Return to comedy

After work today I went with an old friend from Hong Kong (and now a co-worker) to a comedy night in Santa Clara. Even getting there was the stuff of hilarity; there are identical Hilton Garden Inns up and down Palo Alto, and instead of being picked up outside the one I stayed in, we had a fifteen minute argument on the phone about whether I was standing in the entrance or not.
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Back to Palo Alto

The flight to San Francisco only took 14 hours (I guess prevailing winds are a wonderful thing) and I was through Customs and picking up my bag before 9am. It was touch and go for a bit; they have automated machines at SFO to collect your information before you hand your passport to a person in a bulletproof vest, but for some reason the camera and the flash on the machine weren’t playing nice. It kept taking a picture of me so over-exposed you could almost make out my pupils and jawline, and nothing else, and then complained that the picture wasn’t clear and would have to be taken again. Technology, I love you.
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La La Land

After John Wick 2, we watched La La Land. I wouldn’t recommend doing this in reverse order; very loud gunfights aren’t a great way to recover from a nuanced sing song about jazz and beautiful people. I’m also not sure, even with 24 hours’ perspective, whether La La Land is just a tremendous piss-take or not. 

The evidence for that is strongest in the opening scene, an over-the-top dance sequence which plumbs the depths of shameless mugging to the audience, jazz hands, fancy footwork, shimmy-shimmy-shim-shim-sheree nonsense. It’s very funny to watch people cavorting around a traffic jam, and highly impressive that this scene could be achieved, but it’s also one of those look-at-me aren’t-I-great moments that draws your attention to the artifice of the whole enterprise. 

That remains true for the rest of the film: it’s a wonderful confection but you never forget that is what it is. Perhaps it’s wrong of me to think of John Wick as realistic, when both films have in common a certain stylisation, and definitely both are films where the colour palette has been very carefully thought about. But with John Wick 2 the plot goes along so fast that you’re sucked into it, whereas with La La Land you’re perpetually sliding off something beautifully crafted. 

Is it then, without a soul? I think the ending proves that not to be the case, a magnificent final ten minutes that ties the film together and that I won’t write about here. It looks lovely, it sounds very nice (though I can’t say Emma Stone’s voice is as big as the role demands – too breathy and ethereal) and nobody gets shot. What more do you want from a film?