touched by the testimonial confessions which arose from those who came to honor her. I pray for their strength and respect their resolve, their posterity.

The shooting in Orlando left a dark impression on my heart. I probably will never view certain things the same way again. I do not have the stomach to envision the horrors of that night too much. It brings to mind all of the horrors of the past 20 years – the years my generation were born to witness. I have vague memories of 9/11. I have memories of reacting to the various shootings and attacks that have occurred throughout our country, and in many others. The number of souls gathered this year was tremendous.

I have become more aware than ever about death itself, as a concept… or perhaps as a fact. I do not believe we are properly trained to deal with death, or to talk about it, and I view the grieving process as a beautiful, mysterious thing.

This year has made me thankful for all I have and for all of the lives of which I am a part. I do my best to take none of it for granted, for I see how delicate life is, and how easily the path of life is ended.

Be thankful, not just on holidays, for all of the gifts of life. But also, even in these times, be thankful for the knowledge of death. It has humbled me and allowed me to see through different eyes.

I am saddened by the losses experienced by all. However, this is not the end.

Happy, almost, New Year.

Erik Parshall

“Tug”

Look at you,
Both of you,
Holding onto both my arms,
And pulling,
Absentmindedly,
Without thought
Of causing harm.
But look at me,
Just look at me –
Look at all I’ve done,
(And all I feel).
Why is it only you
Who have emotions
That are real?
Like tug of war
You play my heart,
And warp the mind
I’ve worked to make.
So, if you will just
Let me breathe,
Let me decide,
Time after time,
The happier
We all shall be.

‘Bait’

When I see you,
I fear for you,
Bait on the line,
At the end of their hook.
I watch you try
To get away
But they
Always catch you.
And sometimes you tell me that you like it,
But I know when you lie,
For how unlike you it is,
To be alright
With no say
In your control.

So let’s remove them,
Send them back to the water.
Perhaps then they’ll respect you,
And see you as their daughter.

But monsters hide in the woodwork
In the trees and the walls,
With blood and bones,
And I wonder at it all,
Are we safer when we sleep alone?

I can’t and don’t want to hear anymore,
No tones.