La La Land—Dazzling Punch of Imperfection

“I just wanna let life hit me. . . ’til it’s tired.”

Emma Stone Ryan Gossling

A man in the next row caught my attention.

One Saturday night I sat in a jam-packed theater, nestled in the middle of the upper rows. A gray-haired fellow had eased into the seat ahead of me. His wife tucked closely to his side, they partook of a gigantic bag of the ever-famous-butter-smothered-theatrical, popped-corn. The man plucked out a few pieces and sleekly tossed them into his mouth. He proceeded to lick off each finger on his left hand and then swing that hand to the side—resting as if a bird would happily fly down to perch there. He was the perfect person to be seeing La La Land.

La La Land Dance

Musicals show life how it is—not how we see it, or remember it, but how we sense it in the moment. It’s like if we were incredibly lucid to the reality around us. Lucid in the moments that we go to our own La La Land. . . we’d see life like this.

La La Land is operatic. It is outrageous with its extreme expressions and dazzling primary colors. The unique and thrilling single-shot opening song sweeps the audience into the grandeur that is about to befall them. The gray-haired fellow ooo-ed and awed at all the right times.

La La Land has the taste of a dream-like reality, but it does not eclipse the imperfection of life.

The believablity of musicals, especially those adapted for the screen, has declined for some years. We want to see real life! We want to see the world as we know it. La La Land’s dancing-up-into-the-conservatory-air sought to capture the feeling of new love, but ultimately failed. The stream of consciousness imaginary sequences with their silhouettes, staged streets, cut-out landscapes pushed it a little too far. Rather than breathing the air of the story, some scenes smothered my suspension of disbelief and forced me to breathe the air of the theater. Fortunately, alongside these few failures, the film broke into my everyday-life.

La La Land provokes our dry-humor, uses our iPhones, and incorporates our dances. Amidst its whimsical sequences it kind of feels like life: the awkward way one comes to hold someone’s hand, the incessant reality of a barista having coffee spilled on her, the loss of one’s Prius in a California-sea of Priuses, the sadness following a bad audition, and the slow-growing pain of a dwindling love. Finally! A musical that is not nostalgic alone! This is us; we are not perfect.

La La Land

Now, I just expect explicitly romantic movies, especially musicals, to end with: 1) Both give up everything they ever wanted out of life for each other, 2) Boy gets girl—period. La La Land is surprising. Most of the time, things don’t work out the way we expect, neither does La La Land. But, sometimes the unexpected is rather beautiful.

When the lights came up, a 22 year-old boy-man, third row, seat C, shot up from his seat and grabbed his garbage. His friends picked up their purses and coats and stuff. At some point, unbeknownst to me, he spilled one of those gigantic bags of popped-corn all over the floor, to his embarrassment I assure you. He lumbered out of the theater with an I-am-still-pretty-cool swag, and his friends crunched over the popped-corn, following him. In the end, La La Land was the movie for him too.

 

– K. Pastore

Rogue One—Can I trust this woman?

Rogue One says that trust is not just built on exceptional skills or a reputable history.

Women are taking on new roles in the Star Wars universe.

In Rogue One and The Force Awakens, women (specifically three-lettered named, British women) fly, fight and climb their way into a protagonist. Rey came from an ambiguous but largely optimistic background. Not to mention, her impeccable tech skills easily won a place in the heroic community. But Jyn—Jyn is not that kind of woman. Born to an imperialist and raised by a terrorist, Jyn is flat-out untrustworthy. Nor, does she wield an wildly artificial skill set. Jyn only has her passion.

If you are a Stars Wars fan you know:

1) Do not trust any person with high cheekbones and a symmetrical face.

Ben Mendelsohn as Orson Krennic

 2) Symmetrically shot scenes mean … somethin’ bad is ‘bout to go down.

Don’t worry! As you can see, these principles find their place in Rogue One, however… things are not what they seem. Good and evil are not so distinguishable after all. No one can be completely trusted.

But, how can you have courage? How can you chase down hope, if you do not trust?

Trusting someone is quid pro quo—risk equals reward. We’re not on Aladdin’s magic carpet anymore. A Rebel captain, a defected Imperial pilot, a desert-hidden terrorist, and a Death Star engineer—they have no reason to trust each other. Yet, the most risky trust is shared by Cassian (Diego Luna) and Jyn (Felicity Jones).

Jyn
Jyn Erso and Captain Cassian Andor

Most of the time men are portrayed as the dangerous rogue whose entrusted with the fate of the world. Men tend to be written as the wild and unexpected heroes. Not so here! Cassian and K-2SO (Alan Tudyk) do not trust Jyn from the get go. Cassian wavers to and fro, in and out of each scene. In the end he trusts her with his life. But, what made him change his mind? What made him risk? I would have expected a romance to produce this kind of 180 (as per the usual pop-cinema script). Nope, not this time. Cassian’s trust reversal is left, for the most part, unclear. But, his shift does happen after a significant speech that he makes. He makes a case for Jyn to trust him. He forcefully reminds her that she isn’t the only one who is emboldened by a broken past.

Passion—that’s what makes Jyn trustworthy.

She thunders enflamed pep talks. She wells-up at the sight of pure comradery. Generally, to get any respect as a woman you can’t be too emotional, nor can you be too stiff-faced and strong-willed. You ought to flounder some place in between. But Jyn—Jyn is the most emotional and strong-woman hero I’ve seen in a long while. Jyn is a holistic, bona fide hero. Her emotional intensity fuels her passion to do whatever it takes. Her passion powers her courage to put her life on the line. Her zeal unifies the disillusioned and wary Rebels.

Rogue One says trust is not just built on exceptional skills or a reputable history. Trust confides in pure, self-giving passion.

 

 

– Kylee