LaLa Land, BBC 2, BBC iPlayer, Director Damien Chazelle.


Only in LaLa land  at the Oscars could LaLa Land best picture announced, could it turn out to be LaLa Land  winner and  LaLa Land loser,  all within five minutes. It wasn’t Best Picture. But was it a good picture?

Not bad. I’m not really into music. Put it this way, the director of Singin’ in the Rain Stanley Donen died and tributes poured in. Singin’ in the Rain in 1952 was a classic of the Hollywood musical genre. You’d Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers that could do everything that Astaire did but backwards and in six inch heels. Then you’d Gene Kelly that could do everything Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers could do and he really could sing and act the bejesus off everybody else. You even had Debbie Reynolds and Danny Kaye, as fall woman and fall guy. Where do you stop in LaLa Land?

Well, the plot is much the same in every boy meet girl movie.  Sebastian ( Ryan Gosling) loves Mia (Emma Stone) Mia love Sebastian. All you need is the set up. Stuck in a traffic jam, he toots his horn, she gives him the finger. She works in a coffee shop, he plays piano for pennies (or tips) Christmas background music in a restaurant.

But she wants to be an actress and continually goes for auditions only to be turned down because she’s not pretty enough or not quite what they’re looking for. Mia isn’t Hollywood pretty, she’s not Debbie Reynold’s pretty and certainly not Audrey Hepburn beautiful, but she has nice big eyes and I like ginger hair. So she’s cute, rather than pretty. But she’s dressed in primary colours, often green which suits her complexion. And she’s meant to be every-woman.

This being a musical, she also needs to sing. Well, they famously dubbed over Audrey Hepburn in Pygmalion and  My Fair Lady. Julie Andrews, of The Sound of Music saving MGM and ‘Climb Every Mountain’ fame game, stepped into her shoes. Mia can’t really hold a tune to the level of Audrey, but god and Hollywood loves a trier.

Sebastian is the more be-pop of the two a jazz aficionado. Yeh, I don’t know what that mean either. Sebastian can’t sing or dance any better than Mia. Being a leading man is not the same as being the leading lady. He doesn’t have to be achingly beautiful. He can just play it cool. He says early in the film he couldn’t love anybody that didn’t love jazz. He wants to open a nightclub that would take jazz back to its roots and away from the mainstream. Mia, of course, says she hates jazz.

Then as she falls for Sebastian she falls for jazz too. The rest is schmaltz with a sliding door moment of what if. As a budding writer I’m better-versed than most in the LaLa propaganda that if you hope for something enough your dream will come true. We ain’t all Singin’ in the Rain, some of us keep our brain running. The exception to the rule rule never fails to generate a happy ending. Now we’re talking Pretty in Pink and Molly Ringwald another red head, but without the best picture nomination. Oh dear, the one that got away.


The Breakfast Club written and directed by John Hughes. Film 4.

the breakfast club

It’s been thirty years since I watched The Breakfast Club. I truanted from real life and took a step back into Shermar High school where it’s always Saturday detention in 1984. The Simple Minds hold play with a number one both sides of the Atlantic, Don’t You Forget About Me?  The only thing I could remember about the original was Molly Ringwald and one of the other detainees admitted they didn’t need to be in detention but they’d nowhere else to go. That was Ally Sheedy.

There’s no point in telling you the characters’ names or who they portray. It’s more like archetypes. Molly Ringwald is the beauty, with luscious lips like pumped up pears and more teeth than a shark. And she’s a ginger, but she is young, perhaps the youngest of the Bratpack. (For example, Demi Moore another member of the Bratpack, but she is not in this film, is more of a conventional beauty and a lot prettier.) But back then I’d hair. Everybody had hair. They probably had to have an extra hairdresser for every young budding star. Ally Sheedy is the bag lady, to Molly Ringwald’s queen bee, of those serving time in school detention. Ally’s hair is mushy and brushed down over her face. Molly’s hair is shiny as copper coins. They’re as far apart as Alaska to Easter Island. But after they do a bit of bonding the brains of the bunch, Anthony Michael Hall, asks if we’ll still be buddies on Monday, when school goes back. Molly strikes him down, puts him right. Of course they won’t. How could they be? But then we get the classic cliché of transformations and school maggot turning into a butterfly. Usually, the girl is transformed by taking off her specs and putting her hair up. Ally doesn’t wear specs, because the conventional film formula is only geeks like Anthony wear them. But Molly shows her how to be a woman. She does Ally’s hair, puts a little blusher on and does her eyes. Voila, the unveiling.

She doesn’t look that much different to me, but eyestrain and specs have taken the slack in life. The guys on set are keyed to say, whoa, we never knew she was so hot. Sporty, Emilio Estevez, gets her in a strangle hold and kisses her so passionately her hair straightens. Who can blame him? She’d got nice hair and that hairband does wonders for a bag lady.

The big and bad true romance is between beauty and the beast. Judd Nelson has the longest hair. He’s a rebel with a criminal past. In his locker he’s got dope. Just don’t look at the finger glove he wears.  After one squiff, one sniff of dope, and the music is on full blast, Sporty does a few star-jumps to show how athletic he is, Brains dons a pair of sunglasses and shakes his head like Stevie Wonder and Ally beetles about making strange squeaking noise. I didn’t think the music then was that great either. I can’t remember what the criminal mastermind does. I guess the camera spent much of the time on the beauty bopping about like a person with only one hip that kept knocking her sideways. You know the criminal and the beauty are going to hit off each other and fall into a conventional relationship. He’s shown her his flick-knife and he’s seen her knickers (white and clean, or so it seemed, I looked discretely away, of course). For god’s sake she even said ‘I hate you!’ It couldn’t be more obvious if she’d a big love heart tattooed to her forehead.

Start with I hate you and work your way to I love you, but Mr and Mrs I didn’t really understand the real you. The connecting thread is Phil Larkin, This be Verse. ‘They fuck you up, your mum and dad./They may not mean to, but they do./ They fill you with the faults they had. And add some extra, just for you’. All of the detainees in their own way admit this truth to one another. They are more the same than different. Judd the criminal brains does a cameo of the academic brain’s sparkling home life, with his dad and mum asking him if he wants to go fishing and compares it with his own. Brains big secret is he’d a gun in his locker. Nothing much in America really changes. Every kid seems to have a gun in his locker. It’s an American right. I enjoyed this. But I won’t be looking back again – not for another thirty years. By that time I’ll be so old I’ll forget what I’m not looking at. Oh yeh, Molly Ringwald.