Thursday, September 1, 2016

LIZ SMITH: La La Land

“La La Land” — Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone falling in love and expressing that love in their third movie pairing.
by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

Music! Music! Musicals! Starring Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, New York Subways and Frank Sinatra.


“MUSICALS don’t get enough credit for being so surreal. It’s like an alternate universe,” says singer and composer Ezra Koenig. (He is the lead vocalist of Vampire Weekend, speaking of the surreal.)
GOOD NEWS out of Venice. Don’t get too excited, the great city is still sinking, but it’s been doing that for hundreds of years.  No, the big noise from "La Serenissima" is the applause that Damien Chazelle’s “La La Land” musical generated at the Venice Film Festival. 

The screening audience, mostly Italian film critics who don’t generally enjoy fawning over American movies, were extremely positive about the contemporary tale of two young people (Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in their third movie pairing) meeting cute, falling in love and expressing that love. Just like Judy and Mickey, or Fred and Ginger, or Fred and Rita, or Nelson and Jeanette or Gene and Cyd.  If I have to give you last names on any of these folks, you are on the wrong page!
There is a dance number, ten minutes into “La La Land” — it takes place on one of L.A.’s infamously traffic-jammed highways — that moved the critics to spontaneous applause.  This enthusiasm lasted to the final credits. Variety’s critic, Owen Gleiberman said this one sequence alone is so extraordinary it could become the impetus for audiences to “gotta see it.”

And Alonso Duralde, who critiques for The Wrap, calls “La La Land” “a sparkling cinematic love letter.”  (He even throws in some “Umbrellas of Cherbourg” references for those who adore the candy-colored 1960s work of Jacques Demy.)
The score for Chazelle’s film is delivered by Justin Hurwitz, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul.  The vocal chops of Gosling and Stone are reportedly not going to erase the memories of, say, Howard Keel and Kathryn Grayson, but are more than serviceable and appropriate for a tale set in modern-day Hollywood.  “La La Land,” which opens in December, also stars Finn Wittrock, J.K. Simmons, Sandra Rosko, Josh Pence and John Legend.

I’m oddly thrilled over this good advance buzz.  About two months ago, I wrote here that I’d fallen in love with a photograph I’d seen of Miss Stone and Mr. Gosling dancing.  The picture had accompanied a very short blurb in a magazine about the movie. 
There was something so romantic and — if I may borrow from the above-quoted Ezra Keonig — “surreal” about the shot.  Perhaps because it was Stone and Gosling; who thinks of these two actors, attractive and talented as they might be, expressing themselves in such a way?  (Also, most pictures of Mr. Gosling that catch my attention generally involve him being shirtless. Yes, I am objectifying him. Sue me.)

Maybe there will be a big premiere of “La La Land” in La La Land?  I’d travel for that!  In any event, December can’t come quickly enough.
The Talented Mr. Gosling: Can That Boy Foxtrot!
MORE MUSIC: ON November 10th, “In Transit” begins previews at Broadway’s Circle in the Square Theater.  This show, directed and choreographed by three-time Tony Award winner Kathleen Marshall, will be Broadway’s first a cappella  musical. (There was an Off-Broadway run six years ago.)  The story, set in the teaming NYC subway system, follows eleven inhabitants of the city that is on an eternal IV drip of amphetamines.

Kristen Anderson Lopez, James-Allen Ford, Russ Kaplan and Sara Wordsworth wrote the book, music and lyrics.

I’m going to list the entire cast, because some of them are making their Broadway debuts. Others might be familiar to theater mavens. Or, fans of “American Idol.”  Anyway — why the hell not?  This is showbiz, kid — “Top billing Monday, Tuesday you’re touring in stock!” as Mr. Sondheim noted.

So here goes: David Abeles ... Moya Angela ... Steven Cantor ... Justin Guarini ... Telly Leung ... Erin Mackey ... Gerianne Perez ... Margot Seibert ... Chesney Snow ... James Snyder ... Mariand Torres ... Nicholas Ward ... Adam Bashian ... Laurel Harris and Aurelia Williams.

Break a leg, kids.  Excuse me as I hail a taxi.
IF YOU love Frank Sinatra, you will adore what happens on October 16th.  In a continuing celebration of Frank’s 100th birthday (as of last year) the “World on A String” CD & DVD Box Set arrives.
This massive tribute comprises more than four hours of previously unreleased recordings and video of The Voice. There are over 90 live performances from 1953 to 1982. (One special feature is a complete concert from Japan in 1962.)  We also get Sinatra in Monte Carlo, in Australia, in Egypt, the Dominican Republic, Israel and on the radio, too.  But wait, there’s more — postcards.  They throw in four exclusive Sinatra postcards.
This is a whole lotta Frank. But Frank was a whole lotta genius, and so worthy of the time, effort and love that has been put into the “Sinatra100” products — music, t-shirts, rare posters. 

The press release I received advised me to visit FrankSinatra.com to get in on “World on a String.” You’ll  find there a wealth of info on all things Frank, including scheduling for Nancy Sinatra’s radio programs devoted to her dad.   When I was last in contact with Nancy, she was still stunned by the unexpected passing of her brother, Frank Jr. I hope she, her sister Tina and their amazing, indomitable mother, Nancy Sr. have come through the worst of that.

Contact Liz here.