“La La Land”

Ryan Gosling ‘s talent saved this retro-musical for me. His deep chords and soft voice, his easy sway and final lament brought me  near tears. This incredibly sad movie was more wrenching than bittersweet. Why can’t one have one’s dream and one’s love? Canadian, ex-Mouseketeer, Gosling and large-eyed Emma Stone seemed jinxed by time.

With a theme that has decision-making seen as narrowing one’s possibilities, the song ” City of Stars, Are You Shining Just For Me ”  will have everyone feeling lonely, and have everyone  wondering ” what if “. Director Damien Chazelle, whose film “Whiplash” was reviewed here January 4th, 2015, has another winner.

Mia ( Stone) and Sebastian first see each other in a freeway traffic jam. They are chasing all the light in another day of sun. She flips him the finger when he blares his horn, and they bump into each other at parties and in the coffee shop where Mia works as a barista. Their romance begins, and it is enthralling. That feeling of time standing still is captured in dance movements that swirl and soar.

Horn honker and finger thrower are in love. Struggles and support for their careers of actress/playwright and jazz pianist follow. The story arc is predictable, but so heartfelt that we invest again in first loves.

J.K. Simmons makes a cameo appearance as a grouchy piano bar manager who fires Sebastian ( Gosling ) for not sticking to his approved repertoire.When Sebastian spouts, ” That’s LA.~ worship everything, value nothing.” we get a premonition of heartbreak, conflict, and compromise.

Through jealousy and extensive touring, we see our lovers drift. The shadow dancing in swirls of clouds still lift our expectations. This love can make it. Lyrics like ‘ Here’s to the mess we make. Here’s to the ones who dream. Here’s to the hearts that ache, fools who leap”, we root for them. It is impossible for romantics to believe that timing is everything.

Fast forward five years. Mia’s mind-movie captures a longing that moving forward always leaves.

Sebastian’s plaintive, “One more dream that I can’t make come true” will stick with you, and so will Gosling.  Continue reading “La La Land”

“The Accountant”

Wish to see Ben Affleck with no affect then ” The Accountant” ( 2016) is for you. As Chris Wolf, Affleck plays a puzzling “somewhere on the autism spectrum” savant and a stone-cold killer. He is fun to watch as he methodically fries eggs and mini-pancakes in perfectly matched circles, miraculously cooks and uncooks books, and is pathologically fixated on finishing tasks. His sensory therapy of strobe lights, loud music, and a rolling pin is harder to watch.

As the  film’s  writer, Bill Dubuque has lots of holes in his script. A messy back and forth timeframe suggests that we can blame his mother for abandoning her two boys while also  pointing to an abusive, military father who offered 34 homes in 17 years.

Storage holds become scenes with their perfect stacks of bills, gold bars, fine art, and memorial dented steel thermos. Air streams get a plug, as does Vera Wang.  Dorky pocket protector, red & black dry erasers and University of Chicago jokes ( where fun goes to die) fill the balance of man-to-man action.

The story line, if you can follow it, focuses on 61 million dollars missing from a robotics company. We are told late in the game that the  CEOs are brother and sister ( Jean Smart and John Lithgow) . Lithgow is exceedingly bad as the villain, Lamar Blackburn~ cartoonish even. His death scene video-game like.His wide-eyed, ” Are they dead?” made me laugh. Granted dialogue like. “what’s happening?” does not give him much to emote.  I thought Anna Kendrick and Cynthia Addai-Robinson no better. Director Gavin O’Conner let them play B-grade movie parts.

Besides Afleck, J.K. Simmons of “Whiplash” fame ( reviewed January 4th, 2015  ) provides a more nuanced role as FBI Money Laundering & Financial Crimes Director, Ray King. Jon Bernthal ( Brax) has an uncanny likeness to his pre-teen counterpart who gives the middle finger to his mother as she leaves the boys via taxi. Jeffrey  Tambor adds his certain magic as prison mentor, Francis Silverberg, a Federal informant.

Basically, one does not see this film for the acting or for the convoluted plot. Is it an action flick or a paen to abused and labeled children ?  The viewer will leave confused and lightly entertained.  I thought of ” violence for liberals” with lots of silly knots hastily trying to be untied. Enjoy the term ‘ neuro-typicals ‘ and hear that 1 out of 68 children are diagnosed with autism. Justine becomes the voice surprise and the score leaves us with, “I’m trying to leave something behind” after all the murders. See this flawed entertainment if you wish, but please don’t blame everything on the mother.