‘La La Land’: An Homage to Old Hollywood

By Julia Wilson, Edited by Anthony Peyton

For this week’s Time Warp Tuesday, the film we’ll be talking about isn’t very old, but the references it makes date as far back as 1935.

I’m sure when you hear about the film La La Land you probably think of the truly iconic moment in Academy Award history when La La Land was announced as the Best Picture winner, only for someone to come up and say moments later that Moonlight had actually won Best Picture.

Although I could talk all day about the Oscar drama surrounding this film, today I want to talk about its many references to old Hollywood musicals, why they’re there, and what makes them such a key element of the magic of this film.

La La Land is a love story between Mia (Emma Stone) and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), two struggling artists with big dreams. Mia dreams of one day becoming an actress, and Sebastian dreams of opening up his own jazz club and reviving the genre. The story is sweet and relatable to any struggling artists out there, but what really sets this film apart is its attempt to make an old Hollywood musical today.

Throughout the film there are several references to old Hollywood musicals, but probably the most prominent reference is to the 1952 classic Singin’ in the Rain starring Hollywood legends Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds. Some allusions to the 1952 classic in La La Land include Ryan Gosling swinging on the lamppost during “A Lovely Night” as Gene Kelly does in “Singin’ in the Rain” and large dance scenes in La La Land that mirror some of those in Singin’ in the Rain. In the image below, the top is from La La Land and the bottom is from Singin’ in the Rain.

Singin
Top: Courtesy of Lionsgate, Bottom: Courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

One of the most memorable scenes in La La Land is during the song A Lovely Night”. Although this scene has references to many old Hollywood films, the general concept is heavily inspired by the 1935 film Top Hat starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Specifically, the song “Isn’t this a Lovely Day (to be Caught in the Rain)” where its concept of a couple whose dialogue tells you they’re bickering, but through the song and dance you see that there is actually love there really inspired director and writer Damien Chazelle (Whiplash), as he describes in his interview with PBS NewsHour. You can see the similarities below, with the top image from La La Land and the bottom image from Top Hat.

A Lovely Night
Top: Courtesy of Lionsgate, Bottom: Courtesy of RKO Radio Pictures

Another classic Hollywood allusion is to the film Broadway Melody of 1940 which starred Fred Astaire and Eleanor Powell. In that film Astaire and Powell dance on a starry looking stage, and a very similar image appears during the “Epilogue” scene in La La Land. This can be seen below with the top image from La La Land and the bottom image from Broadway Melody of 1940.

Broadway Melody
Top: Courtesy of Lionsgate, Bottom: Courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Some of the other classic Hollywood films referenced in La La Land include Rebel Without A Cause starring James Dean and Natalie Wood, Funny Face starring Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire, and Bob Fosse’s film Sweet Charity starring Shirley MacLaine. Below you can see side by side images of La La Land and Rebel Without A CauseFunny Face, and Sweet Charity.

Collage 1
Left: Courtesy of Lionsgate, Right: Courtesy of Warner Bros., Paramount Pictures, and Universal Pictures

 

So why did Chazelle choose to make a film such as La La Land? As he describes in his interview with PBS NewsHour, ever since he fell in love with old Hollywood musicals he really wanted to try and see how you could make one today. He goes on to describe how these musicals had him “reveling in what only movies can do”, and how he loved the idea of telling a story through sound and image, opposed to dialogue, which is something no other medium could do.

The amazing thing about La La Land is it revived the magic of film that we haven’t really felt since the days of old Hollywood. Since then we as a society have gotten used to the tricks, CGI, and typical movie structure that we see today, and lost the magic and wonder film used to bring. By combining stunning cinematography, beautiful music, and of course allusions to old Hollywood classics Chazelle has brought that magic back with La La Land.

 

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Let’s do the Time Warp Again: ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’

By Julia Wilson, Edited by Anthony Peyton

The original cult classic, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, is a sight to behold with kickass music, costumes, set design, and more. This film really rocked (pun intended) the film industry by becoming one of the first films to develop a cult following. For today’s literal Time Warp Tuesday it’s time to look at how this film became the cult classic it is today.

Just in case you haven’t seen Rocky Horror (which if that is the case, what have you been doing with your life up until now?) I will recap it for you. A young, newly engaged couple, Janet (Susan Sarandon) and Brad (Barry Bostwick), approach a castle on a dark stormy night in search of a telephone after one of the tires on their car blows out. They are welcomed inside by handyman Riff Raff (Richard O’Brien) where they meet mad scientist Dr. Frank N. Furter (Tim Curry, who later played Pennywise in the original It). From this point forward all kinds of strange happenings occur.

This film started out as a stage play under the title The Rocky Horror Show. The “picture” portion of the title was added for the film adaption. It was written by Richard O’Brien in London in the 1970s where he was inspired by science fiction and B horror movies. After its large success on stage, it was turned into a film.

When the film first opened it did not draw large audiences. In fact, many early showings got cancelled. But once it was relaunched as a midnight film starting at the Waverly Theater in New York City that all began to change.

