Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is good at basketball, so it makes sense that he’s also good at throwing shade. In his new gig as a contributing editor at The Hollywood Reporter, the basketball icon weighs in on (one of) the day’s most pressing debates: Is La La Land a bad movie? Beyond the acting and the costumes, does the movie, poised to take home a lot of Oscars, offer wildly unrealistic perspectives on race and romance? Even though he claims to be rather delighted by Damien Chazelle’s musical, several lines from Abdul-Jabbar’s assessment belie a shadier opinion.
First, Abdul-Jabbar addresses the obvious: There are not a lot of black people in this movie. But it’s okay, you know, because Chazelle is an auteur who’s free to do whatever he wants, I guess:
No, I don’t think the film needs more black people. Writer-director Damien Chazelle should tell the story as he sees fit with whatever ethnic arrangement he desires. However, it is fair to question his color wheel when it involves certain historical elements — such as jazz.
But, that being said, Abdul-Jabbar would have liked La La Land much better if it were entirely different in every way.
Sure, I would have loved to see a film like La La Land years ago starring singer-dancer Gregory Hines, the master of improvisational tap dance whose tapping could sound like a jazz drummer.
In addition to being a basketball icon, Abdul-Jabbar is also a learned man. It’s natural for him to shade La La Land in its natural language: showbiz dialogue.
[La La Land suggests that] we can’t follow our dreams and have a decent relationship. The fire of one consumes the other. As Sportin’ Life from “Porgy and Bess” would say, “It ain’t necessarily so.”
Abdul-Jabbar also won’t be taken in by this selfish and childish romance.
Why do Sebastian and Mia break up? Because they are both obsessed with their careers and prefer pursuing those to pursuing each other.
My man also drags Mia’s aunt.
Mia also sings this about her aunt: “She lives in her liquor / And died with a flicker / I’ll always remember the flame.” Sure, you’ll remember the flame because you’re too blinded by your own ambition to see the real moral: She died with a flicker because she was an alcoholic burnout!
Calling someone “not a Christ-like figure” is the new “you’re not really a vocalist.”
The artist as Christ-like figure sacrificing herself to give her art to the people is a childish notion that is just bedazzling one’s self-promotion.
But La La Land isn’t all bad, Abdul-Jabbar insists. “The characters are delightful and charming, the musical numbers are imaginative, the soundtrack is addicting,” he concludes in the last paragraph. It’s just that the movie is not particularly sharp on race, jazz, art, or romance — other than those minor plot points, it’s fine.