In Love With The La La

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On a cold Friday night in the hazy winter light. 
I had seen a film ever so magical, so wonderful. A delight. 
The colors that graced the screen so vibrant and vivid. 
The music so variant. It was both bold and timid 
The dancing had captured my heart in an instant 
My own memories of tap dancing, jazz piano, and musicals had been so distant 
This film I’m describing in none other than La La Land 

Please watch it if you love Los Angeles, fleeting dreams, or swing & big band.


**I couldn’t help myself but make a rhyme scheme introduction on quite possibly one of my favourite movies of all time.
I know I know I know guys, this is a big statement to make! Have no fear, I fully support this film from within my bones.
Before I gush on about the Top 10 Reasons why I’m in love with La La Land, I have to preface that I have a long running background in dance, piano, & musical theater. I’m also a classic film enthusiast so every single easter egg was a slice of intense joy for me. My perspective is completely bias, but after seeing this movie with various audiences (ranging from having no musical background to die-hard fans of overtures and 4 chord minors) there are overall themes that run through this film that are universal to anyone whose ever had a dream they wanted to pursue.
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( image via Google)
10. The Opening Sequence featuring CinemaScope 
If you aren’t familiar with 1950’s classic films by MGM, the widescreen lenses they utilized during that era were CinemaScope lenses. These lenses were integral for motion pictures at the time to capture everything in frame. From panoramic views to sweeping perspectives capturing long sequences of choreography, the fact that La La Land was shot with these infamous industry lenses is a simply sweet homage to the classics.
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(image via Summit Pictures)
9. Damien Chazelle and his personal story
There are directors that self impose their narratives in the work they do, but often do so in a way that is glorifying and centralized, Chazelle however inserts his personal experiences through struggle. He loves jazz music and musicals, but his cumbersome fear of stage fright kept him from the spotlight. I had rewatched his film Whiplash prior to seeing La La Land. The film Whiplash is Chazelle’s exploration of when he was a jazz drummer in high school and in contrast to La La Land, both films portray the process of achieving one’s dreams. One situation that is isolating and self-centered (Whiplash) and another that is communal and almost altruistic (La La Land).
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(image via Summit Pictures)
7. The Non-Cliche Iconic Landscapes of Los Angeles
Having seen this movie with company from both LA and far from LA (London, in fact) there are variable differences on what people would like to see about Los Angeles in the movies. My British friend complained that they didn’t see the Hollywood sign; my Los Angeles friend loved that there was a scene at Watts Towers. Overall, I’m quite enamored at the fact that Chazelle didn’t choose the road most taken when it comes to filming in Los Angeles, his implicit direction to show some “uncommon but familiar” landmarks that ground the nature of this city is to my liking.
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(image via Summit Pictures)
6.  The Subtle Jokes About Los Angeles 
I went to college in Los Angeles county and became acquainted with all the Los Angeles stereotypes. This film captures these seemingly real stereotypes and situations in such a light-hearted humorous way; from Prius popularity to gluten free galore it also portrays that although this city is filled with dreamers where everyone is trying to make it, there is room to find your “tribe” or “squad” in the immense demographic that is the people of Los Angeles. In a city full of people playing professional make-believe, I’ve  made an immense amount of authentic friendships that last a lifetime.
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(image via Summit Entertainment) 
5. The Title’s Double Meaning
Not only is LA known for its moniker “La La Land” but La La Land is defined as “a fanciful state of mind” in which the cinematography captures so effortlessly in many frame by frame moments. It toggles the boundaries of reality and disillusion through dream like sequences. I’m a sucker for things with depth and the movie title’s double meaning adds another layer.
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(image via Miguel Aguilar) 
4. The Production Collaboration + Minimal Post Production Editing 
Due to the nature of making this film in the 1950’s technique, Chazelle’s objective to take elongated one camera shots with minimal takes was an operation of meticulous proportions. In addition, I’m appreciative of the use of the actual landmarks and the minimal use of a soundstage/ set. It is rare nowadays to see a film without some sort of CGI, multiple takes and multiple cameras used, so this film felt like a visual breathe of fresh air. It is relaxing to the eyes; you’ll experience it once you see it.
 
