Ryan Gosling

January 5, 2017

Why ‘La La Land’ is Going to Clean Up this Awards Season

*Post Oscar Update 2-27-17*

*I was partially correct, 14 nominations and six wins isn’t too shabby, and even after the Best Picture snafu, “La La Land” came out in the wash clean as hell.*

Hollywood award season is upon us with the Golden Globes set for this coming Sunday, January 8th, 2017. After the snafu that was #OscarsSoWhite and the conclusion of the drama about Leonardo DiCaprio receiving his first Oscar, we might have an Oscar telecast with a little more diversity, but we’ll see how that goes.

While 2016 provided us some great films with minorities in the lead role such as “Moonlight” and “Lion” and female-driven fare like “Edge of Seventeen” and “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” there is one film heads and tails above the rest, and it will be heavily rewarded this award season, and that film is “La La Land.”

This is not me saying that “Land” is bad; it’s not; its utterly fantastic, I nearly wept during the opening dance number it was so beautiful, (hopefully Another Day of Sun is up for Best Song at the Oscars). However, if history has anything to do with anything, the deck is stacked in favor of “Land,” and here are some of the reasons:

1) Hollywood loves to pat itself on the back. “Land” for the most part is a throwback to old Hollywood. It’s dancing set-pieces will leave you in awe, the music is infectious, (as I listen to the soundtrack of course) and it’s a classic story of following your dreams, despite the hardships and trials and tribulations. This is the classic Hollywood story.

2)  Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are pure and utter joy. This is their third, and for my money best, collaboration. They are natural fits for one another and play off each other so well it’s a mesmerizing things to watch. Gosling has always had stage presence and after “The Nice Guys” there’s no doubt about his comedy chops. Stone has gone from “hmmm, okay, she might be good one day,” to “oh man, she’s really good.” The more I think about it, Stone is more of the revelation where she carries a greater weight in this film and her story hits harder when it comes to actresses in the Hollywood system. She was good in “Birdman” but she’s great in “Land.”

3) It was a struggle to get this film off the ground. It took Damien Chazelle years to get this film going, and it will be commended when the time for awards comes around. Not to forget to mention the fact that while the film is a classic Hollywood film, making of the film is nearly as classic. It’s about as Hollywood as it gets.

4) The soundtrack is wonderful. If “Hamilton” was the hit soundtrack of Broadway in 2016, “Land” is the hit soundtrack of Hollywood in 2016. “Land’s” soundtrack is an experience and will be awarded as such.

5) The final point is going to piggyback on my first point. In the past seven years at the Oscars the Academy has awarded films well when it comes to films paying homage to Hollywood; “The Artist” in 2011, “Argo” in 2012 and “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) in 2014. While “Birdman” takes more shots at how Hollywood treats actors, nonetheless, it’s a film about Hollywood and all press, is good press.

“The Artist” was at least to me a gimmick film. A silent film made in the day and age of loud Hollywood blockbusters. While I’m not a huge fan, I can understand how people can feel nostalgic for a bygone era.

“Argo” was the ultimate way for Hollywood to fellate themselves. No, I am not saying “Argo” is a bad film, in fact I loved it and it was the catalyst for the re-rising of Ben Affleck’s Q Rating (even though the writing was on the wall with “Gone Baby Gone” and “The Town,” previously). However, the film is about Hollywood people saving the lives of people in a foreign country overtaken by “the bad guys.” It’s a whimsical tale of how Hollywood saved the day in a story that seems almost too Hollywood to be real…yet, it was.

“Birdman” did it’s best to shit all over the way that Hollywood tosses out old actors after they are done using them up, but despite that, it was impossible to ignore the painstaking process of making this film. The acting was great, the direction was great, the message, while I’m sure it miffed Hollywood, had to be commended for what it was; a film that was hard to make and a technical achievement.

“Land” fits the bill as the film to beat. In a year that was full of despair and woefulness, “Land” is the silver lining. It’s got comedy, tragedy, dancing, singing, some great acting and it hits on the idea that you can still go to Hollywood and have all of your dreams come true, but it adds that bittersweet touch. It appeals to idealists, dreamers, and pessimists; it appeals to humanity in these unsure times where a dream is still something to hold onto. Thus, “La La Land” will be your big winner come this award season, and for good reason.

