TBT – Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011)

Emma Stone, Kevin Bacon, love, meh, rom-com, romance, Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell, TBT

It’s been a few days since I watched La La Land and I’m still obsessed. I’ve been singing that bloody “City of Stars” song non-stop and listening to the soundtrack on my way to work. I’ve shocked a lot of the people I work with by enjoying the film. I guess because I’m such a seemingly heartless and cynical person. I mean I am a cynical person but I get swept away with a good love story as much as the next person. I say this as someone who, admittedly in a state of exhaustion after 3 days back at work, was crying at footage of Kiss Cams earlier tonight. Yep, I am, underneath it all, just as sentimental and lovey dovey as the rest of the world. And Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling’s romance in the film is made more adorable thanks to their fantastic chemistry. This is their 3rd film together so they’ve clearly become quite comfortable. So, in order to keep this feeling going, I decided to go back to where it all started way back in 2011.

Crazy, Stupid, Love is the romantic comedy about a recently divorced man (Steve Carrell) trying to get back his masculinity with the help of a Lothario he meets in a bar (Ryan Gosling). Cal Weaver is caught off guard when his highschool sweetheart, Emily (Julianne Moore), tells him she wants a divorce after she slept with her coworker, David Lindhagen (Kevin Bacon). He moves out of the family home and starts frequenting a bar where he tells anyone who will listen about this infidelity. Unable to allow Cal to wallow in self-pity any longer, womaniser Jacob (Ryan Gosling) takes pity on him and offers to help him get his life back on track. With an updated wardrobe and new techniques for talking to women, Cal discovers a new side to dating and becomes a new man. His new lifestyle only reiterates his love for wife, however, and Cal must attempt to win her back. Meanwhile, Jacob’s wild lifestyle stalls when he meets Hannah (Emma Stone) a law student who rejects his advances. Finally getting bored of her dull boyfriend, Hannah tracks Jacob down to accept his offer. Things don’t go to plan and the pair end up bonding and eventually start dating.

Then, because it’s a romantic comedy, some awful shit comes out to stop both couples enjoying happiness for a bit before the inevitable happy ending. It’s standard stuff that riffs on aspects of midlife crises and questions of what it means to be a man. To be honest, the narrative itself isn’t exactly original or exciting. Nor is is as “crazy” or as “stupid” as the title promises. For a comedy starring someone as talent as Steve Carrell, it’s kind of lacking on humour and plays more towards the sentimental angle. Something that doesn’t really work with this story. We see Cal being moulded into the perfect ladies man where he is kitted out with the right fashion accessories and the key phrases needed to get a woman back to his pathetic bachelor pad. It’s an area that should be easy comedy gold but, in reality, is only able to bring up some mild titters.

This film’s major problem is that it takes itself way too seriously. There are far too many subplots and ideas thrown together that it can’t control them. At nearly 2 hours long, it is in dire need of some editing because it drags during the middle. It strives to be a jack of all trades but, as the saying goes, manages to be a master of none. It needed to be funnier or more sincere instead of wavering between the two. It’s a confusing pot of so many ideas and plot strands that it’s just lost it’s whole identity. That’s not to say that there aren’t some good ideas there. It’s just that it needed a lot of work. I mean the big twist near the end is, when you really think about it, both incredibly stupid and completely meanigingless. It doesn’t add anything to plot and doesn’t make any sense. It’s clearly just been included to make the narrative seem more intelligent than it actually is.

What makes Crazy, Stupid, Love work is the cast. They may not have the right stuff to work with but they all put everything into it.However, each actor has done way better things than this since so it’s difficult to be kind about it knowing that they can do so much more. Ryan Gosling may not have been known for his comedy skills back in 2011 but, with his more recent films, we know that he is more than suited to the funny stuff. It’s awful to see how uncomfortable he looks in certain scenes here. Still, it is undeniable that Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling really do gel well on screen and the first evening that Hannah and Jacob spend together is utterly charming. Steve Carrell and Julianne Moore are equally charming and, despite the dire circumstances that their characters find themselves, the actors always manage to keep you onside. You might not completely care about their tale but you always want Cal and Emily to be happy. Basically, this is the not incredibly funny or exciting story of good people who are trying to find love. It’s not the worst thing you’ll ever see but it’s not the best either. It’s perfectly watchable… and that’s probably the nicest thing I’m going to be able to say about it.

