A Cat Reviews La La Land

Spoilers for La La Land sort of follow below the fold.

CF: OK we are nearly there. Just lie still for a little longer.
Timothy: mmmmffffmmmmff
CF: shush…wait until we are safely in our seats. The cinema is basically empty at this time of day.
Timothy: mumble
CF: OK. Let me just unzip the bag and…
Timothy: [gasp] oh boy oh boy oh boy ROGUE ONE! At last we’ll discover the immediate events that occurred just before the opening scenes of Star Wars Episode Four A New Hope!
CF: um about that…
Timothy: Once again Darth Vader will stride across our screens in a powerful demonstration of effective leadership by self-affirmation.
CF: I may need to explain…
Timothy: OK, I had read that there was no opening crawl but I hadn’t expected the film to start on what appears to be a traffic jam on a motorway in…Coruscant maybe?
CF: Los Angeles
Timothy: That lady in the car is singing a song Camestros. Why is she singing a song?
CF: OK look I can explain…
Timothy: Camestros this music…this music is not what I would call “John Williamsesque”
CF: …they put extra security on Sci-Fi films here because of your ‘incident’ last time…
Timothy: People have left their cars and are now spontaneously dancing in formation!
CF:…so there were like six bouncers checking bags at Rogue One and I had to duck into the first empty theater…
Timothy: THERE ARE MUSICIANS HIDDEN IN THE BACK OF THAT VAN CAMESTROS! The rebels managed to infiltrate this traffic jam using a stolen freighter and apparently have organised a flash mob to confuse the Imperial Forces.
CF: …so this is not Rogue One but a complete different movie…
Timothy: I’ll bet stormtroopers will be along any minute to put an end to these shenanigans. Hey rebels! You lost, you precious snowflakes! No point making a song and dance about it! Oh…OK…they’ve all calmed down and got back in their cars…hmm..must have been a diversion.
CF: Timothy, don’t freak out but…
Timothy: Is that Clara Oswald?
CF: No, that’s Emma Stone. Look, Timothy this is NOT Rogue One.
Timothy: What are you saying? What is this? Why is that man playing the same bit of music over and over?
CF: Timothy this is a musical romantic comedy called “La La Land”.
Timothy: Imagine that I’m staring at you in aghast silence which could be conveyed visually very effectively but which lacks the same impact in a written dialogue… LAH LAH LAND? LAH LAH LAND? What the absolute freaking heck is LAH LAH LAND?
CF: It might be L.A. L.A. Land I guess? As I was saying, it is a musical romantic comedy starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone.
Timothy: This is my sceptical face and I’m pointing it RIGHT AT YOU.
CF: It was either this or ‘Red Dog: True Blue” and you hate anything set in Australia.
Timothy: Noted. I’ll concede some relief at being spared a poignant tale of a pathetically faithful dog with a chromatically incoherent name BUT WHAT THE FREAKING HECK IS THIS THING ON SCREEN!
CF: Well that was what they call a ‘meet cute’.
Timothy: The horn beeping thing? Is that human mating ritual?
CF: We are in an alien genre here Timothy. This film is a homage to the great Hollywood musicals of the past. Films like Singing in the Rain and…OK…I can only think of Singing in the Rain right now.
Timothy: I just need some reassurance that there will be some lingering shots over a star field.
CF: I reassure that there will be some shots of starry skies above.
Timothy: OK, so Clara Oswald works in a cafe?
CF: That’s not Clara…never mind I know you don’t distinguish human faces well. Yes, she is an aspiring actress and she has to do lots of auditions but she hasn’t got an acting role yet.
Timothy: Except in this movie – look she’s acting right now.
CF: The character hasn’t got a job yet in a movie. yes, obviously the actual actress playing the character has an actual job in a movie.
Timothy: WOAH it’s like wheels in wheels. So she is an actual movie actress playing a barista who wants to be a movie actress?
CF: Yes.
Timothy: This is like Inception.
CF: No, really it isn’t.
Timothy: And the beardy person?
CF: Ryan Gosling.
Timothy: He’s a baby goose?
CF: Hmmm, I don’t know maybe. He is soft and downy.
Timothy: The grumpy man wants to make him play Christmas songs but he doesn’t like that.
CF: Exactly! He too has a dream. He wants to run a jazz club and play jazz piano.
Timothy: But he can’t?
CF: No, he has to make a living playing Christmas songs in this restaurant.
Timothy: Clara Oswald has found him! Now they can go off on adventures in her TARDIS!
CF: The course of true love does not run so smoothly my feline friend.

