La La Land: Old-School Movie Magic

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La La Land (2016)

My Rating: Three and a half stars

Age Suggestion: 14+

The Movie

Two proper L.A. dreamers, a suavely charming soft-spoken jazz pianist and a brilliant vivacious playwright, while waiting for their big break, attempt to reconcile aspirations and relationship in a magical old-school romance. (from IMDB)

Starring Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone

Rated PG-13

My Thoughts

This movie, while not flawless, was sweet and entertaining and right up my alley. The plot, though simple, is a time-honored story of artists seeking to “make it” in the big bad world of performing, and succeeds at bringing a kind of old-Hollywood glam into the modern world. I wasn’t always sold on the more out-there musical sequences (it works in Singin’ in the Rain, but you can only ask a modern audience to take suspension of disbelief so far), but somehow they still pulled off an updated but thoroughly classic musical movie.

I have to say, I’m not a fan of Ryan Gosling’s singing voice. I think he did great in the role overall, but his voice wasn’t good enough to really carry an entire musical. I didn’t really like Emma Stone’s, either, until she sang “Fools Who Dream”. Then it seemed like she just came out of her shell completely and I couldn’t have asked for a better singer. If only she could have sung like that the whole time…

(the one time I didn’t mind their voices was when they were singing “City of Stars” together in their apartment. It’s realistic that a couple just hanging out and singing together aren’t necessarily going to sound Broadway-ready, and it actually made the scene sweeter.)

But the music overall is great! The songs are well-written and beautiful and I love the instrumental soundtrack.

My one big problem with the movie is somewhat of a spoiler. So if you haven’t seen it and you don’t want me to spoil the end, skip past this next part.

SPOILERS BEGIN

Here’s what I hate:

Two people fall in love. For various reasons they have to part ways. Years later, one or both of them is married. The girl’s husband is played up as kind of a fool, or at best just mediocre. Then the lovers run into each other again. They can never be together now, but it’s obvious that they still care about each other. The girl doesn’t seem to really care about her husband at all.

Regardless of how good a book or movie is, if it has this plotline in it, I don’t like it. Because if you marry someone it hopefully means you love them enough to forget about other people you may have loved in the past. Plus, whether you love your husband or not, it’s just not okay for you to fantasize about a previous lover once you’re married. And why do they always have to make the husband seem so mediocre next to the other guy? It’s possible that she married another really great guy!

Ahem. Rant over. I loved the rest of the movie, I just really don’t appreciate that it ended this way.

SPOILERS END

 

*Content Warnings*

Like I said above, this movie is pretty clean as far as romance goes. The two main characters do end up living together outside of marriage, but what we see never goes beyond kissing.

The biggest reason I recommend this for ages 14 and up is because there is quite a bit of language, mostly mild, but with a few very bad words. So it really depends what you’re comfortable with, personally. I don’t mind a little bit of language, as long as it’s not constant, but if you’re really bothered by it you might not want to watch this movie.

 

Quibbles aside, I really did enjoy this movie. It’s rare to have such a clean, old-fashioned romance movie these days, and so I would definitely recommend it if you like romance but can’t conscientiously watch a lot of today’s rom-coms and chick flicks. It isn’t really a comedy, but it made me laugh out loud several times, while still having serious and beautiful moments as well. And for someone who loves musicals, it was just the perfect, sweet movie for a comfy summer night.

What do you think? Have you seen La La Land? If so, did you like it? If not, will you watch it now? Tell me in the comments! 

love, grace

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Book and Movie of the Year 2016

Book and Movie of the Year 2016

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It’s already time for another book and movie of the year post! I had so much fun doing this last year and so I’m excited to do it again.

The choice, especially for books, was slightly agonizing, but I’m happy with the titles I’ve picked. In the end I just had to go with a gut feeling about which books most deserved this title.

Disclaimer: I am not getting paid to promote C.S. Lewis. Futhermore, this blog is not sponsored by C.S. Lewis, who happens to be no longer living anyway so how he would sponsor my blog, I don’t know. 

All jokes aside, I was a little concerned about choosing another C.S. Lewis book for my Book of the Year (last year’s was That Hideous Strength), but what can I say? C.S. Lewis is truly one of the greatest authors ever, and out of all the books I read this year, this one was the best. I do not take this choice lightly, and I didn’t want to choose a lesser book simply so that I wouldn’t have the same author two years in a row.

(It’s my award. I make the rules. And I say that the book can be by the same author two years in a row.)

So with that out of the way, I present to you…the 2016 Book and Movie of the Year! 

Book of the Year: The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis

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Runner-up: The Mysterious Benedict Society series by Trenton Lee Stewart 

The Last Battle is the final book of the Narnia series, the culmination of every plot in the other books. I had definitely read it before, but I was so young I didn’t remember, and this year was the first time that I sat down and read the whole Narnia series, from start to finish within a few weeks, on my own. The Last Battle blew me away.

The endings of the other books are all so bittersweet, with the children returning to the real world, unsure if they will return. But not this one. This one displayed the great climax of human history and the great resolution of final peace and joy. The ending is made even sweeter because of the previous books, all of the characters reunited in eternal happiness. This book somehow captures what the feeling may be like when Christ returns, and it is a picture of heaven that I will never forget.

The runner-up is a whole series, because taking one book out of the series robs it of its magic. The four books together make The Mysterious Benedict Society series what it is: a wonderful story of friendship and good defeating evil. While a children’s book, it has such important messages for all ages, and is a story that everyone can enjoy. It is a happy story that is deep and meaningful at the same time, a rare find in this age of dark and depressing or light and fluffy books.

Movie of the Year: Big Fish (2003)

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Runner-up: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005) 

I don’t think Big Fish is a movie that can really be explained. I can’t explain what it’s about, or why it had such a huge emotional effect on me, but I’ll try anyway.

The movie is the story of a father and son, shown in the present and in flashbacks through the father’s life. All during the son’s childhood, the father told wild stories about his own life, passing them off as truth. As an adult, the son greatly distrusts his father and resents those stories.

The movie explores their relationship, especially when the father becomes very sick. It explores the power of stories and the lasting effect they have on our lives. The ending had me crying my eyes out, and the whole movie is fun, humorous, entertaining, deep, beautiful, and sad all at the same time.

And yes, more Narnia as the runner-up. This year I watched a Narnia movie for the first time, and was really pleased with how well it was adapted! The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is visually gorgeous, well-cast, and stays very true to the book. I’m hesitant to watch the rest of the movies from things I’ve heard, but this one at least did a very good job and left me happy and satisfied.

 

What do you think? Do you like my choices? What are some of the best things you read and watched in 2016? Tell me in the comments!