…and the quest to see everything

Posts tagged “musical

2012: Who Is Bartholomew Cubbins?


A few notes about Bartholomew Cubbins’ Artifact, a documentary about Jared Leto’s divisive band 30 Seconds to Mars. I reviewed the documentary here on Entertainment Maven as part of my shitty TIFF coverage. As you can see,

a) A friend of mine told me that Leto is a germophobe which is half-true (he later confided in me that the rock star does shake hands on occasion). And obviously it’s strange to watch him walk around New York City, the dirtiest city in the world where half of the teenagers mob celebrities like him. How gentrified is New York for him to feel safe to walk around in?

b) There’s also this assumption that Leto’s foray into music is some misguided thing to avoid the matinee-idol fame brought on my his TV and movie career. But he’s starring and directing a movie, this movie, so he’s probably more comfortable within the movie-making world than I was led to believe. If anything, I have a new theory now that he only got into acting (he’s back at that industry again, by the way) to pay for the music which, as the documentary reveals, is not as lucrative even for big name bands such as his.

Anyway, the reason I’m writing all of this is to explain that in one of the scenes in Artifact, a quasi-movie star walking around the streets of New York was mobbed by a little group of teenage girls. One girl tells him that she’s his biggest fan, yadda, telling him about her favourite movie in the world. A brief guessing game ensues, ending quickly when she says ‘the one with the crazy lady.’ He correctly figured that the movie she was talking about was Requiem for a Dream, but without saying that the ‘crazy lady’ is Ellen Burstyn. Young people have no respect.

b) During the end credits, director Bartholomew Cubbins and the band thanks Olivia de Haviland. de Haviland, back in the day, fought for the rights of actors against restrictive contracts that the studios were signing them up for. Here’s to hoping that Leto, his band, and musicians under record labels, who apparently have little chance of making money in their music careers, will get the same freedom that actors do.

 


Guilty Pleasure: Love’s Labour’s Lost


We’re on Kenneth Branagh‘s adaptation of Love’s Labour’s Lost, a Stanley Donen and Martin Scorsese presented Miramax production! It’s one of Shakespeare’s comedies that I haven’t read yet, is about the King of Navarre (Alessandro Nivola) asking three men in his court, Berowne (Branagh), Longaville (Matthew Lilliard) and Dumaine (Adrian Lester) to embrace three years of study and shunning love. Unfortunately, Princess of France (Alicia Silverstone) and her ladies-in-waiting including Katherine (Emily Mortimer) and Rosaline (Natahsa McElhone, her Streepian looks having such promise a decade ago) visit their kingdom. Because of the oath the women have to stay in a tent outside the palace gates outside but that doesn’t stop the men from peeking.

Pardon the blasphemy, but listening to the men harmonize to Irving Berlin classics like “Cheek to Cheek” is an equal alternative to Fred Astaire’s seminal version. The movie’s 1930’s setting also allows Branagh and crew to go all out with the musical numbers, the set pieces, the one-time cabaret-style sexuality, the ridiculous newsreels about mobilization and the war. The colourful cinematography and the costumes are a great treat for actors like Mortimer – who would go de-glam in their future roles.

It’s also about actors who shouldn’t be hanging out together. Branagh, Mortimer and McElhone are fine together, his soliloquies here are better than in his own adaptation of Hamlet. Branagh wants to make things interesting, casting 90’s teen movie regulars Lilliard and Silverstone. Lilliard is awesome in SLC Punk, his American delivery of the Bard’s lines can’t be as distracting as Keanu’s. Silverstone, however, might never rub the glee off her even when she’s playing middle-American mommy roles, but that’s what she’s here for, to offer sunshine and girliness fitting to a movie about romance. If you’ve ever read or heard me call Silverstone a ‘Shakespearean actor,’ it’s because of this movie. I don’t know whether Nivola or Lester fits in more with the Brits or the Americans. And hey, this movie is probably the only Shakespearean adaptation where miscegenation is no. Big. Deal.

Nationality and race is no boundary to make it seem like everyone was happy making this movie, despite its overshot ambitions. Oh and veterans like Timothy Spall as the lustful Armando, Nathan Lane as the King’s clown Costard and Geraldine McEwan as the tutor Holofernia are in this too, camping it up singing and dancing with the rest of the cast. This isn’t just any movie, this is a PARTY!