Timothy: Oh that was a bit rude baby Goose man.
CF: You see it’s another convention of romantic fiction. The guy can be self-centred and a bit rude at first.
Timothy: OK, OK, like in that essay you wrote: Pride, Prejudice and Thermodynamics?
CF: Exactly. This is a classic Mr Darcy like situation. Gosling’s pride and uncompromising attitude towards jazz spurs his dreams but is also a barrier to his emotional fulfilment.
Timothy: OK got it. Baby Goose and Clara Oswald are destined to fall in love BUT because a narrative must entail complications events must conspire to ensure that they must initially not actually LIKE each other so as to create emotional tension in the audience.
CF: Exactly.
Timothy: Ha, ha they are meeting again and this time he is dressed like a bozo. Clara Oswald is making fun of Baby Goose! Good he deserves it because he is a jerk.
CF: I must confess to actually liking Aha’s pop-classic ‘Take On Me’

Timothy: …
CF:…

Timothy: We are back to spontaneous singing and impromptu tap dancing Camestros. This is confusing to my poor cat brain. Do humans really do this?
CF: No. Look the singing and dancing bits are fantasy. They are way of showing the emotional inter-play between the characters using a musical medium.
Timothy: But the bits when he was playing in a party band weren’t a fantasy, that was a grim reality?
CF: Yes, some musical bits are meant to be actually happening and some are more metaphorical expression of the story.
Timothy: This is like Inception.
CF: No, really it isn’t.

Timothy: HIS CAR WAS OUTSIDE THE PARTY ALL ALONG! He was just pretending he had parked it a ways away so he could dance by the lamp post with Clara Oswald!
CF: Exactly!
Timothy: But the song was all about how they just weren’t into one another at all!
CF: Exactly!
Timothy: This is deep, deep stuff. I wonder if they’ll meet each other again.
CF: I’m confident that they will.

Timothy:…
CF:…
Timothy: Woah, you were right. They did meet again!
CF:…

Timothy: Who’s that jerk?
CF: That’s Emma Stone’s current boyfriend.
Timothy: Oh well that puts an end to the whole Baby Goose man idea. She can’t very well go see Rebel Without a Cause with Baby Goose man if she has a boyfriend already. He seems very prosperous. She should stick with him.
CF: I think she may change her mind.
Timothy: [gasp!] You are right again!

CF:…

Timothy: I think they are going to kiss in the movies.
CF: Don’t get ideas.
Timothy: No kisses and now they are off to visit some dumb place. I think it is a mosque.
CF: That is an iconic movie location. It is an observatory in Los Angeles. It plays an important role in Rebel Without a Cause.
Timothy: The cause is the usurpation of the Galactic Republic by the Sith Lord Sidious aka Senator Palpatine.
CF: Different rebels.
Timothy: Woah, hold on a minute there are stars!
CF: It’s a planetarium.
Timothy: They are floating Camestros! Baby Goose man and Clara Oswald are floating in the air!
CF: Like I promised!
Timothy: Is this how humans mate Camestros? Is it? Do you float in the air and then lay eggs by spraying them as a fine mist in the atmosphere?
CF:It’s a fantasy sequence Timothy. It’s an extra layer of make believe.
Timothy: So this is a sub-genre of fantasy?
CF: Not really, its a different kind of fantasy in which reality and wish fulfillment intertwine.
Timothy: Ah, magical realism. Did Gabriel Garcia Marquez write this?
CF: One: you have no idea who he was. Two: no he didn’t. Three: Yes, in a sense there is a conceptual overlap between the mixing of reality and fantasy in the Hollywood musical that could be compared with the tropes of magical realism.
Timothy: But…
CF: The themes of the classic Hollywood musical are more limited in scope. Of course musical theatre itself has long explored complex psychological themes but the classic Hollywood musical was more focused on a specific kind of escapism and romantic plots. Ironically as a genre it was particularly heteronormative whilst at the same time has been long associated with gay culture. It is important, of course, not to lapse into hackneyed stereotypes but at the same time it does seem disappointing that a film that celebrates  musical films is so focused on distinctly middle class portrait of a cis-heterosexual romance which leaves no scope to portray any LGTBQI characters at all. Likewise the non-white characters are pushed into supporting roles while the heroic white male character is presented as the saviour of jazz music – a musical genre invented and developed by African Americans but which has long been appropriated (and then abandoned) by mainstream American culture.
Timothy: ssshhhhh – I’m trying to watch the film.