July 20, 2013

Only God Forgives (DJ’s Take)

BLANK

All my cards on the table.  I love the film Drive.  I own the dvd, I own the soundtrack, I own the poster, and to be honest, I was a second thought away from owning that satin scorpion racing jacket.  I get really frustrated when the now overly cynical, “If something is trying to be cool I’ll automatically hate it” film critic says they despise Drive.  It is a perfect example of minimalism done right.  Minimalism used in an action/drama film that made it into something fresh and different.  So, when I heard that star Ryan Gosling and director Nicolas Winding Refn were teaming up again, I was excited.  However, after watching their new film Only God Forgives, I have to say that this is an example of minimalism done wrong.  When word got out of audience members booing and walking out of the premier at Cannes, I was very puzzled.  I can always understand not liking a film afterwards, but booing and walking out during, baffles me.  What could be so bad?  Well, within the first ten minutes there are certainly reasons to warrant a conservative audience uprising.  As a whole, the film has subject matter offensive and violent enough to have me second guess the rating.  However, the film’s biggest crime for me was the emptiness of it.  Only God Forgives provides little in the way of plot and character development.  And the crime is, that it is set up to give you so much more.

Now I know what you’re probably thinking.  How could you criticize Only God Forgives for using a style that Drive also uses?  Well, Drive was originally intended to be another cliched action vehicle much like The Transporter.  There was nothing really there originally that we hadn’t seen already in regards to the story and characters.  A mysterious rebel who wants to do good but is pulled back into a life of crime to protect the woman he loves.  Winding Refn’s decision to pull back on the cliche and make Drive more dramatic and serious and realistic separates it from the rest in the genre.  Only God Forgives, on the other hand, is not a traditional action/drama set up.  Yes, you could say there is a revenge angle going on.  However, the setting of the film, the symbolism of the film, and the creepy family dynamic of the film are all begging to be explored.  It really isn’t.  In Drive, despite Gosling’s man of few words gimmick, the supporting characters give you something to chew on.  Ron Perlman, Bryan Cranston, and the amazing Albert Brooks fill in the gaps the film’s stoic hero leaves.  In Only God Forgives, we are left with only one character that does that.  The deplorably offensive Crystal, played to perfection by Kristin Scott Thomas.  Unfortunately, she can only fill so many BLANK spaces before you’re left wanting.  In Drive, the BLANKS were there but in fewer frequency.  When they did show up, because it was material you were familiar with, your imagination could fill them in.  So, an uncomfortably sweet conversation in the hallway with Gosling and Carey Mulligan isn’t as jarring.  The world of Only God Forgives is very unfamiliar.  The characters are very unfamiliar.  The situations are very unfamiliar.  So, when you’re searching for the motivations and thoughts of a character, you’re just left with a BLANK.

If you think Gosling’s Driver said and expressed little in Drive, just wait until you see Only God Forgives.  Julian Thompson feels like a stranger to us throughout.  Gosling’s perpetual sphinx-like expression hurts the character more than adds to his mystery.  One could assume this was done to heighten the effect of Julian’s later emotional outbursts as was done in Drive.  However, Winding Refn’s stripping down of his personality and emotion seems to have passed the breaking point.  Though it may be the dialogue fiend in me, but he just seemed like a character that would be better suited talking a good game.  He’s a fight promoter for crying out loud!  I personally think Gosling is a very good actor and when given more things to do emotionally and expressively, he usually knocks it out of the park.  He’s grasping at straws here.  The…um…villain I guess (He’s more reactionary if you think about it.  And God himself if you REALLY think about it.), played by Vithaya Pansringarm, is another great character with sadly minimized background.  It works more for him seeing as the mysterious villain is a familiar concept.  However, when the protagonist and antagonist of your story are both practically mute, their dynamic suffers.  Drive, again, didn’t have this problem because Albert Brooks filled those BLANKS.

The one true positive and apparent focus of the film is the stunning cinematography.  I got a hint of this during the trailer, but it barely scratches the surface of the amount of breathtakingly beautiful shots you’ll see.  I haven’t seen scenes this colorfully vibrant and skillful composed since Skyfall.  Props should be given to acclaimed cinematographer Larry Smith of Eyes Wide Shut fame and Winding Refn himself.  However, the look of the film seems to be the only place where Winding Refn spent his time.  There really could have been some great material fleshed out of that script if he wanted.

It is thought to be a good thing to leave the people wanting more.  However, a film with too much of too little can run the risk of appearing unclear, disjointed, and lazy.  Now, I know Nicolas Winding Refn isn’t lazy.  He’s a terrific filmmaker.  The style of Only God Forgives seems to be a choice.  In my opinion, it wasn’t entirely the right one.  Crank up the karaoke machine…roll up your sleeves…watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.