3 Idiots


Three men look for their mysteriously estranged college mate, Ranchoddas or Rancho (Aamir Khan), and coming along later in the journey is his on-and-off girlfriend Pia (Kareena Kapoor), their ex-headmaster’s daughter. Rancho is so memorable to these characters because of the joy he has brought to their younger selves,  since most of these other characters are prone to suicidal thoughts, mental breakdowns and quarter life crises brought on by the general competitiveness of middle class, college life. ‘Life is a race,’ but Rancho thinks that a musical number is decent cardio too. Standing between the binaries that this film and its context present, he’s Western because of his idealistic view on education and love, Eastern because of his altruism and anti-materialism. What’s also admirable about this film is that it lets Rancho be wrong sometimes, its most heartfelt moment is when the headmaster, teary-eyed, tells him that he can’t be right all the time.

There’s also Pia, who, by learning how to stand up against her former fiancée as well as her father, is a woman more feminist than a Deepa Mehta protagonist. And since we’re comparing movies about India, the film also echoes the triumphalism of Slumdog Millionaire, the but the ride is wilder this time, taking characters to opposite emotional cliffs and back.


Moulin Rouge! nine years later


ph. 20th Century Fox

The only handheld moment I remember from Moulin Rouge, as Christian (Ewan McGregor) sneaks away with Satine (Nicole Kidman), cuckolding the Duke even if the latter if a few feet away. Naughty!

This movie’s whimsy and surrealism in covering late 20th century pop songs in contrast with Paris almost a century ago is a precedent to Ryan Murphy’s surreal abomination known as “Glee.” I understand people who don’t like this movie, as Michael koresky called it ‘porno garbage‘ in context of a review of the Hardwicke-Seyfried Red Riding Hood movie. I admit, I sometimes hate parts of this movie too. Harold Zidler (Jim Broadbent – he won an Oscar in the same year for Iris. I haven’t seen that, but I’m sure he should have won for this movie instead.) singing ‘Like a Virgin,’ or a ‘Roxanne’ in tango. In the end of the day, it didn’t matter whether the cast had the perfect voice, since they were auto-tuned just like pop stars and TV musical stars after them. But their gilded backgrounds help us dive into the film’s craziness, and as Christian belts out lyrics like ‘we can be lovers’ or ‘we can be heroes’ with an innocent enthusiasm and Satine, like us, can’t help but sing along.

I also believe this movie is created to venerate Kidman’s face, especially since this is her at her prime. Possibly the last time she’ll look immortal. Her emotions when Satine denies her affection for Christian, only to sing his loving words to him later. It’s really difficult to stamp any role of hers to be her best, giving something different here as she does with the naturalism of Grace in Dogville or the sincere upper-class pathos of Becca Corbett in Rabbit Hole. The first word that comes to mind is seduction, when Satine gets our attention by singing the words straight and looking directly at the camera with her big eyes. She doesn’t, however, shy away from the histrionic side of attracting men like Christian and the Duke, with high-pitched whispers for comic effect. Or when her game stops and has to tell Christian the truth, tearing up when necessary.

Also, when I was watching this, her face only has colour three times, when she’s adjusting her make-up, on top of the elephant singing along with Christian or when she’s trying to ward him off. She tells Christian that the Duke has given her everything, and anyone would have taken her word for it unless it’s someone as resilient as Christian. The rest of the time, the blue light makes her seem like an unreachable Parisian geisha, her wintry beauty under the evening blue light already foreshadows her tragedy.

This part seems like I’m over thinking this movie, but there’s also something interesting about her showstopper of a number, ‘Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend,’ a song she sings in two versions. During both times, she’s practically dressed in diamonds, shining as they hug her body. I’m not sure what director Baz Luhrmann’s intentions are, but using the song inadvertently puts Satine with Marilyn Monroe, the rest of the characters depend on the woman’s intelligence but none of them point that quality out. They both commit to their fictional selves. Their health and career are vulnerable and precarious, their broken hearts hindering them from moving on.

Let me now talk about the multicultural references in this movie include Switzerland, India and Spain (or arguably Argentina). I’m still figuring out the fictional turn of the century Parisian’s fascination with what’s outside them, letting pieces of the world in through Expos and caged zoo exhibits and, in the case of this film, cabaret shows. And the ‘legitimate theatre’ of the last act. The film also dedicates some time to show Christian, Harold, Lautrec (John Leguziamo) and the rest of the crew making sets and backdrops, rehearsing intricately elaborate dance numbers, looking just as fabulous as the finished product.