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(image via Summit Entertainment)
3. Ryan Gosling + Emma Stone’s Chemistry 
Originally, Miles Teller and Emma Watson were cast to play the roles of the two lovebirds.  Due to conflicting filming schedules, Chazelle went with Gosling and Stone instead. Prior to this film, the pair starred in two roles together. If you have ever seen the 2011 movie  Crazy Stupid Love their chemistry was very natural. Both of these actors’ dynamic emotional range is versatile as well. During the filming process, Chazelle, the screenwriter, and both of the actors were integral in the development of Mia and Sebastian. The result? Absolute chemistry. If you pay attention closely, the behaviors/dialogue of one transfers onto the other in the same fashion as a real relationship.
2. The Music 
The composer of the musical score is James Hurtwitz. He also has worked with Chazelle on his two prior films Whiplash and Guy And Madeleine On A Park Bench. The thematic musical score has five main melodies from it’s five main songs. If you listen to the film’s soundtrack closely you can hear each one of the five songs transposed in a different key and tempo throughout the film to convey the emotional atmosphere. The film’s soundtrack is really meant to be listened as a whole, each song advancing the narrative. Creating together an amalgamation of scenarios that define the human condition when it comes to trying to achieve your dreams.   In the process of composing the musical score for La La Land, Hurwitz compiled roughly around 1900 piano demos to show to Chazelle as well as the lyricists Justin Paul and Benj Pasek. Paul and Pasek also wrote original music for one of my favourite shows, Smash.
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(gif via Summit Entertainment)
1. The Dancing + Rehearsal Process
All strengths put aside, if there could be one reason and one reason only for me to love this film, it has to be the dancing. I’m a sucker for dance movies, but lately the movies that have come out in recent years didn’t have a narrative I was fully invested in. The plots were predictable and the choreography (or lack thereof) was inundated with tricks and gimmicks. La La Land however heavily pays homage to cult film dance classics such as Sweet Charity, Singing In The Rain, Umbrellas of Cherbourg and many others. Iconic sequences of choreography recorded in beautiful one camera one take constraints (like the Old Hollywood movies did) effectively hones in on the beauty that happens when dancers, dancing, and a compelling musical score converge together. Mandy Moore, the choreographer also created these pieces to be accessible due to the capabilities of the actors. She wanted the choreography to to be approachable and realistically anchored in everyday movement that (when shot on camera) would blur the dreamlike dance sequences and dialogue seamlessly.
Prior to the four month filming process, Gosling and Stone had a three month rehearsal for both the dance choreography and the learning of the piano. Although the rehearsing schedule was rigorous, it was beneficial in the long run.
In addition, if I could shamelessly plug in another aspect as to why I love this film so much, a couple of my favourite dancer friends from the YouTube community also make an appearance in the opening number (ahem,Jilly Meyers, Dana Wilson, and Galen Hooks to name a few) and it’s rewarding to see other dancers that I’ve watched on YouTube/had taken workshops with for  years, finally get the recognition they so well deserve.
If you have read this far, I applaud and appreciate you. Leave comments if you have other reasons as to why you love La La Land too!
Indelible Gratitude,
-Kat

