La La Land is a fun movie. The 8,000 online articles and Tweets about the movie and “the return of musicals” and how “the country really needs this right now” are not so fun. Shut up. Stop talking about this movie as if it’s Hamilton 2. Why are so many people falling over themselves to praise La La Land?
It’s just a fun movie. There were many fun movies this year. There are many fun musicals in the universe. Why is this one placed on such a high pedestal? And remember — I liked the movie. It’s not a bad movie. It’s a fun movie.
I would have enjoyed La La Land even more if I didn’t go into the theater expecting the most amazing piece of cinema since Edison first captured moving images with chemicals. There’s a level of hype around La La Land that is impossible to live up to. It seems movie bloggers and critics want La La Land to be a perfect, amazing thing and hope to make it so by will and word count alone.
La La Land is not the greatest artistic achievement of the new millennia. It is a good, fun movie. I’m glad I saw it. I might see it again in a few years.
But come on…it’s not like this is Jesus Christ Superstar. JCS was a movie worthy of hype. JCS is a pop-art masterpiece. JCS is my favorite movie musical.
In Middle School, my summer job was mowing lawns — or rather, mowing lawn. I mowed one lawn. It was the lawn of a family friend who took pity on my lack of employment and offered me $20 a week to mow the lawn. To pass the time (because how could a Middle School kid ever get anything done without rockin’ tunes?) I would listen to rockin’ tunes on my budget walkman at max volume while mowing the lawn. This was before I had a CD walkman and in a decade when “iPod” was how toddlers asked to use the bathroom, so I could only listen to cassettes. The Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack (film soundtrack, not Broadway) was in my walkman for most of the summer. I had it memorized. I wore the tape out. I loved it. I still love it. I still know most of the words.
If you haven’t seen the movie/stage show Jesus Christ Superstar, here’s the best way I can describe it: Hippies out hippy themselves with their hippiness.
It’s goofy and corny. The acting is over-the-top terrible and the songs sound like they were written by theater kids who stayed after rehearsal to mess around with the piano until their parents pick them up. The anachronistic use of modern weapons and clothes is so forced it hurts the brain. And the “twist” ending is laughable. But it works. It all works so well! It works much better than it should!
It’s a movie of its time. And that’s okay.
No one would make a Jesus Christ Superstar movie today, or if they did, it would be too bland and boring, without any of the heart or sincerity of the 1973 film. They’d get Armie Hammer to play Jesus and Olivia Munn to play Mary Magdalene. Terrence Howard would turn the soulful, complicated Judas into a stale loaf of a character. Seth Rogen would be added as a disciple for unneeded comic relief. There would be big budget special effects and soft makeup that would hide the sweat and grit on the faces of the actors. And a new song and scene set in China would be added to get those precious Chinese movie dollars. It would be too safe.
The 1973 movie was not nominated for best picture (though a few actors received Golden Globe noms). It did not light the world on fire with its box office take of $24 million. It’s remembered more for being controversial (Jesus…singing?!?) than for its music or staging. But it was weird and wild and unlike anything else. And it existed. It actually happened.
That’s why it’s my favorite movie musical.
La La Land is okay, too.