Tuesday’s Reviews – La La Land (2016)

Emma Stone, films, fucking beautiful, fucking sweet, music, musical, review, Ryan Gosling

After La La Land started being nominated and, subsequently, winning a shitload of awards there were plenty of articles suggesting that actors Emma Watson and Miles Teller were livid that they had turned down the chance to be in the film. But it’s just nonsense. The film has achieved such success because Emma Watson and Miles Teller didn’t end up playing the roles. No offence to either of them, and ignoring any rumours of them both being too demanding, but it’s surely the chemistry between Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling that made the film. What is a love story without the love, after all? I know I’m not the biggest fan of Emma Watson as an actor anyway but you can’t pretend that La La Land wouldn’t have been a completely different film without it’s two stars. They can regret giving up on the role now that Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are being recognised but who can honestly say that it would have received so many nominations with a different line-up? Nobody. It always strikes me as super bitchy when actor’s talk about giving up on a role. Like they’re just trying to take ownership of something that isn’t theirs and, probably, shouldn’t ever have been. If Emma Watson preferred to be auto-tuned in the remake of Beauty and the Beast instead of the being in this original piece of musical cinema then she has to accept that and let Emma Stone have her moment of glory. It’s just selfish bringing attention to yourself to try and overshadow someone else’s achievements.

If I’m honest, I wasn’t ever sure that I was going to see La La Land. I loved how quirky and retro it looked but I was also incredibly worried about how quirky and retro it looked. I mean I love oddities and quirks. I like to consider myself to be vaguely quirky but, have to admit, that it’s mostly wishful thinking and I’m probably fairly normal. What I do find annoying is quirk for quirk’s sake. You know weirdness that doesn’t belong or is misplaced. Like those super irritating girls who describe themselves as “random” because they like doing incredibly normal things. It’s the Zooey Deschanel thing. I’ve always loved her but found New Girl to be a step too far. As if she’s taken the image she’d created and then turned it up to 11 because that’s what she thought people liked about her. Or Noel Fielding. A guy who was beloved for his weird sense of humour on The Mighty Boosh but who went over the edge in his shitty solo offering Luxury Comedy.

When people go out of their way to highlight the things that make them different it can so easily slide into something that feels more like parody or farce. I worried that La La Land would go off the rails. It looked too good to be true so I was too scared to find out for sure. Thankfully, I was wrong and it’s exactly as good as it looks. It puts me in mind of so many classic films but, more importantly for awards season, also The Artist. Both films have taken inspiration from the Golden Age of Hollywood and have received critical acclaim and countless awards nominations. However, La La Land managed to do what The Artist wasn’t fully able to. It has won around audiences too. People may not be willing to accept a silent movie in the 21st century but they’re more than okay with people singing and dancing in the middle of LA.

Musicals are always going to be accessible and the story is so well-written that it’s impossible not to go along for the ride. The film charts the journey of it’s couple through the changes of the season starting and ending in Winter. We meet Mia (Emma Stone) a struggling actor who, between auditions, works at the coffee shop on the Warner Bros. lot. She has a couple of not so pleasant run-ins with wannabe Jazz pianist Seb (Ryan Gosling) before meeting him at a party. Seb, who has only ever been rude and brusque up to Mia at this point, is humiliated to be seen playing synth for a shitty electro outfit. Naturally, when the pair spend time together they come to realise that, despite her hatred of Jazz, they belong together. Their love is pure and childish and delightful to behold. However, the pair are also battling with ambition and must decide what is more important to them: their relationship or their dreams?

It might seem like an age old story that Hollywood has been tackling for year but La La Land keeps it fresh. It is the chemistry between the two actors that makes their love story so tender and sweet. Every part of the film comes together to create something that is truly beautiful and full of joy. The use of colour, the choreography, the music, and the characters are all so perfect. It is a story that so obviously fits into a contemporary setting thanks to observations regarding the Prius fad and YouTube. However, it is also a story that could fit into any time. It is a basic and honest story of two people caught between their dreams and their love. It’s heartbreaking and incredibly heartwarming in equal measures.

There have, of course, been comments regarding the suitability of the film’s stars in terms of musical performers. It’s to be expected but, really, is complete bollocks. Gosling and Stone aren’t the most seasoned of singers but they do an incredibly good job at holding a tune. If anything the lack of polish just makes their story seem more real and captivating. It’s as if, instead of contrived situations in which singers start singing in the street, we are seeing two people with emotions so strong and pure that they can’t help themselves. And the two actors do stupendous jobs in the roles that it would be a crime to have someone else play them so the songs sound better. Emma Stone is just perfect in this film. She is elegant, witty, charming, and slightly beaten down. She is exactly the type of star that Mia has revered all of her life and hopes to become. Ryan Gosling shows great depth here. Seb is someone who is so lost in the past that he is unwilling to accept anything new. He is holding back from himself and from Mia. Gosling plays Seb in a subtle and lovable way so the character never feels too alienating. He’s passionate instead of pretentious and intense. It’s no wonder these two are getting so much attention.