Falling Back Into The Urban Fabric

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A night last week was a turn of events that lifted my spirits in the most connective way possible. My previous post about “Intimacy” and sharing a human experience left me feeling despondent with a craving to discuss bigness, not business. I missed observing all the walks of life that inhabit the fabric of the urban environment. Lately though, I got my “dose” just as unexpectedly.
My cousin invited me to a multi-medium art show in the heart of a bustling downtown and I almost hesitated because I didn’t want to go alone. Had I made the decision with my fear I would have missed out on a soul-soothing experience.
The event was called “FUTURES” and it was sponsored by the organization RAWartists.org. This showcase featured artists of all different mediums. From makeup and fashion to music and dancing this event had it all. It took residency in the House of Blues performance venue for a night and it was something to experience as with anything that is ephemeral in nature.
I was uncomfortable at first, because I came alone and didn’t know anybody except for my cousin whom was busy selling her handmade jewelry, but after a beer I became more conversational (huzzah for a little bit of carbonated liquid courage eh?) and I met some creative souls over conversation I won’t forget.
I had conversations about things I missed talking about when I was in college. Amongst these conversations were topics of the following:
  • The importance of narrative driven design
  • Instagram and the consciousness of light, shadow, tone, and texture of a photo
  • How to write socio-political rhymes for a modern “twerk & bae” audience
  • The materialization of an idea and the logical process of starting
I sound so elitist with my art & design jargon, but I just miss talking BIG ideas; things regarding the creative process whatever the medium may be. I still have hopes to search for conversations like the ones I had that memorable night. Or maybe my INFP personality is just overly-romanticizing things.
Whatevs, I’m slowly sipping away at my flat white and enjoying this pitter patter of the rain that is currently storming through the Southern California skies. Here’s to a Lazy Sunday of mental preparation for this beast we call Mondays.
So, this is to you, my reader/subscriber to my thoughts.
I hope you find yourself in good conversation over this next week. We all need it.
Indelible Gratitude,
-Kat

2015 In Retrograde

It’s already the sixth day of the new year and I feel like I haven’t given the blogosphere and my wordpress the attention it so lovingly deserves. This year has been a year of a lot of firsts for me, and it’s been really revealing in my character and personal strength.
For starters, I landed my first job as a “designer” sort of speak. After my graduation in 2014 I embarked on a “self-healing” journey because my own demons that haunted me resurfaced themselves and I had to tend to them and keep them at bay. From January to until May I was still unemployed and working on my own internal pursuits whilst on the job-hunt. I landed the job I currently have today and had absolutely no idea what I was throwing myself into. I work for a small firm along the coast of California so my surroundings were a bit more relaxed than the tumultuous urban thoroughfare, but it was still a steep learning curve for me. The biggest lesson I learned is that from outward eyes is that I am incredibly shy and way more regimented than I’d like to admit. For example, if I don’t start my day at the gym at 5:30 am, the whole day is shit for me; from then on, my workday is going into complete shambles to be quite frank. In retrograde, this whole year has been a continuous roller coaster, emotionally for me. Here’s a quick summation in brief highlights.
  • January- Aunt & Uncle’s 25th Wedding Anniversary aka the weekend I found out how much my grandma could drink.
  • February- My bestfriend’s birthday, kinda a complete blur
  • March- WonderCon, aka the place for all my fandomonium to combust into sheer joy.
  • April- Finally, after such a long time, I saw my first pop punk band Blink 182 perform at the legendary place where a lot of bands started out in So Cal, at SOMA. Hearing “First Date” live, was unreal and my heart was bursting at the seams with happiness. This was the start of my live music addition.
  • May- Started my first job and learned the real struggle of young professionalism. Saw Cartel live for the first time and they still sound as great as they did 10 years ago.
  • June- My cousin’s wedding as well as my birthday. This was the weekend my friends found out how much I can drink.
  • July- Comic Con, always a yearly highlight. Finally saw All-Time Low during the MTV Fandom Awards.
    My first time seeing 5SOS in their first headlining tour and it was hands down the best damn night of my life. Also received a birthday e-mail from Calum, THAT was wonderful ❤
    Also, my first time doing photography work at Warped Tour, that was spectacular, because of Neck Deep & Sleeping w/ Sirens
  • August- Attended a “new” kind of festival Kaboo Del-Mar, and I loved it. Finally got to see Allen Stone live as well as The Killers live. That was amazing .
    Also, went to my first ever Foo-Fighters concert on a whim on a Thursday night, best decision I ever made.
  • September- Went to the Quartyard to see The Maine: Free For All Tour, and it was the best free concrete I’ve ever seen.
  • October- TASTE OF CHAOS. Reliving the teenage dreams I had and still hold onto, one Dashboard Confessional song at a time. Also my first experience crying at a festival (due to Bert McCracken and Justin Shekowkski and “On My Own”). Also, my first time seeing my  favourite band, The Used (also wrote a whole blog post about the ordeal…emotional overload central).
    My friend Eric invited me to his wedding and I felt all the feels.
    5SOS released their sophomore album SGFG and I went to the official release performance in Hollywood & Highland (again, all the feels were felt)
  • November- Thanksgiving, aka the start of my glutenous diet. Also my first time attending a Darling Magazine event.
  • December-Christmas, aka the season where I gain lots of “happy pounds”
Overall, I think this year has been good to me musically. If it wasn’t for music I wouldn’t know how to overcome all the mental breakdowns I had this year. I couldn’t have been more sad and elated in one year than in 2015. As I close this chapter on this year, the new in 2016 awaits and I can’t wait what else there is to encounter….
Catch Ya Later
-Kat

