Vanity Fair Hollywood Covers by Annie Leibovitz (1995-2004)
Jason Leigh, Uma Thurman, Nicole Kidman, Patricia Arquette, Linda
Fiorentino, Gwyneth Paltrow, Sarah Jessica Parker, Julianne Moore,
Angela Bassett, and Sandra Bullock.
1996: Tim Roth, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matthew McConaughey, Benicio Del Toro,
Michael Rapaport, Stephen Dorff, Johnathon Schaech, David Arquette, Will
Smith, and Skeet Ulrich.
1997: Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Claire Danes, Renée Zellweger, Minnie Driver, Alison Elliott, Jada Pinkett, Jennifer Lopez, Charlize Theron, and Fairuza Balk.
1998: Joaquin Phoenix, Vince Vaughn, Natalie Portman, Djimon Hounsou, Cate Blanchett, Tobey Maguire, Claire Forlani, Gretchen Mol, Christina Ricci, Ed Furlong, and Rufus Sewell.
1999: Adrien Brody, Thandie Newton, Monica Potter, Reese Witherspoon, Julia
Stiles, Leelee Sobieski, Giovanni Ribisi, Sarah Polley, Norman Reedus, Anna Friel, Omar Epps, Kate Hudson, Vinessa Shaw, and Barry Pepper.
2000: Penélope Cruz, Wes Bentley, Mena Suvari, Marley Shelton, Chris Klein, Selma Blair, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, and Sarah Wynter.
Starring Emma Stone, Ryan
Gosling, John Legend, Rosemarie DeWitt, J.K. Simmons, Finn Wittrock, Meagan Fay,
Callie Hernandez, Sonoya Mizuno, Jessica Rothe, Tom Everett Scott, Josh Pence,
Valarie Ray Miller, Amiée Conn, Terry Walters, Thom Shelton, Cinda Adams, Claudine
Claudio and Jason Fuchs.
Screenplay by Damien Chazelle.
Directed by Damien Chazelle.
Distributed by Lionsgate. 128 minutes.
Even before it was
released to theaters, La La Land was
getting huge buzz as the odds-on favorite to be a huge Oscar success. After all, it’s a big, brassy, technicolor
love letter to old-timey Hollywood and show business dazzle, the kind of film
that makes the Academy drool.
So, before it is ushered
to the podium as probable winner of Best Picture, perhaps we should ask this
simple question: Is it the best picture?
Well, it is a very good
picture. I’d even go so far as to say it
is very, very good.
But best? No, probably not.
La La Land is a visually stunning Valentine to the old-school
Hollywood musicals that came out of the MGM Studios. It asks some intriguing questions about art
vs. commerce, love vs. career. It’s got
dazzling cinematography, sharp camera work and some lovable and hip stars.
Too bad about the music,
Not that the music of La La Land is bad, per se. It’s just not
Honestly, I think that
may have even been somewhat intended. It
is the story about a stubbornly non-commercial jazz pianist who refuses to sell
out his artistic integrity and play the music that “people want to hear,” so it
makes a certain amount of sense that the score is not made up of audience-pleasing
toe-tappers and show-stoppers.
That pianist is played by
Ryan Gosling. His romantic interest –
well other than jazz music – is a struggling actress played by Emma Stone. He wants to open a cool jazz club. She wants to make movies. They sing and dance their way through an
oddly old-fashioned modern Hollywood in search of their dreams. (For the record, Stone has much more of the effortless
charm and panache to pull off the musical
role, Gosling’s singing and dancing are both a bit suspect.)
However, the film asks,
is love a suitable replacement for artistic fulfillment? Can you ever have both? Or will one suffer for the other?
They are some deep
questions for a film that begins with a song-and-dance number about being stuck
in traffic on the 405. (This morphs into
perhaps the weirdest “meet cute” in Hollywood history: Our couple falls in love
after he gives her the finger while passing her in the gridlock.)
La La Land wears its gravitas
well. The fact that it won’t take
the easy way out or commit to doing the cheap happy ending gives the film a
resonant bittersweet quality that only amplifies the film’s moody charm.
And did I mention that
the film just looks stunning? Well it is worthy of repeating, because
visually everything about La La Land is
great; from the sets, to the costumes, to the imagery, to the scenery. Even the stars are pretty stunning looking.
The rest of the
supporting cast is also very good.
Particularly nice is a likable screen debut by R&B singer John
Legend, who shows charisma for miles, even though he is essentially playing
himself. However, it’s just a sin for writer/director
Chazelle to cast JK Simmons, who won an Oscar for their last collaboration in Whiplash, in the role of a jazz club
owner and give him so little to do.
However, is it the best
movie of the year? Again, I don’t think
La La Land is a technical triumph and a sweet love story. It has attitude for miles and obviously truly
loves the old-school musicals that it is celebrating. For that alone, it is well worth seeing.