From Los Angeles with Love

I can’t even deal with how amazing La La Land (2016) is. It makes me want to yell from a rooftop how much I love movies. I watched it for about the third or fourth time this weekend. And I think it keeps getting better each time I watch it.

The nay-sayers to La La Land don’t know what they are talking about. It’s a film about films, made by film lovers for film buffs. Does a film get any better than this? I don’t think so. And here’s why.

The tribute it pays to the movies of the past. It’s a homage to the stars that were and the movies that they live on in. For example, showing Griffith Observatory in Rebel Without a Cause (1955) and then re-creating the same shot 60+ years later. The whole film is a love letter to Hollywood, not the Hollywood of today, but of the Golden Era. They just don’t make movies like these anymore, except of course in La La Land.

The music. The score, the jazz music featured plus the concept of “ saving jazz”. I didn’t know much about jazz before. The only real experience I’ve had with jazz is going to Preservation Hall in New Orleans for authentic jazz, no microphone, no amps and also no mobile phones. Gimmicks have no place in ‘real jazz’ and we learn that as Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) does.

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are both fantastic and even better when paired together. Which brings me to my favourite part of the film and what I think is the best ending to a film, in the history of film. Big call, but I’m happy to make it.

The final montage is perfect. There’s just not another word for it. It is understated whilst being elaborate. It is affectionate, whilst being heart-breaking. It is unexpected but believable.

This isn’t a story of boy meets girl and then happily ever after. Whilst it is a love story, it is a story about two people chasing their dreams. It is about meeting someone who has an impact on your life & shapes who you become, but then their part in your story is done.

The story & ending of La La Land is a film I think will never be forgotten. This is a modern-day classic whose story has just begun.

The best Bond film

I re-watched Casino Royale (2006) this weekend and it is by far the best Bond film. I remember seeing this at the movies when it came out. (I can’t believe it’s 11 years ago, where did all that time go?) I remember being on the edge of my seat the entire movie, not knowing what was going to happen.

It’s something that you can only experience once. The first time you see a movie & you have no idea what to expect. I think that a great cinema experience like that is one to treasure. Making you forget your own life entirely and be transported to another world is something only very few movies achieve. Casino Royale is definitely one of them.

From the black and white start to the opening credits, you know you are in for a great movie. It’s a Bond who’s not yet quite sure of himself. While he’s still arrogantly charming, he’s not so sure about the killing that his job entails. Daniel Craig portrays this new-age Bond perfectly. He’s ruggedly handsome & does a great job bringing Bond into the 21 century.

I must say that Casino Royale really is a one-off. It’s a not just a Bond film; it’s an action film that has something for everyone. A fast-paced story line, great characters, stunning locations and a love story. Eva Green’s character Vesper Lynd, is not just a Bond girl, but the love of Bond’s life. What a different storyline for a Bond film.

But I have to say, the other films with Daniel Craig as Bond haven’t lived up to this one and I doubt that a Bond film will again. Casino Royale is pretty damn close to perfect.

Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

I have to say in this day in age it is hard to find four hours to dedicate to anything. Re-watching Lawrence of Arabia was a great investment though.

From the overture of the film with Maurice Jarre’s score, you know you are in for a big, sweeping epic. A David Lean epic no less! This was my second time watching the film. The first time was over 5 years ago and I must admit, I found the start/end bookends a little confusing. This time I did get a greater grasp, but it is still an ambiguous end. Consequently, I have been thinking about the ending for a while after now. I think it’s better that you invest in a film & the filmmaker invests in you to contemplate and bring your own meaning to the film.

If you haven’t seen it before, it’s based on a real-life man, called T.E. Lawrence. Peter O’Toole plays Lawrence and Ali is his right-hand man, played by Omar Sharif. (Sharif also went on to star in Lean’s Doctor Zhivago (1965). Basically we follow Lawrence the entire film through the desert of Arabia. Lawrence is a British soldier who teams up with the Arabs in the Turkish Revolt.

What I love about the film is the character progressions (or regression). It really is a character film, my favourite kind of film. We follow Lawrence who goes from displaced British solider, to triumphant, honorary Arab and to a confused “ordinary” person. I guess it’s got such a strong sense of place and the Arabian desert is as much of a character as Lawrence and Ali are. The desert drives the action. It is serene at times, yet deadly at others. When Lawrence is adorned in his Arab white robes the desert seems magical. Just moments before the desert had threatened to kill him on his rescue mission for one of the men.

I do think the first half is a lot more enjoyable but probably because Lawrence is a lot more likeable as well. Not often in films do characters become more arrogant, confused and deadly. Usually it’s the other way round. The desert that appeared to save Lawrence and give him purpose originally, seems to haunt him by the end. Is it the desert or is he haunted by himself? I think a bit of both.

Peter O’Toole and Omar Sharif are legends both in this film and throughout their careers. Imagine seeing this film in 1962 and not knowing who they were. You honestly would have been blown away. Lean did an incredible job and without this film, we probably wouldn’t have had Star Wars or Indiana Jones. You can really see the references these two films make in their production values when you bear it in mind watching Lawrence.

Lawrence of Arabia isn’t a typical war movie. Although it’s about a war – it’s real war is personal, inner conflict. From Lawrence wanting to rescue men initially to then enjoy killing them . To Ali’s tears over his friendship with Lawrence versus to staying true to himself and leaving Lawrence. The film packs more of a punch without showing graphic violence.

The film doesn’t answer who Lawrence is. It leaves it to us to question this. I still haven’t figured it out.

And I think that’s the point, you’re not meant to.