#TFT- Thankful Thursdays

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Traditionally, Thursdays meant delving into one’s archives to find the most ridiculous and nostalgic picture to post up on Instagram, but since Thanksgiving is occurring within this month, I’m dedicating my Thursdays in a different, more thought provoking manner.
In juxtaposition to my last post, my first gratuitous mention is the spectrum of music. I wouldn’t necessarily say that I’m a budding musician, but I do dabble a bit in the ivories (been playing since year 9). I’ve never gone out to compose my own music, but music has been an essential part of my soul since the very beginning.
At the heart of it, I was born dancing. My parents recount the days when I would sit in my high chair, crying for food, but simultaneously swaying to Earth Wind & Fire, Tracy Chapman, The Goo Goo Dolls, and Led Zeppelin. They got a kick out of it; me not so much because my belly was empty.
Music was essential to my growth as a dancer. It taught me to listen to all the complexities that is found within music; it forced me to visualize notes, materialize rhythms, and express feelings of depth that I’m always too afraid to speak of. Music supported me when nothing (and nobody) could and gratitude doesn’t even begin to explain it.
AND, if I could make an honourable mention in the realm of music, I think there’s one human being in particular that I would like to thank. Thank you producer, writer, all-around badass musician John Feldmann for believing in the music of SO MANY bands that formed the anthems of my growing youth (and 2 albums in particular that happen to be my favourite all-time). Thank you for having faith in: THE USED, Good Charlotte, Story of the Year, Ashlee Simpson (Autobiography), The Cab, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, Hedley, Saosin, Makua Rothman, We Are The In Crowd, ATL, Sleeping With Sirens, and finally 5SOS. If you ever read this John, know that you’ve helped tremendously in the development of a 20 something lost millennial find her musical personality since the pre-teen days. You’ve inadvertently comforted me during a heartbreak, helped me say “fuck the rest” when I’m feeling rebellious, and lifted my spirits when I was in despair. I will be forever grateful for your creative headspace. Don’t stop rockin’.
Sincerely With Gratitude,
-Kathy

Welcome to the New Broken Scene

NBSAs you all may know, the sophomore release of 5 Seconds of Summer’s album occurred on Friday and I was able to witness the New Broken Scene in full force and full faith at Hollywood & Highland. Before I discuss track by track my perspective upon each song, I must preface my history with this band in particular.