May 15, 2013

The Place Beyond the Pines

The Place Beyond the Pines: Powerful

‎2hr 20min‎ – ‎Rated R‎ – ‎Drama‎

Going into this film I wasn’t really expecting much but that default Ryan Gosling film we seem to get anymore. The silent romantic killer type, which I don’t mind. He does a good job in his films and yes this is another one, but it’s damn good. The story is simple, Guy sees a girl he had a past with. Guy finds out he has a child, guy has no money but wants to help. This is mostly the first hour of the film. Ryan and (in real life girlfriend) Eva Mendes are a great onscreen couple. They play off of each other nicely. The film also is shoot beautifully and the film as a whole just feels tight and well made. There are these shots with Ryan on his bike that are not anything special but it comes off just fantastic.

The only real issue with this film is the running time. For a 140min film the first hr and a half go quite fast, its the last 50mins of what kills the film for me. 

Look at the film like this, its 3 in 1. The first film is all Ryan. The second is with Bradley Cooper, the third-well lets keep that under wraps.  If I told you any of it, I would spoil something that you should find out when watching the film. Bradley Cooper does a great job as well with his screen time  I think I was more impressed with him here then his past films. He also shares the screen with Ray Liotta, who, yep you guessed it plays… a baddie.

There is this “silver lining” (If I can) throughout the film which helps this film wrap up nicely. But like I said earlier could of been a bit shorter. The ending could of lost a solid 20mins. The whole film is nicely packaged till this point. But then feels as if they jammed every idea they had and couldn’t let any of it go. Otherwise it’s a lovely film, one I think a lot of people will like.

Acting is great. Directing and DP are great. Running time just needs to be shorten a bit.

January 12, 2013

Holiday Hangover: Gangster Squad

Gangster Squad – Bite

Its been a while since there’s been a straight-up cops fighting the mob type of film.  The last one I can really think of  was “American Gangster.”  The problem with this genre is that it’s been done to death, and how can you really re-invent the wheel.  Sure, you can make it more modern and take it out of the 1920s or 40s, but that’s half the charm of these films.  I like to see big Cadillacs, bright lights on buildings, and usually, extraordinarily bad acting.  Well guess what, “Gangster Squad” is more than happy to bite off of all these cliches, and more.

If you take “L.A Confidential,” “The Untouchables,” and “Dick Tracy” you pretty much have “Squad” in a nutshell.  The story follows a group of LAPD officers who are tasked by Nick Nolte’s police chief to take down East Coast-turned-West Coast mobster Mickey Cohen, played by Sean Penn.  The story is basically “Hey, Cohen is a bad guy doing bad stuff.  Let’s shut his operations down!”  Stock story, stock characters, and very little room for characters to develop.

I personally like the way the film was shot.  I thought it was stylish, even though it did use an obscene amount of slow-motion camera work, and the fact that nearly all the shootouts and action set-pieces were shot practically, I appreciate that even more.  Ruben Fleischer has a knack for the quirky, and has a real grip on filming practical effects, but I don’t think he has a knack for filming drama.

While the action kept me in the film, the acting and writing left a lot to be desired.  Not even a cast that includes Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, and Penn can save a paper thin plot that is so predictable, it was almost laughable.  In a film that had room for a few twists here and there (one again, think “L.A Confidential”) they decided to go the big budget action romp route.  While I was in the theater I started to think about the video game “L.A Noire.”  They both have similarities in the time frame (Post World War II) and really harped on the fact that Los Angeles was at “war” and soldiers are needed to win wars.  I wanted to know the war storied behind John O’ Mara (Josh Brolin) and Jerry Wooters (Gosling) but I got nothing of the sort.

While this movie might have been something to look forward to, it received a lot more publicity after the shooting in Aurora, CO in July 2012.  “Squad” had to go back and completely re-shoot an entire scene that featured a movie theater shooting as well.  While there are plenty of bullets flying throughout the course of the film, I’m puzzled why a re-shoot was necessary.  Whether it’s a movie theater or not, shooting and killing people is still shooting and killing people, no matter the venue.

Overall, “Gangster Squad” is a movie that will come and go through the theater, and probably make it’s money back, but it’s not changing the genre in any way.  The cast is good, the direction is good, but the story and characters are down right criminal.

Fun Fact:  This isn’t Josh Brolin, Michael Pena, or Nick Nolte’s first go around as cops.  All three have played Johnny Law in “American Gangster,” “End of Watch,” and “48 Hours,” respectively.

Welcome to the new home of SimplisticReviews.net - We're currently still working on the site. You might notice a few issues, please be patient with us. Thanks! (Store also in testing — no orders shall be fulfilled.)
Scroll to top