There are also some intermissions, when the bearded Christian is alone, when the titular Moulin Rouge is barren, its red curtains no longer blushing like a youthful face. The fictional world of the Moulin Rouge at its peak is still vivid and magical even if once in a while, we remember that it all has ended.


All I Care About Is Love!


I’m not gonna be the Debbie Downer who talks about how this movie is a satire of the demonization of women who vengefully act against the abuses they face from their partners. Or that the musical and its adaptations came out within different contexts, the 1970’s urban prurience, the 1990’s circus trials and the cynical escapism and ‘reality’ crazed 2000’s reflect the prurient, circus-y crazy escapism of 1920’s Chicago. This movie’s too fun and campy for that.

ph. Miramax

Not like I can cite these opinions I’m talking about, but Chicago today is treated as a shallow visual exercise, that other films deserved the Best Picture trophy better, and that it’s dated. How terrible of a fate for a film to be called dated. It’s only eight and a half year’s old! I don’t have the problem with the separate worlds of gritty jail and colourful cabaret fantasy, the transitions between the two are seamless. Maybe because both worlds are as colourful, unlike the drastic cinematography changes between the fantasy and ‘real’ segments in director Rob Marshall’s later work, Nine. My problem on that department is that the takes are too short and quick, sometimes the audience can’t see the actors perform their song and dance, especially with Richard Gere‘s Billy Flynn. Sometimes it shakes too much, like when Kitty Baxter (Lucy Liu) is arrested, stealing Roxie’s thunder, or the last number.

There’s been also been many discussions about the casting. Sometimes I think about what Goldie Hawn, Liza Minelli and Frank Sinatra would have done under Bob Fosse. I’m also  pretty sure that some of you are slightly bitter that Charlize Theron, Toni Collette, Hugh Jackman and Kathy Bates weren’t in the movie version we have now. Yes, I’ll admit that Gere is the weakest link of the cast. Sometimes he doesn’t know what to do with his arms. He gets a showy role but like every capable actor given a boisterous character, he doesn’t always turn it up to 11. it’s Although his renditions of his songs border on sprechgesang, his voice is still nice to listen to.

And he may be Mr. Cellophane all right, but John C. Reilly can outsing Gere any day.

I’m probably one of the people who will defend Renee Zellweger‘s casting and performance as Roxie. Yes, her face is a bit twitchy, but her dancing not that’s bad. Although I do have to see a stage adaptation for comparison in the triple threat department. She has a wiry, sinewy body, not as voluptuous as her co-star Catherine Zeta-Jones, like she’s lived a life of poverty. Her voice is also a little hoarse, like a female version of a schmoe. My favourite song from the film is starting to change to ‘I Can’t do it Alone,’ or ‘We Both Reached For The Gun.’ Nonetheless, Roxie’s songs always catch me, like ‘Funny Honey’ and ‘Roxie,’ because there’s anger and delusion to them. The latter number, when we see her body from tilting close-ups to wide shots of her body into the darkness of her fantasy, or when she looks to the right and finds a mirror, and more mirrors. Those are my favourite images of this film.

Zeta-Jones’ Velma Kelly needs the least defense from me, because her Oscar-winning turn’s pretty much well received even now. Some regard it as the best Supporting Actress win the past decade. Zellweger’s hoarseness matches Zeta-Jones’ raspiness, reflecting the anger and toughness that comes with her situation then as a dancer who had to make her way to the top and her desperation in jail. Egyptian dancers and her theatre background would be proud.


Mamma Mia!


So I missed the first 20 minutes of this. Sophie Sheridan (Amada Seyfried) invites three of her potential fathers (Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgard, who are more shirtless than the women in this film will ever be) to the Greek island resort that she and her mother runs. She does so because it’s her wedding soon and she wants to know which one is the real father. Her mother Donna (Meryl Streep) doesn’t know about all of this. We wouldn’t suspect sluttiness from someone wearing overalls.

Oh hai Sky, Dominic Cooper having the most ‘decent’ character here for his CV. Also hai Julie Walters, who gets blindsided by bad lighting when she’s with her co-stars. Thankfully she gets a song of her own that’s also an ABBA favourite and does her best to sell it, just like some of the other supporting cast do. Also Skarsgard in his most all-American.

ph. Universal

Seyfried here can handle the comic aspects of this film as with her earlier films. She talks over and under other characters so naturally and sometimes behaves as if she’s surprised by her own words. She and Meryl match both in the emotional levels, rapport and blonde hair. This movie makes the case for her being the best Meryl Streep’s daughter figure in film, the spot held by Lindsay Lohan’s underrated performance in A Prairie Home Companion, but thankfully Seyfried’s whining here still makes Lohan the victor. Speaking of mother-daughter, Michelle Pfeiffer was considered to play Donna, both Seyfried and Pfeiffer having those wide captivating eyes. Before I get depressed.