CF: What happened while I was gone?
Timothy: Baby Goose man has sold out and joined a funky new kind of jazz band and is playing a synthesizer. Clara Oswald is trying to put on her own one woman show but here’s the thing Camestros – they are DRIFTING APART! I can’t watch. It’s all going to go wrong!
CF: Such is life Timothy.
Timothy: Now they are arguing! This reality has now become gritty!

CF:…
Timothy: I’m kind of sad now.
CF: There are plot twists yet to come.
Timothy: Wow, you are once again right. This is uncanny. He is going to find her and bring her back to La La Land!

CF:…
Timothy: he has found her! get in the car Clara! He can take you back to La La Land!
CF: Oh one of the few people in the audience for her one woman show was actually a movie director of an exciting project to be filmed in Paris!
Timothy: She is singing her audition! Clara is being very moving.
CF: You know that I have no idea what Emma Stone’s character is actually called.
Timothy: It’s Clara Oswald obviously.
CF: OK, I’ll go with that now.
Timothy: yay! She has go the part and she can go to Paris and oh…but Baby Goose man has to stay and play in the funky Jazz band so he can earn enough money to follow HIS dream. But that means…
CF: That means they can’t stay together Timothy.
Timothy: But oh – oh I have feels in my tiny malicious cat heart Camestros. Actual feels and they are all sad and happy at the same time! They can have their dreams but not their love? What sweet bitterness is this turn of fate Camestros?

CF:…
Timothy: It’s into the future and she is back in the coffee shop?
CF: But now she is a big success!
Timothy: Hooray! yes now she can buy coffee instead of just making coffee!
CF: Living the dream.
Timothy: And she has a baby and she has a husband whoisnotherboyfriendorbabygooseman and she has a nanny and-slash-or a baby sitter and she and her husband are going out for the night. That’s nice. Well I guess we won’t see Baby Goose man now that she has a husband and baby and everything.
CF: let’s keep watching
Timothy: OK they are going into a club and oh what’s that logo? Why it’s the logo SHE drew all those years ago for Baby Goose man’s club. [gasp] It IS Baby Goose man’s club. Oh Clara is very nervous now because she only just realised and ooops! There is Baby Goose man!
CF: See, like Star Wars, the underlying themes of the film have distinct musical themes.
Timothy: Woah – things are getting freaky and we are being sucked into an alternate reality.
CF: It’s a dream sequence Timothy. We are seeing the past events playing out differently but in a more stylised way using painted sets.
Timothy: So Clara Oswald is living her dream?
CF: yes…
Timothy: And she is in Baby Goose man’s club which is HIS dream…
CF: oh, please don’t go there…
Timothy: And now they are both in their own dream sequence…
CF: can we not…
Timothy: It’s just…
CF: please don’t
Timothy:…like…
CF: [sigh]
Timothy: INCEPTION!!!
CF: OK you win.
Timothy: So the Death Star plans where in Baby Goose man’s subconscious all along!
CF: Let’s go with that.

Cinema bouncer: excuse me sir but their appears to be a cat singing a catchy jazz tune in your bag.
CF: RUN!
Timothy: Believe in your dreams!

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5 comments

  1. David Brain

    I might stop laughing. Eventually. Thank you.
    It’s a good point about the weird structural failings of Hollywood Musicals that ensures that they tend to end up endorsing the very rigid social imagery that they ought to be ideally suited to puncturing. Hey ho.

    (Even what was one of my favourites from last year, Hail, Caesar! had that problem; if you’re going to pastiche a period, it’s not really possible to subvert it at the same time. It makes a sort of stab at it, but it can’t follow through properly.)

    Like

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