Musicals

Cats (2019)

Cats (2019)

Directed by: Tom Hooper

Starring: Francesca Hayward and Taylor Swift

I have personally witnessed the chasms of eternal darkness. I have dipped my feet into colossal pools of unending madness. My own eyes are stained with what once could only be described as some half-glimpsed myth; a terror that should have perpetually imprisoned itself as a permanent fable of the future. This ghastly creature I am so carefully describing – as to not potentially disturb it, causing me any further harm – is 2019’s film adaptation of ‘Cats.’

What we are subjected to, immediately and relentlessly, is a musical world of such strange proportion and unbelievably hellish terror that can only be compared to the seediest areas of Tim Burton’s Gotham alleys, and Roger Rabbit Toontown hopelessness. It’s a wondrous hellscape of unnameable horror, and is filled with anthropomorphic furries decorated flagrantly and depressingly in an unfortunate CGI veneer just asking for the chair. And they sing. Oh, do they sing. And they do not stop singing.

I know what you’re thinking: this is a musical, isn’t it? Yes, it’s a musical. But this is a musical drenched morbidly in coats of a sticky and unfortunate series of mumbles and meandering murmurings. Spectral singing horrors dressed as wannabe high school thespians haunting hallways would be a less disturbing sight to behold. But this unrelenting group of yowling felines does not give you a chance to gather yourself in its diabolical hubris. Not for a moment.

While the music viciously pummels the audience into an attempted braindeath, the horrifying bodies of these “cats” maniacally gyrate and sway like a group of strippers attached crudely to an out of control state fair Tilt-a-Whirl. Taylor Swift’s character – and her abnormally human chest – was the first thing my girlfriend pointed out upon our seemingly decades-long release from the theater. Idris Elba spends most of the film dressed in some sort of trench coat before madly dropping it toward the conclusion, revealing a once-veiled contortion of muscle and fur that rivals any notable body horror scene in the last decade.

I don’t know what the flying fuck this movie was about. It’s a coke-fueled nightmare from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s fixation on T.S. Eliot’s fixation on housecats, and really, I kind of gave up researching right there. Actually, I had to Google whatever in the living hell a “jellicle” cat is, because that phrase is repeated more often throughout the film than any other. It’s infuriating how often this word is said without any explanation whatsoever, and to keep you from watching this historical misstep in cinema, I’m not going to explain what it is to you either.

The movie is a series of autobiographical introductions sung madly by each of the characters. I know this is simply how Broadway operates, but the cinematic counterpart just does not translate. This celluloid nightmare is relatively short in today’s Hollywood landscape. Somehow though, the film feels like a mucky, eternal task by the time the credits scroll. Someone clapped upon their merciful appearance, but I am holding out hope that this was some sort of sarcastic lambasting, or even celebratory relief.

This movie is now a thing that exists. It’s an unfortunate anomaly gliding terribly over unexplored swaths of the ocean, proudly sprinkling its dead skin upon us like flakes of expired fish food. I will not stoop to the shadowy depths of feline puns that many movie reviewers have (admittedly leading me to see this festering wound of a film), but I will say that this will be remembered for decades – a cult classic not deserving of the title. See this with caution. We do not deserve to be treated like this, but if masochism is your bag, have I got the movie for you.

La La Land

lalaland2

La La Land (2016) – Musical | Comedy | Drama

Directed by: Damien Chazelle

Starring: Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone

How I Watched: Theatres

Best Line: “Alright, I was an asshole. I can admit that! But requesting “I Ran” from a serious musician? Too far!”

Anyone that has truly spent time with me probably knows my lifelong disdain for filmed musicals. When it comes down to it, I don’t even really have a concrete reason for this. My usual explanation involves the practicality of a group of people suddenly smiling like a bunch of stoned clowns and dancing like they’re thrashing in the middle of a choreographed fire, all while attempting to outdo each other so they can beat out the opposing blonde to be an extra in the next run of an off-Broadway Rent. “THAT ISN’T A REAL THING! NO ONE DOES THAT!”

OK, Nick. Let’s get real. Flash Mobs are a thing now, as much as you hate it. And you love horror and sci-fi films, so why can’t you just sit back and appreciate the eccentricities of musicals? Am I softening on musicals? Or was this just a good movie, in spite of the musical elements? Well, after giving it some time, I think my opinion is that this was just a pretty damn good movie.

Anyone that saw director Damien Chazelle’s absolutely spectacular Whiplash knows that they’re probably in for some sort of cinematic treat with La La Land. JK Simmons received an Oscar and Miles Teller damn well should have for the 2014 film. The thrashing of drums and human emotions throughout, while the camera rushes around like a sprinkler that’s lost control, highlight one of the most exciting and in my opinion, underrated films of this decade. Naturally, I was excited for Chazelle’s follow-up. When I learned it was a musical though, I was a bit let down.

Chazelle obviously digs on jazz. Pretty hard. Teller’s character in Whiplash is an aspiring jazz drummer and is dead-set on becoming the next Buddy Rich. For those that have not seen it, the film is a love letter to the mechanics and intricate work it takes to become good enough to play real jazz. Simmons plays his teacher way too excellently and the movie is just too perfect. Well, in La La Land, jazz is back in a big way (so is Simmons, for a bit). In fact, if the movie was not filmed in and about Hollywood, I’d say this whole film is a love letter to, as well as a confirmation that the golden age of jazz is dead. Gosling plays a struggling pianist whose biggest goal in life is to open a jazz club in L.A. to keep even a trace of that age of jazz alive.

Stone plays an aspiring actress that works on a Hollywood lot as a barista, happening accidentally upon Gosling playing a piano in a nearby bar one night. What follows is an often-complicated relationship over the next year, much that we’re privy to as the couple individually navigates their career paths. I won’t give any more than that away as far as the story is concerned, but I personally felt like I do at the end of any mid-70’s Woody Allen movie, in which the characters are presented with adult choices and must make real life decisions. This portion of the film was real and heartfelt, and I appreciated that, even among the smattering of musical bits in which they smiled and danced around like morons.

OK, Nick, calm down. Get back on track.

Listen, my mind has not really changed on musicals. I just don’t appreciate the big numbers or the choreography, and quite often, not even the intricate sets. I know how much work goes into this (Mandy Moore did the choreography for this, by the way – what?), but it just can’t really keep my interest. This movie is pretty cool, though. The “uninterrupted-cut” cinematography is excellent, Stone and Gosling are pretty great, and the storyline is relatable, even when discounting the outlandish musical bits. Will it win Best Picture? I don’t know yet, I haven’t seen enough of the potential contenders; but yeah, probably. It’s about Hollywood and it’s a musical – a deadly Oscar combination.

Final Score: 3/4