I’ve never been more glad that I ignored my initial thoughts about a film than I have with this. My first instincts told me I’d love this film and it is definitely one of the greatest things I’ve seen in a long time. I instantly wanted to re-watch it and I’ve been listening to the soundtrack on repeat. I realise, as the Oscars get closer, that people will criticise it for not seeming important enough to be put in the running for Best Picture. It’s true that La La Land isn’t trying to change the world or change people’s attitudes. It’s not giving a voice to people that don’t have one or trying to right wrongs. But, you know what, who gives a fuck? Things don’t always need to be important. Sometimes joy is enough of a reason. I can’t think of a single film that has given me as much sheer joy as this one in a long time. If that doesn’t make it a worthy nominee then I don’t know what does.

Tuesday’s Reviews – The Nice Guys (2016)

buddy comedy, film, film noir, films, fucking funny, review, Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Shane Black, thriller

So this review is only a week later than I planned. It’s also been a fair while since I watched the film and, after my family had some sad news today, I really don’t feel like writing this. To be honest, I don’t feel like doing much. But I’ll endeavour to do something. After all, this is a film that I’ve been meaning to watch for a while. I love Shane Black, film noir, and Ryan Gosling so it sounded fucking ideal. The only thing that stopped me? I think it’s my inability to remember whether it’s Russell Crowe or Mel Gibson that I find super annoying. I’m pretty sure it’s Mel Gibson on account of his recent years of craziness and anti-Semitic rants. But then there’s Les Mis to consider. He was hardly a suitable Javert and some of his “singing” was just awful. Still, Russell Crowe seems like a nice man so I think my negative opinions of him just stem from my inability to tell American actors over a certain age apart. There’s was a whole thing when I was younger about Richard Gere and Harrison Ford. I mean they were both grey haired men: how was I supposed to tell the difference? Anyway, I finally watched this film a week or so ago but my intense feelings after finishing Losing It meant that I moved back my scheduled post to this week. Let’s see if I can remember this.

The last time we were treated to a Shane Black movie it was Iron Man 3. For a director most associated with the classic action comedy type films it never seemed like the most obvious career move but, as it turned out, Iron Man 3 pretty much rocked. Well, if you’re willing to forgive the fact they all but ruined the Mandarin but the MCU have never really excelled with their villains. The main thing Black achieved in that film was to adequately make amends for the dismal Iron Man 2, which is, in my humble opinion, the worst film in Marvel’s cinematic history. Yes, I’d even put it after Thor: the Dark World. Turns out there isn’t anything Shane Black can’t do and there isn’t a film around that he can’t find an opportunity to buddy someone up for a few witty interactions.

Still, that was about 3 years ago now so it was high time for a return to form. A return that came thanks to Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe. Seriously, the story behind how The Nice Guys came to be made is almost a better story than the final film. Black and Anthony Bagarozzi started writing the script way back in 2001 but it never quite fell into place. After a few rewrites, including an attempt to revamp it for TV, the time setting was changed to the 1970s and everything started falling into place. The success of Iron Man 3 and having successfully bagged the film’s two leading stars, Black was finally able to make the film he had been working on for 13 years.

The Nice Guys follows two Los Angeles private eyes in the 1977 as they investigate the disappearance of a teenage girl. Their investigation uncovers connections to a recently deceased porn star and starts to reveal a host of political scandals. The two mismatched detectives first meet up when the teenager in question, Amelia Kutner (Margaret Qualley), pays Jackon Healy (RussellCrowe) to intimidate the men following her into leaving her alone. One of those men, Holland March (Ryan Golsing) is actually being paid by the dead porn star, Misty Mountainss (Murielle Telio), aunt who believes her neice is actually alive. After Healy is attacked by two thugs looking for Amelia, tht two mismatched detectives end up pairing up in order to find her first.

With some help from March’s young daughter, Holly (Angourie Rice), we are taken through the seedy underbelly of LA in the 1970s, which was already in a fairly dismal state thanks to the dangerous smog and the prevalence of the pornography industry. As Healy and March get closer to finding Amelia they are quickly put in the sights of hit man, John Boy (Matt Bomer). Can the two overcome their differences and find the girl before John Boy finds them?

The Nice Guys is an enjoyable and funny film that is firmly within the genre and style that Black is comfortable with. Gosling plays the alcohlic, ex-police officer who is still recovering from his wife’s death and trying to do right by his daughter but mostly failing. Crowe plays the tough enforcer who, still bitter from the divorce to his adulterous wife, uses violence to help people and make a quick buck. Neither know what they are getting in for and are unprepared for where it takes them. However, the pair somehow manage to pull together and get the job done. It’s the same kind of thing we’ve seen before but it is still just as enjoyable. Gosling and Crowe work supremely well together and the chemistry between the two detectives is what drives the story forward.

