Holiday Gifts


I’ve have spent most of my life writing about movies – and much of that time, lately, writing books about musical movies – so you’ll have to forgive my excitement for La La Land.

I’m referring to the film coming to commercial theaters this month under the direction of Damien Chazelle – maker of the dynamic Whiplash – with the talented Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone starring in a musical romance set in Los Angeles. With a few exceptions (Les Misérables, Chicago, Dreamgirls, Pitch Perfect, Phantom of the Opera), the Hollywood musical has not been terribly fruitful of late, with most properties derived from other media (stage, television, moldy pop charts) at the expense of originality. Here’s hoping the best for this new effort, which is about a jazz pianist who falls for an aspiring actress.

Between La La Land, the Tupac Shakur biopic All Eyez on Me, and the animated features Sing and Moana, this may be an unusually tuneful holiday movie season. It’s about time: Why is it that 21st century viewers can suspend realism to buy into aliens and demons and similar fantasticism on screen, but can’t tolerate the sight and sound of regular folk bursting into song?

The Flint Institute of Arts is continuing its season-long series of music-oriented movies December 15-18 with Once, the wonderful 2007 Irish musical romance that won the best song Academy Award for “Falling Slowly” (composed by leads Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová). The FIA recently showed Sing Street, a more recent effort from Once writer-director John Carney, so it seems appropriate to reprise his most famous film.

In an abbreviated December schedule, the FIA’s Friends of Modern Art film series will present three other selections. The calendar begins December 2-4 with A Man Called Ove, a Swedish crowd-pleaser (based on an international bestseller) about an ill-tempered retiree whose life is changed by his boisterous new neighbors. It’s one of the prime contenders for the best foreign film Oscar.

On December 9-11, the series presents Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You, from the makers of the acclaimed documentaries Detropia and Jesus Camp. Any Baby Boomer will know that this Lear is the producer/writer/director who helped the boob tube get smarter with groundbreaking sitcoms such as All in the Family, Sanford and Son, The Jeffersons, and Maude.

And while we’re thinking about Oscar-caliber fare, the FIA is showing Hell or High Water, a much-praised heist film with a terrific cast – Chris Pine, Ben Foster and the seemingly ageless Jeff Bridges – in a West Texas setting. Look for it December 16-18.

FOMA films are shown at 7:30pm on Fridays and Saturdays, and 2pm on Sundays at the FIA, 1120 E. Kearsley St. Tickets, available at the door, are $4-$6. (Once will be shown at 7:30pm Thursday, December 15; 2pm Saturday, December 17 and 4:30pm on Sunday, December 18, with all tickets $2 for the Thursday show.)

In addition to the FOMA series, in collaboration with the local nonprofit Communities First Inc., the FIA will host a 7pm December 8 screening of City of Trees. It’s a documentary about the efforts of a Washington, D.C. nonprofit to implement an ambitious urban “green jobs” program. Admission is $2.

For more information, visit or call 810.234.1695.


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