They Don’t Make ‘Em Like They Used To

I saw La La Land about a week and a bit ago. I loved it. It’s probably one of the best films I’ve seen in a long time. The music, the story, the cinematography – I was a fan of all of it. If you enjoy a good film, you simply must go and see La La Land.

Although I’ve had my eye on this film for a while, it was not until relatively recently that I saw the reviews that they used in the trailer. You know the ones I mean – where they read a review and clip a sentence or two out to put on the posters, like text sound-bites. I never trust them when they only pick one word from the review to sum up the whole thing. Like “Astonishing.” That could very well be taken out of context, for example:

Astonishing. How could a film be this bad?

I’m not going to read all of those reviews to confirm that these little clippings are being used in proper context, so we’ll never know if the review is in the proper context or not. Which is why I never normally pay attention to them, but one caught my eye:

They just don’t make movies like this anymore.

Now I’ll admit, I couldn’t find the source with my classic ‘fifteen seconds of Googling, and then just giving up’ routine,  but I promise I’m not making this quote up beyond the limitations of the variable reliability of my memory. This review got me thinking. Do they really not? If you think about it, they just did – it’s called La La Land and you should totally go and see it. In all seriousness, however, I get what this person meant, but I think there is a reason for that.

For one thing, Hollywood hasn’t been making a whole lot of musicals since the 60s, just simply because people got bored of them; people demanded a different, more modern kind of film. “Musicals are the kind of thing my parents like; it’s not for me and my band of cool, hip, rebellious friends – I want to see something different and challenging, something that will really knock my socks off!” Is what I imagine the teenagers of the 70s and 80s spoke like (I’ll have to ask my Dad for confirmation), and we all know that the film industry is the slave of the teenager, with all their disposable income and confused ideas about rebellion and challenging the status quo etc. I thought people liked Status Quo, maybe I should listen to their music sometime.

The main reason I think this person holds this view is quite simple: La La Land is intentionally nostalgic. They couldn’t make it more obvious if they tried; the film even references the fact that it is pretty nostalgic. I think this is part of the subject matter of the film, however, and not the director & writer Damien Chazelle being a pretentious git. The film is about the dreaminess of the idea of Hollywood (despite the real Hollywood apparently being not very nice as a place) – hence why the film is called La La Land. The film is deeply artistic, and it the kind of art I really appreciate; it’s trying to look like an old film from the 40s and 50s by using techniques like film with real film cameras, strong colours and cinematography that makes some scenes look like it was filmed on a big sound stage like those musicals from back in the day, and all with a highly appropriate degree of subtlety.

I suppose the reason this review got me thinking the most is the constant assumption that people jump to that because an old film is old it makes it better “‘cos these Hollywood producers only care about money rather than the art of film. Do you know how many masterpieces are turned down every day because they aren’t some superhero blockbuster? I don’t, but I bet it’s a lot.” Is what they say. But is older better? No. There’s not much of a debate to be had about the subject. Have you seen the latest season of South Park? You should – it deals exactly with this subject. Hollywood has discovered a new goldmine to exploit: nostalgia. There have been so many films and TV shows that are rebooting old films and TV shows from the 70s and 80s these days, and not nearly half of them have been any good. And in any case, when people say that all the good films were made before the year 2000, they’re only thinking of the classics: Alien, Terminator, Ghost Busters and so on, they never consider the terrible films like 1997s Air Bud, 1989s Alls Fair (3.6/10 on IMDB) or 1965s Monster A-Go Go (2.8). Not thinking about them are you, nostalgic people?

I’m not saying that La La Land is only liked because of the nostalgia factor, because I have no nostalgia for these types of films, having only seen things like The Sound of Music and West Side Story in the past few years for the first time, and I didn’t think much of them – least of all West Side Story. I can see what style and era La La Land is going after, but it doesn’t remind me of any film in particular. And anyway, I reject the whole idea that films aren’t as good as they used to be; there have been some bloody brilliant films that have come out quite recently – La La Land is not the only good film of late and it’s not good because it looks a bit old.

So in conclusion, they do make films like this anymore, nostalgia should be treated with scepticism and I really liked La La Land. You should go and see it.

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