Oh no, the depression won’t stop, that despite the film does remind me of the licentiousness of the disco group in a time when they seemed tame compared to punk bands, ABBA’s music going well with the women reflecting on their former ways. As well as those ways haunting them when Donna realizes what the former has done. Streep’s vocals and interpretation are the best in this cast, making the lyrics lighter instead of growling them or evoking too much emotion from them. There’s also literal transition between the characters speaking and singing, which I very much appreciate.

Nonetheless they’re still butchering ABBA. And I can’t believe I’m actually putting ABBA on a pedestal by writing that sentence. It’s either Donna Sheridan and her friends (Christine Baranski and Julie Walters) sounding like karaoke that comes up short. There’s also Seyfried being pop autotuned, and I’m not even blaming her for that. I actually like her rendition of “I Have a Dream,” a song I know because Westlife covered it.  The seventies flair just isn’t always there, only coming up in songs sung by the chorus group. There’s an ABBA song once every five minutes, reminding us of the cast’s imperfect renditions. Of course, the adapted musical tradition of the songs being used in a montage. There’s also me hating the sight of men in swimsuits for the first time because they’re in flippers and singing another song. Why is Brosnan the lead male cast member? He has great chemistry with Streep, both cancelling each other out, but did they have to give him the most songs? I also don’t mind his voice, but it’s not like he can pay me to listen to him sing again. Also, why is Seyfried wearing a peasant skirt? I know it’s a resort but that trend is three years too old!

For someone dipping her foot into film, director Phyllida Lloyd jumps her camera from one place to another, going against theatrical staging/POV’s. Which I appreciate actually, even if I’m a snob when it comes to letting adapted musicals/plays on film staying as stage-y and with a meditative pace as many musicals and/or plays are. She use the scenes well and making it, I guess, cinematic in its spaciousness. She also makes everything happens so snappily, portraying what seems like a two-day time frame.

I also like the Aegean blue used in the mise-en-scene and costumes. They even use the blue in the shot in Donna’s bedroom, in both cases feminizing a normally masculine colour. The few times the film noticeably breaks from the colour palette happen in the film’s third act is when Donna wears a pink scarf with her blue dress, as she’s pouring her heart out to Brosnan’s character. The second time will be the yellows and browns leading to the wedding scene. I don’t know what those colours mean.

Nonetheless everything and the Chekovian crack on the floor, I forgive this movie for all its transgressions.


What things do you like?


‘Christmas,’ exclaims Louisa. “My Favourite Things,” a song from the infamously jolly movie musical The Sound of Music, reflects the bucolic existences of the nun turned governess Maria Rainer (Julie Andrews), and the kids get this too, Marta naming pussy willow (?) as one of her favourite things. She’d fit in well in Berlin. Liesl (Charmian Carr) names ‘telegrams,’ not just indicating Rolf, the creepy boy who sends them, but she also breaks the pastoral spell and naming something modern and technological. She’s becoming a modern woman, a potential improvement on Maria herself.

ph. Fox

Kurt names ‘snakes,’ reminding Maria of his earlier pranks with her and showing that the kids aren’t devoid of personality after all. I’ve been watching movies where the main/’supporting’ characters listen to others to understand them, simply enough. Later in the film, a wet Maria shows her master Captain Georg (Christopher Plummer) that she’s been doing her homework with the kids and that she’s one step ahead of him.

This movie’s very much maligned, a friend of mine actually saying that if William Wyler directed the thing, the film would be more veracious with its time. And he’s not alone.  But this movie is set in 1938. It accurately portrays an antebellum, when characters declare war through whispers, speculations and accusations, when the rich worry about their trifles and of what’s to come. Georg spanking his children is potentially as frightening as the Nazi ‘spider’ banners. It’s just as human to see joy in frightful times, while it’s insulting if a movie about say, our times is full of characters who are constantly depressed. A movie, like a nation, is allowed to reimagine its Arcadian past while anticipating is future, right?

Lastly, I don’t know if it’s just me, but the reprise for “The Sound of Music” sounds like it could fit well within a Summer of Love setting or concert. But then Captain had to ruin it, but not as much as these guys did.