In 2011, I was looking up YouTube covers of Ron Pope’s “A Drop In The Ocean” and came across a blonde haired boy with a promising but little shaky voice, his youtube name was hemmo1996 and that was my initial taste of 5SOS. Fast forward a year in 2012 and they came out with their EP, entitled “Somewhere New” and I was having a rough experience in my relationship at the time. The song “Unpredictable” was my escape and my comfort song during the times I felt ignored and invisible in the relationship that I so fervently fought for because it’s hard for me to quit anything really. Another year later, in 2013 I found myself going to a One Direction concert in Kentucky, but ended up loving this band even more instead of the main attraction. They energetically played “Try Hard” and my heart was elated by their goofiness and their stage presence. So in brief summations of it all, this band helped me through some emotionally dark times over the past three years, call me a fangirl or a young adult with a “questionable” taste in music, but nothing but immense pride for these four Australian gentleman is all I can emanate whilst watching their musical progression over the last four years.
I had been in a musical drought for quite some time, just listening to the crap on the radio, until 5SOS came out with their EP and I started engaging in their endeavors via Keek, Twitcam, Livestream etc. Although they were young, I connected with them because we had similar taste in music. That was when my love for pop-punk/emo revival/post-hardcore music reignited. I thank this band for promoting music that has meaning in their lyrics and for choosing to be transparent with their fans about why they love the music that they love; to help connect a constantly growing teenage fanbase with music that I loved (and still love) a decade ago.
I revisited all my old illegally burned CDs (it was the dawn of BearShare, Kazaa, and Napster at the time) and the nostalgia hit home for me. Listening to those old CD’s felt like an old friend that you’ve recently caught up with and nothing but great memories came out of it.
Fast forward to October 23, 2015 and Sounds Good Feels Good finally debuts after much building anticipation. To be honest, I was completely surprised by the sound change, a couple songs as a whole took some multiple takes to understand and love equally. Instead of listing each song and coming up with some mediocre summation, I’ll just list the ones that strongly resonated with me the most. This is mostly an emotive analysis and I’m getting a bit vulnerable here people, so take my perspective with compassion (also listed in no particular hierarchical order).
Hey Everybody: Every morning when I wake up at the ungodly hour of 5:00 am, I start and end my day with this song. It resonates with me at the moment because I’m currently sailing the high seas that is young professionalism and learning my place within the world. Money is a bit tight right now and listening to this song lets me know (in a light-hearted rhythmic way) that everything is going to be okay.
Fly Away: The first taste of this song was purely based on its melodic content. The upbeat tempo catered to my inner dancer and I couldn’t help but sway to it. Later on, I investigated the lyrics and I loved the imagery they captured. The contradicting sceneries of California with London sky actually appeals to me, because as much as I love a sunny California, I also love a cool overcast day complete with looming clouds. When I listen to this song, I can totally picture this on a road trip. That feeling of the inevitable unknown is a bit scary, but relinquishing at the same time.
Permanent Vacation: In the same pop punk valor as She’s Kinda Hot, Permanent Vacation rhythmically has a message about the status quo. With thought provoking lyrics found in the bridge such as “Congratulations your imitations are taking over the radio stations. Corporations, calculations. We’re the voice of a new generation.” this piece stood out to me because it starts this dialog of the meaning behind today’s contemporary pop music. It begs the question of whether artistic value is trumped over radio air play popularity in today’s music and I’m glad 5SOS are exploring this avenue, calling to attention that maybe we can have good songs on the radio with good melodies AND great lyrics.
Jet Black Heart: When this song made its debut, it took me a couple tries to really listen to the lyrics. I’m a victim of analysis paralysis and I wanted to know the depths of this song and become completely immersed with it. After much inner debacle, I love the darkness of this song. The proclamation that it’s “okay to not be okay” strongly relates with me in my current situation, but I highly believe that we must process these dark emotions we have in order to see the light. To come to revelation about how these dark times can make us stronger by showing us how resilient we can be as human beings. In addition, the lyric “the blood in my veins is made up of mistakes” is definitely one of my cherished lines because it reminds me of my favourite band The Used.
