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Jackie is great, better than it should be, and it deserves to go down as one of the best biopics of the 2010s.
Now, I don't mean to start of this review on such a negative note, especially one that's so blanketed, but, let me be honest here... biopics are BORING. Not because they're slow paced or historical or about people rather than something more grand, no, biopics are boring because they're formulaic. No one dares try to experiment because most biopics are made to gain award buzz and then earn an actor an Oscar so people will want to see it and they can make a bunch of money on a relatively small budget (compared to blockbusters). They often make such little use of the medium of film except to convey emotion through performance. Jackie, however, is a black sheep that aims to spark life in to a lazy genre.
I have to give so much credit to Pablo Larrain, who was brave enough to take a risk and make a movie about Jackie Kennedy that wasn't paint by numbers. I even hesitate to call it a biopic. This is a movie about great personal grievance coupled with change, power and visibility. And it does it all so beautifully too. The visual storytelling gives up something to stare at without begging for you to notice it, the score is similar. Natalie Portman's performance in this movie is often heralded as "her best since Black Swan", but I don't really think they're comparable. While yes, her performance in Black Swan is magnificent and she rightfully won an Oscar for her efforts, she played a woman going slowly mad and she didn't hide it. In Jackie, it's all played so subtly because Jackie had to maintain her looks for the public and her children. And while equally traumatic and damaged in their own way, Jackie really makes the cracks that much more rewarding because it allows you to digest in between. It's this use of clever and intelligent restraint that Jackie such a worthy watch, and a fantastic film.
La La Land (2016)
An excellent, enthralling and magical film that unfortunately falls just a few steps from perfection.
When I first heard the short synopsis of La La Land in 2015 and heard that it was being directed by Damien Chazelle, who made one of the best films of 2014 with Whiplash, this film already had my expectations incredibly, possibly unfairly high.
Now that I've seen it, I can safely say that a lot of them were met - but not all.
La La Land follows the developing relationship by jazz aficionado and pianist Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and aspiring actress and barista Mia (Emma Stone) and their pursuit to follow their own dreams. Now, I've already heard some audience reviews complaining about an underwhelming story and undeveloped characters but if I'm honest I was not turned off by that at all. Their passions are their personalities and in this film it works. That's what the movies about. It's about having a passion and chasing your dreams, nothing more, nothing less. That being said, there are some faults. The biggest one I can think of is that there are a few "lulls" that end up taking you out of the movie towards the beginning. Most noticeably the scene with Emma Stone and her boyfriend like 20 minutes in to the movie. I just felt that it served no purpose, it wasn't some character defining moment, it just slowed the movie down. Also, though I like a lot of the music in here, the Jazz interwoven between the dialogue and lyric-driven songs in particular, none of the songs have a staying power that movies like The Sound of Music, Singin' in the Rain, or the Disney films of the 90s have. City of Stars, Audition, and Start a Fire are all excellent, the movie just doesn't have a lot of flamboyant, extravagant pieces that fanatics of old school Golden Age musicals might be longing for.
However, what La La Land does right, it does very, very right. I'd hesitate to call it a typical "3" act film, it's more like 5 and acts 1, 3 and 4 are all magnificent and act 5 is probably my favorite sole piece of cinema I've scene in 2016. I won't get in to spoilers but the ending 10 minutes or so are just, in my opinion, absolutely perfect. Also, if you've seen the trailers you already know this but this film just looks gorgeous. DP Linus Sandgren will very likely need a lot of trophy room in the future, because wow. Also, though not as extravagant as period piece and fantasy films are, the wardrobes are also really, really good.
This is a movie that's made for awards season without even trying. This is not some sappy biopic with exuberant performances and strings trying to pull your heart out of your chest and tears out of your eyes. It's just a wonderful, wonderful ride, and I expect it will be rewarded aptly. Picture, director, screenplay, score, cinematography, it's all in contention. (Though let's be honest, compared to Affleck for leading male and Portman, Huppert and Bening for leading female, the performances are likely noms but pretty hard to see for wins).
It actually might even be better than Whiplash. (8.75/10)