ENJOY THE MOVIES
"I wanted the movie to be a love letter to not just dreams, but to the kinds of dreams that society often mocks." He's only 31 years old, but has already made two of my favorite movies. Damien Chazelle is the writer/director of Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench, Whiplash (from 2014) and this year's La La Land, an exuberant and exciting musical that is my #1 movie of the year. La La Land premiered to rave reviews at the Venice, Telluride, and Toronto Film Festivals this fall and is now playing in theaters nationwide. I was lucky enough to catch up with Chazelle at the Telluride Film Festival and sit down to talk about making La La Land. I was still on a high from the movie, and was very excited to chat with him about everything - from Ryan Gosling's piano playing, to capturing Los Angeles, to making sure this success doesn't go to his head.
"I feel very excited as of late for what's to come, whether it works or not." I can't say enough how much I adore Damien Chazelle's musical La La Land. It's an exhilarating cinematic experience, full of so much joy and happiness, along with superb dancing and exuberant singing and beautiful sets and gorgeous sunsets. Aside from Ryan Gosling, the other co-star of La La Land is Emma Stone. Her first big break out role was playing Jules in Superbad back in 2007, and over the nearly 10 years since she's earned an Academy Award nomination (for Birdman) and worked with some of the best filmmakers around. I was lucky to spend 15 minutes chatting with Emma about her career and her work on La La Land and it was an absolute delight.
The mountains are a truly magical place. For the past nine years in a row, I've made a pilgrimage up to the beautiful mountain town of Telluride in Colorado for the Telluride Film Festival. It only lasts for one weekend and it's over way too quickly, but it's still one of my favorite weekends every year. At the 2016 version of the film festival, I was able to catch 11 films and many of them were wonderful. A few of them are guaranteed to end up my Top 10 this year, and that's usually the case with Telluride. I come to this festival year after year to fall in love with films again, to see some of the best that cinema has to offer, and I'm rarely disappointed. Plus over the four days the festivals lasts, I get catch up with old friends and make new ones.
Herzog is back! The German documentary master has premiered his second new film this year (the other being Lo and Behold Reveries of the Connected World) at the Telluride Film Festival. This new one is titled Into the Inferno, and follows Werner Herzog as he examines and investigates a number of different active volcanoes around the world. He travels around with a "volcanologist" named Clive Oppenheimer, getting as close as they possibly can but also investigating the various cultures and indigenous people that remain near these volcanoes. It's a spectacular doc, more meaningful and intriguing than his other recent work. Into the Inferno examines the act of creation, with vivid imagery and utterly engrossing discussions.
Before returning to our condo and beginning this review, I stopped for a few minutes and stared up at the stars. Here in Telluride you can view them so clearly, but this time I felt a renewed sense of wonder after emerging from one of the most intelligent alien sci-fi movies since Contact. It's a major milestone in sci-fi, the next step in the non-stop evolution of this exciting genre of cinema. Arrival is a phenomenal film, an extremely intelligent yet captivating story brought to life in the most invigorating way by director Denis Villeneuve. It's one of those brilliant movies that actually makes you appreciate all that sci-fi can offer, making you think intensely about life, the choices we make, and what place humans have in the universe.
"At some point you gotta decide for yourself who you gunna be. Can't let nobody make that decision for you." Barry Jenkins' new film Moonlight is an intimate portrait of black youth, examining the balance of masculinity and individuality in a community that shuns homosexuality. Writer/director Barry Jenkins has made a masterful film that is an exceptional work of cinematic beauty, telling a vital story of humanity and honesty. It's a unique, singular work that stands out in its style and atmosphere, and in the way Jenkins holds back on what he shows, building the film around his very impressive actors and the emotions that life makes us feel. It's an immensely moving cinematic story of truth, and demands our respect and admiration.
"Is this the start of something wonderful? Or one more dream that I cannot make true." I'm on cloud nine. Damien Chazelle is such a remarkable storyteller and talented filmmaker, and he's made his masterpiece. La La Land is musical perfection, an exhilarating and emotional voyage through time, deep into music and cinema. This is definitely one of those movies they don't make anymore, he made one anyway, and it's so much more. La La Land is a love letter to jazz, it's a love letter to cinema, it's a love letter to dancing, it's a love letter to Los Angeles, it's a love letter to having hope, it's a love letter to dreams. It will sweep you off your feet, possibly break your heart, but will remind you of all the audacious joy to be found in this world.
It's nice to be back. Up in the mountains, ready to see more films and see what many talented filmmakers have in store for us. I have returned to the Telluride Film Festival in Colorado for my 9th year in a row, covering this festival with just as much enthusiasm as the first time I went (back in 2008). This film festival takes place an altitude of 8,750 ft (2,667 m), in a tiny little charming town nestled deep inside the San Juan mountains. It's such a beautiful location, the kind where you can see the stars, where everyone around you is always saying "isn't it so beautiful?", where it's easy to get a breath of fresh air, and where you must truly appreciate the place you at. I'm glad to be back, and I'm ready to start watching films. Let's begin the show.