Catch Fire: Sonically, this song is very different for this band. I hear a lot more synth in the production of this song, but it works beautifully here. I intensely love a particular lyric in this song, and I might make it a permanent attribute to my physical body (if you can catch my drift) and it goes: “I can’t change the world, but maybe I’ll change your mind.” I emphatically relate to this lyric because I tend to soul search and make it my life aspiration to affect someone’s mind in a positive light. It has a very “coming of age” tone that I find magnetizing.
Vapor: This song has almost the same cadence as Catch Fire but the resounding similes throughout the song is what hit this one home for me. To me, this song describes the feeling of a deep first love. The kind of love that has a dark side, an addictive side, where we all succumb to its grasp in our life at one point or another. And again, in the second verse “Cause you know you got perfect aim, I wanna feel you in my veins” another strong The Used reference that makes me giddy with agreement. It’s an addicting song and I find myself singing it whenever I see pavement, someone smoking, or feeling the warmth of the sun.
Broken Home: I don’t necessarily come from a broken home, but I know many loved ones that do. I’ve seen a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the world of parental disputes and it’s scary, they weren’t even my parents, but seeing that look in another person’s eyes, the irrevocable sadness and isolation is gripping. This song is such a great vessel for adolescents dealing with divorce to find unity in. It’s a well written song with such emotive lyrics and vocals and a major reason why I love this band, thank you 5SOS for this musical piece of comfort.
Invisible: I love the simplicity of this song and how it’s not bombarded with too many musical elements. Amongst all the songs in the album, this song completes me lyrically & musically. With Michael saying “What was it?” and then the transition to the typewriter (which is one of my favorite sounds, subjectively) in my mind it’s the sound of forgetting, of not remembering. This song illustrates the mundane of everyday life, and how easily we all can fall into a routine that numbs us and derails us from spectacular moments; it exemplifies the portions of invisibility that we can all succumb to. The crescendo that occurs at 1:53 accompanied by epic orchestral strings as Calum sings the chorus an octave higher really elevates the pathos of this piece of music. In addition, the violin interlude at the end gives it that extra touch of intimacy. I give deep veneration to this song because it’s composition as a whole is positioned in an atmosphere of intense vulnerability and I love that.
San Francisco: The opening melody exemplifies a sense of uplifting nostalgia and it definitely sets the tone for the rest of the song. In similar fashion, this song lyrically contains imagery with same respect as Vapor. The lighthearted chords, feathery tambourine licks and the enchanting drum beat complete this idea of memory. A memory of being completely in the moment and remembering how sweet being young and spending time with someone whom captures your heart can feel so free.
Outer Space/ Carry On: In adjacency to “Invisible” this is also in my repertoire of most beloved songs in the album.  The orchestral opening and the sudden crescendo when the lyrics “the rain it came too soon, I will wait for you” is attention getting, then proceeds in its natural cadence. There’s a grace to the tempo of this song and the message behind this song reminds me a bit like my favourite fictional character, Holden Caulfield. Throughout the novel, Holden utilizes alienation as a form of self-protection, he admits he is an outsider, watching everything change and that’s what the lyric “nothing like the rain, when you’re in outer space” reminds me of. Watching something happen and you’re on the outskirts of it, but you desperately want to engage in that experience too. THEN when you think this song doesn’t get any more emotive, it transitions into another song, with a ocean interlude bisecting the two songs.
Comprehensively, this album is what I’ve been waiting for, for a long time and it did not disappoint. I appreciate how connective the album is, and the natural progression of the songs as they appear on the album. I can really feel the thoughtfulness put into this breadth of music. I deeply admire the subtle motifs that are disseminated throughout the songs. Elements such as blood/veins, islands/castaways/rain/oceans, the intimacy of night/darkness in contrast to sun/light/fire, the idea of brokenness/pieces, and concept of elusive memories. I can foreshadow strong advancement with 5SOS and I cannot wait what else they have for all of us in the 5SOSFam. Here we are, immersing ourselves into the New Broken Scene; it’s a beautiful place to be.
Catch Ya Later,
-Kathy