Not only did the film become a big hit, but a very large, committed fan base began to form. People started coming to the theater dressed as the characters, performing callbacks to what’s happening on the screen, and throwing objects such as toast and toilet paper. Another staple of Rocky Horror showings are shadow casts who act out the film.

Now, midnight showings of Rocky Horror are a regular occurrence in countless theaters across the country. There are even Rocky Horror conventions as the fan base has grown only larger and more committed as the years have gone by. Fans seem to really connect with this film in a way that you don’t see with many other films.

The massive cult following that this film has gained made way for other cult films such as The Room and Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show really did change the film industry by creating this new participatory way to enjoy your favorite film. In a sense, it created its own genre of cult films with its signature showings and dedicated fan base that have become synonymous with the words The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

A Galaxy Changed: Looking Back on ‘Star Wars: A New Hope’

By Anthony Peyton, Edited by Olivia Norwood

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away we fell in love with George Lucas’ Star Wars (which would later be titled Star Wars: A New Hope) and we haven’t fallen out of love with it since. But, as with all great movies, there had to be a reason to the fan craze that developed immediately after.

Millions around the world wish they could step into the mind of Lucas as he first conceptualized the unforgettable C-3PO, R2D2, and Luke Skywalker, who was actually named Luke Starkiller during the beginning stages of filming. It wasn’t until Mark Hamill, who has reprised his role as Skywalker in every sequel, had already filmed several scenes with the name Starkiller that they decided to change it.

We can look at all these decisions all we want, but it is certainly more than just the characters we find ourselves craving more of 40 years later. We crave the thrill of Han Solo flying the millennium falcon, the shrill of lightsabers clashing, the bird-like chirps released from R2D2’s blue robotic body, and the incredible story that makes up not only A New Hope but the entire franchise.

When looking at the first film and the actual good qualities behind it, they truly are easy to find. Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia, Harrison Ford as Han Solo, and Hamill as Luke Skywalker create an unstoppable trio – believe me, I’m not forgetting Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), he was unbeatable as well – that surely everyone on Earth (and the galaxy for that matter) should know better than to mess with.

The acting is as you would expect from a 1977 Sci-Fi flick, but even that is done well. I’ve never seen a group of otherwise average actors pull off ‘average’ so well! They do this with the extraordinary help of the set and cinematography that can never be repeated quite as brilliantly as it was in this. If you were living in ‘77, chances are you hadn’t seen so many aliens, planets, and spaceships on the silver screen in your life.

Known as one of the best scores of the 21st century, it’s one of the few movies where the music has an absolute impact on its level of enjoyability as you watch Luke Skywalker explore the ways of the Jedi and – more importantly – the seemingly impossible ways around the Force.

Star Wars: A New Hope was the beginning of a journey with no termination point. It flipped Hollywood upside down and spun it around until it was knocked unconscious and woke up with millions of beyond dedicated fans who couldn’t get enough of what would forever become the most well-known galaxy far, far away.


My Rating: 92%

Acting: 3.4/4

Cinematography: 3.8/4

Story: 3.8/4

Enjoyability: 3.7/4

‘Bridge to Terabithia’: How One Death Changed Disney

For our first Time Warp Tuesday, where we cover older movies that have changed the film industry, we review ‘Bridge to Terabithia’.

By Anthony Peyton, Edited by Olivia Norwood

In February of 2007, Walt Disney Pictures released ‘Bridge to Terabithia’. This was quite different from most of the children’s movies that Disney had made at the time. It was, in fact, their first live action film where a lead character under the age of 18 dies.

In this one, 13 year old Leslie (AnnaSophia Robb) attempts to swing on a rope over a stream, falls, hits her head, and dies on impact. This only occurs in the story after persuading the audience to form a bond with Leslie, as she has an imagination one only wishes they could obtain. He further influences us to adore her as she gradually brings the main character, Jess (Josh Hutcherson), out of what seemed like a never ending but still growing depression.

This was all intentional from the mind of both director Gábor Csupó (‘The Rugrats’, ‘The Simpsons’) and Katherine Paterson (author of the book preceding the film) as they wanted to show – in a tragic way – how to open your mind to seeing the loss of Leslie as something much more.

Disney is no stranger to developing deaths that would later have meaning. There was ‘Bambi’, ‘The Brave Little Toaster’, and ‘The Lion King’.

Too soon Mufasa, too soon.

‘Bridge to Terabithia’ showed a side to Disney that it had never really touched. It was sensitive and they didn’t know how a child’s death would be received among critics. Fortunately for them, it did wonderful with a certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and a score of 85%. As Jennie Punter of Globe and Mail stated, “It’s the sort of movie I admire more in retrospect than I did while watching it.”

Punter had a very valid point that not everyone sees. A friend of mine, after watching the film for the first time just a week ago, said as the credits begun rolling, “I didn’t like it. It was just sad. It was happy the entire way and then they killed her, which there was no reason for them to do.” I understood at first, but it was easy to recognize why the author wrote her death in the first place and why the director stuck true to it.

Death is always seen as a tragic event and that, of course, is true. In film, however, death can be a symbol of something much bigger. ‘Bridge to Terabithia’ successfully opened the imagination of children and teaching them to use it to help mourn after a loss. That isn’t a tragedy, that is called a victory.