MARY POPPINS RETURNS (Rob Marshall, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Mary Poppins Returns:

1. One of the highlights of Saving Mr. Banks (a great companion piece to this film) was the scene where an uptight P.L. Travers (played by the superb Emma Thompson) unexpectedly lowered her guard and started dancing along to Let’s Go Fly a Kite. It was a touching moment especially since the author notoriously hated the Disneyfication of her novels (“Responstible is not a word!!”), particularly Mary Poppins.

I wonder how she would have felt with this one given that it lacked an LSS-worthy melody that the original had in abundance. Can You Imagine That? and Trip a Little Light Fantastic were fun and frothy, but they just weren’t as memorable as Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (an exercise in spelling and enunciation) or A Spoonful of Sugar.

For the record, my favorite tune from the 1964 classic was Oscar winner Chim Chim Cher-ee. Fun online fact: If you scratch “-2 – 2 + =“ on your pillow, it would sound very much like this song. Aren’t the interwebs wonderful?

2. Although billed as a sequel (with the Banks children all grown up), this still felt very much like a remake (seriously, why did they even bother?). If anything, I was happy that they kept the 2D animation during some of the fantasy sequences because it perfectly captured the old school magic of films.

3. I really thought it would be hard to match the wonderful performance of Julie Andrews (whose stern but loving version of the magical nanny reminded me of her stern but loving grandma slash Queen of Genovia in The Princess Diaries), but Emily Blunt completely owned the role (not a trace of imitation!) while paying homage to a well-loved Dame. At least she had a fun moment in the bathtub for a change.

4. It was sad to see Lin-Manuel Miranda sticking out like a sore thumb among the mostly English (and incredibly good) supporting cast. Although this was a musical where people actually floated while holding on to balloons, there was just something off with his over-the-top (read: theater-ready) acting.

Julie Walters was a hilarious scene-stealer as always, but I was more pleasantly surprised by Ben Whishaw. In one scene, he was clutching on to his dead wife’s pearl necklace while singing that he needed a few suggestions on how to brush their daughter’s hair and I was trying my best not to burst into tears.

As for the kids, they were fine enough, although I was wishing one of them could be like a young Freddie Highmore in Finding Neverland.

5. Been a fan of Rob Marshall’s impressive choreography since Chicago and it was in full display here. When the Banks’ house got rattled by an exploding cannon, the siblings caught the falling furniture (a few lamps, an heirloom clock) like they were in a ballet. I also liked the (intentional?) nod to Velma Kelly in the A Cover is Not a Book production.

6. I understood the decision of making this version of Mary closer to her disposition in the books, but it was also the reason why I thought that this sequel needed a bit more heart. Like I wanted to be a puddle of sobbing mess when she would leave the children in the end and it didn’t happen. I had more of an emotional attachment with Sam in Wanted: Perfect Mother.

7. Why did Mary let the poor leeries climb all the way up the clock tower when she could have done it in the first place pala? Did everything have to be a teachable moment?

8. “Cleaning is not a spectator sport” sounded like something Marie Kondo would say. Yes, this movie gave me a tiny spark of joy.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

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LA LA LAND (Damian Chazelle, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on La La Land:

1. One character in this film probably summed up my entire viewing experience of this oftentimes joyous homage to classic Hollywood musicals: “How are you going to be a revolutionary if you’re such a traditionalist?”

Damien Chazelle (who also directed Whiplash, one of the best of 2014) concocted such a nostalgic fantasy world that easily razzle dazzled the audience and made them forget that they were basically watching the same old romance tropes (why am I mentioning romance like it’s a dirty word?). I think Billy Flynn in Chicago said it best with “How can they see with sequins (or in this case, thousands of stars?) in their eyes?”.

2. The “Another Day of Sun” opening sequence was such a delight to watch that it was hard for me not to stomp my feet along with it. Wouldn’t it be great if people suddenly burst into an all-out song and dance production number while stuck in EDSA rush hour traffic? Besides, your obnoxious soulmate might just be right there in the next Tas Trans bus.

3. I named my current car after Emma Stone so my love for her was unquestionable. It would also be out of love for me to say that she was great here as struggling actress Mia (the first audition scene when she was rudely interrupted for a sandwich was heartbreaking), except when she was required to sing. Her voice was just too weak (thin? airy?) and it hobbled what could have been a brilliant showstopper with “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)”. (This song sounded like “The Rainbow Connection” while “A Lovely Night” reminded me so much of Frank Sinatra’s “Cheek to Cheek”.)

4. Ryan Gosling as Sebastian was just as charming and had the right amount of smarm, like he was the better person simply for being a jazz enthusiast. He actually looked like he was literally dying of embarrassment while playing A-ha’s “Take On Me”. His fingers were a bit stiff during the piano scenes, but he fared much better vocally. Also, could someone teach me how to whistle that “City of Stars” piece?

5. When J.K. Simmons stormed out of the kitchen to fire Gosling, I actually thought that he would throw a ladle at him and scream, “Not quite my tempo!!”. (Seriously, if you hadn’t seen Whiplash, watch it now!!)

6. Passion, hard work, and the sacrifices made to realize your dreams. Different priorities, different outlooks. Long-distance relationships (“My aunt used to live in Paris…”) rarely worked. Why must life be so cruel?

7. The seasons as metaphors for their relationship status and even the bench break-up scene reminded me so much of (500) Days of Summer. On the other hand, the coffee shop scenes were very Bituing Walang Ningning. I loved the newly-transformed Dorina Pineda vibe she gave when she walked in five years later to get her latte. Uwian na, may nanalo na.

8. That alternate reality sequence would probably go down as the ultimate hopia moment of 2016.

9. Much had been said about the bittersweet ending complete with their longing looks (disappointment? regret? hope? acceptance? closure?) and it probably would have been more poignant if I didn’t see it first in Olivia Lamasan’s The Mistress.

Rating: ★★★★☆