Movie musicals appear, from afar, to be a thing of the past. While they were popular during the younger years of the baby boom era, audiences seem to have other tastes these days.
The 2016 movie, La La Land, is a modern movie musical set in Los Angeles. Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone) both have dreams that are not set in their reality. He is a pianist and she is an actress. As they have their meet cute, fall in love, and try to stay together, their careers start to come to fruition. At a certain point, they have to make a decision about their future and whether it is worth fighting for.
I’m not a huge fan of the genre. But I appreciate this film because the filmmakers did a good job of remaining in the present while honoring the classics. This is the third film that these two actors have made together (the other two are Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011) and Gangster Squad (2013).
I thoroughly enjoyed it. Gosling and Stone have become one of those iconic movie couples whose on-screen chemistry works, regardless of genre or narratve. It is a sweet, romantic story that hits all of the right notes and has an ending that feels just right.
The question of nature vs. nurture is a tempting one to ask. Does our upbringing dictate who we are and what we believe? Or is it our perception of ourselves and the world around us?
Cruella was released yesterday on DisneyPlus. Estella/Cruella De Vil (played by Tipper Seifert-Cleveland as a child and Emma Stone as an adult) has been a rebel and an outcast since she was young. Raised by her single mother, she is left parentless at 12. Arriving in London with only her dog as a companion, she finds family in the form of thieves Horace (Paul Walter Hauser) and Jasper (Joel Fry). Ten years later, they have become a trio.
But Estella wants more out of life than petty thievery. She wants to be a fashion designer. Fate sends her the opportunity she is praying via the Baroness (Emma Thompson). The Baroness is the queen of the English fashion scene. She is also self centered and selfish. What starts out as a door opening to the job of her dreams turns Estella/Cruella into a version of the person she wants to destroy. The question is, can our heroine keep up with the image she has created while being true to herself or will she sell her soul in the process?
What I loved is that this movie it proves that a female led movie does not require a romantic narrative to be successful. There are male characters who have a significant role in the narrative, but their relationships with the Baroness and Estella/Cruella are of a professional and/or plutonic nature.
Among the Disney prequels that have come out as of late, this is the best one. Though there is the argument of an easy cash grab, there are more than enough Easter eggs to keep fans of the original film happy. Expanded beyond the original narrative, it is a loving homage to its predecessor while standing on its own two feet.
Politics can sometimes be construed as a game of one upmanship.
The new movie, The Favourite takes place in England in the early 18th century. Queen Anne (Olivia Coleman) is on the throne, but she is not the one who is running the country. Emotionally unstable and in bad health, she relies heavily on her friend, Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough (Rachel Weisz), who unofficially rules in the Queen’s stead. Enter Abigail (Emma Stone), a cousin of Sarah’s whose family has fallen from their aristocratic roots. Abigail is looking for a job and soon climbs up the ladder as Sarah’s maid. As Sarah becomes more involved with the war with France, Abigail takes her place as the Queen’s emotional support system. Seeing that power is within her grasp, Abigail takes it and challenges anyone who would dare threaten her new-found power.
This movie is very interesting. The dirty game of politics is usually confined to men. But in this film, the women play dirty, pull no punches and do what they have to do to gain or stay in power. Couched in the language and imagery of a BPD (British Period Drama), but adding layers of politics, feminism and history, this film is a must see.
In the new movie, Battle Of The Sexes, Emma Stone plays Billie Jean King and Steve Carell plays Bobbie Riggs. At the start of the film, Billie Jean King is the women’s tennis champion and Bobby Riggs is the former men’s champion who now earns his living by working for his father-in-law. When Billie Jean and the rest of the women discover that prize money for the women’s tournament is far less than the men’s tournament, they revolt.
While this is happening, both Billie Jean and Bobby are dealing with personal problems. Bobby has a gambling addiction that could threaten his marriage. Billie Jean is married, but she is attracted to women and one woman in particular, Marilyn Barnett (Andrea Riseborough). The question is, who will win the Battle Of The Sexes?
I really liked this movie. I liked it on several levels. I like it a) because it is an entertaining movie b) the match itself is a historical moment that truly changed the world and c) it feels appropriate for what is happening in this country right now. I especially appreciated that both main characters were not slated into the typical hero/villain role. Riggs could have easily been shown as the big bad chauvinistic wolf (which he certainly was to certain degree) who is trying to blow King and the feminist house down. I also appreciated that Billie Jean King paved the way for only women in general to achieve whatever they want to achieve, but also in her own small way, paved the way for the modern LGBTQ movement.
A reputation is a funny thing. A woman’s reputation is an even funnier thing.
In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic novel, The Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne is accused of adultery. Her punishment is to wear a scarlet A on her clothing, marking her as an adulteress.
The 2010 movie, Easy A, is an interesting twist on the novel. Olive (Emma Stone) is a good girl. In terms of the social rank in her high school, she is a nobody. Her best friend, Brandon (Dan Byrd) who is gay, begs her to help him. To stop the torment by his classmates, Olive pretends to sleep with Brandon and loose her virginity to him. Word soon gets out that she will do the same for other social misfits. Then things get out of control. While all this is happening, Olive is reading The Scarlet Letter for one of her classes.
What is interesting about this movie is that it proves that human nature is one of the few constant things in this world. There is an interesting sub-commentary in this movie about the double standard between men and women. While Olive is slut shamed, Brandon and the other boys that she pretends to sleep with become heroes. But by the end, Olive is able to break the sexual stereotype and move on with her life.