Movies: La La Land, Weiner and the Best of 2016

Awards season is in full swing and I’m trying to get to as many of the potential Oscar nominations as possible over the next few weeks. Here are two along with what I thought were the best movies of 2016.

La La Land

I really liked La La Land. Did I love it? No. Do I think it should win Best Picture? No. Should everyone see it? Probably. The first and third acts are the best. The middle drags and I confess I did nod off during that part, but this homage to the great musicals of the past has many moments of brilliance and the last 10 minutes are stunning.  La La Land (LA land) is the story of Mia (Emma Stone) and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) struggling to find their respective success in LA. Mia is an actress keeping herself alive by being a barista and Sebastian (Seb) is a jazz musician hoping to open his own club. In the meantime he plays the piano for anyone who will hire him.

The movie starts out on a high note with a wonderful sequence on a gridlocked LA freeway. There is at least a five-minute singing and dancing routine as one by one, the occupants of the cars get out to join in. Mia and Seb first encounter each other at the end of the number and enjoy a few other chance meetings before love blossoms. The middle part of the movie follows their respective career struggles as they also try to create and maintain a lasting relationship. The main theme of the movie is clearly the price of following one’s dreams and ambitions and it is woven throughout the film.

I won’t give away the end, as it is bittersweet and pretty much perfect. It is one I want to see again because I know I missed things. I’m not a big musical person so this homage to the great ones of the past is pretty much lost on me, but I do know that Gosling and Stone are no Astaire and Rodgers. Their acting, however, is flawless and every accolade they are getting is well deserved. Before the awards season finishes, everyone should see Manchester By the Sea, Moonlight and La La Land.

Weiner

Weiner is now streaming on multiple platforms and I must have been pretty desperate for something to watch on TV because I decided to check it out. I guess my excuse is that it is being nominated by many groups for Best Documentary so in my attempt to see as much as I can before the Oscars, I saw it. “Weiner” is essentially the story of his ill-fated mayoral campaign after a self-imposed exile from politics following his first sexting scandal. The filmmakers seemingly had full access to Weiner and his wife Huma Abedin as the film unfolds and Weiner looks as if he is going to make a major comeback as he runs for mayor.

This all falls apart completely when a 23 year-old woman announces she and Weiner had a long sexting history. It is shocking that the Weiners continued to allow the filmmakers to film the resulting disastrous impact on both the campaign and the personal relationship of the couple. What is even more amazing is that Huma continued to stay with him until after the film had been released. It was only after a worse sexting scandal erupted this summer that she left him. Weiner is a narcissist with big problems and this film gets to the heart of his personality as it traces what the filmmakers saw as his final fall from grace little knowing what was to come after. “Weiner” is an excellent documentary if you can stand the subject matter.

The Best of 2016

In the spirit of Awards Season, I’m going to provide a list of what I thought were the best movies I saw this year in no particular order. They are all worth checking out!

Manchester by the Sea

Moonlight

La La Land

Lion

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Arrival

The Lobster

Hell or High Water

O.J. Made in America

Sully

Love and Friendship

The Dark Horse (not to be confused with “Dark Horse” which is supposed to be very good but I didn’t see)

I also want to give a shout out to three movies that had elements of greatness, particularly acting, but weren’t very fun to watch.

Elle (for the amazing performance of Isabelle Huppert)

Certain Women (for the acting – particularly Kristin Stewart and Lily Gladstone)

Birth of a Nation (particularly the acting but also the history)

Finally, I haven’t yet seen Hidden Figures or Fences, which likely would have landed up on this list.

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