There are plenty of traditional Shane Blackisms and is full of the type of sharp and witty banter than fills all of his films. In terms of story, it’s hardly the most original but it’s undeniable that the 70s setting makes the film. It adds a new dimension to the narrative that a modern setting would have lacked. The Nice Guys is one of the most Shane Black films that Shane Black has ever made and, provided you’re a fan of his style, it’s hugely entertaining ride. I can sort of see why not everyone cared for it and can understand why it failed to make a huge noise upon it’s release. It’s very self-indulgent in a way that some of Black’s films are. However, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. It has all you could want from this genre and has a cast that bounce of each other incredibly well. I can’t wait to see Black’s Predator sequel.

SUNDAY RUNDOWN – THAT’S WHAT SHE READ

book haul, books, currently reading, New Year, rewriting, Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Shakespeare

It’s finally 2017 and, like everyone else in the world, I’m hoping this year will see me get my fucking act together. Although, I am well aware that I suck at keeping to resolutions and then feel shitty when I break them. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve vowed to stop eating chocolate for the year and then, a mere 8 hours into the new year, have been found stuffing my face on left over Christmas chocolate. So this year I’m trying to take some pressure off by not stopping myself doing things but encouraging myself to do stuff. Like read more, drink more water, and get more sleep. It’s my hope that turning resolutions into positives instead of negatives that I’ll be more likely to do them. Plus, they’re super vague so I don’t need to keep to any rigid promises.

Just Finished

  • The Red Virgin and the Vision of Utpoia by Bryan Talbot and Mary Talbot (Kindle edition)

This was my final read of 2016 and another book to cross off my Most Anticipated Fiction of 2016 list. As my Kindle is only a Kindle Paperwhite I don’t have a colour display so the graphic novel wasn’t quite as good as it could have been but, having since seen it on my PC, I can say the artwork is incredible. It’s a great story based on the life of the French Revolutionary Louise Michel. It’s an incredibly story and, though obviously simplified, presented in a digestible and engaging manner. Part of me wishes there could have been more detail and context but I would certainly recommend it. 


Currently Reading

  • Losing It by Emma Rathbone
I fucking hate this book. There is nothing positive I have to say about it so far except that it’s an easy read. The only reason I haven’t given up is because it’s one from my 2016 list. The characters are awful and have no depth to them. The story is the most superficial bullshit I’ve ever read. It’s like an episode of Sex and the City but with less substance. I mean that show was at least trying, and failing, to promote feminism. This is just confirming the notion that not having sex as soon as possible is a crazy and debilitating move. There’s no balanced argument here. It feels like it was written by someone from Cosmopolitan. It’d be fucking toxic for young women to read.

Recently Purchased
  • What haven’t I bought this month
This has been quite a heavy book buying month so I’ve decided to just shove it all in one section to avoid a huge list of stuff. They’re mainly books from my 2016 list but there are a few oddities that I’ve either wanted to read for a while or that just took my fancy.

  1. Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler
    • A book I’ve wanted to read since January. It sounds like a glorious reworking of a problematic Shakespeare play.
  2. The Red Virgin and the Vision of Utopia by Mary and Bryan Talbot (Kindle edition)
    • See above.
  3. American Gods by Neil Gaiman (Kindle edition)
    • Already own a copy of this but it’s a massive hardback. I wanted to reread it before the series but feel a Kindle edition is easier to read.
  4. Nod by Adrian Barnes (Kindle edition and audible audiobook)
    • Bought on a whim but sounds pretty cool. Only a handful of people are able to sleep and those that do start having weird dreams. The others only have a few weeks before their bodies start to die.
  5. Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami (Kindle edition)
    • Something I’ve had in my peripheral vision for a while but only just bought it. It’s the love story between a woman and her ex-teacher, 30 years her senior. It sounds cute.
  6. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey (Kindle edition and audible audiobook)
    • This is one of those books people have been talking about forever so I decided, when it was on offer in the Kindle store, that it was time to get on board. 
  7. Mr Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt 
    • Another one to cross off my 2016 list.
  8. Eleven Hours by Pamela Erens
    • Another one to cross off my 2016 list.
  9. The Fat Artist and Other Stories by Benjamin Hale
    • Another one to cross off my 2016 list.
  10. The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes
    • Another one to cross off my 2016 list.
  11. Jonathan Unleashed by Meg Rosoff (Kindle edition)
    • Another one to cross off my 2016 list.
  12. I Am No One by Patrick Flanery (Kindle edition)
    • Another one to cross off my 2016 list.
See I told you it was a lot. I’ve managed to find quite a few cheap copies of books I’ve wanted to read all year so I’ll hopefully cross them off my list soon. 

Recently Watched
  • The Nice Guys
I needed something to write about on Tuesday. I’ve only heard good things about this so it sounded ideal. See you soon.