U2

The view from our seats.

U2 played last night at the University of Phoenix Stadium. Yesterday, my son called me up late in the morning and asked me, “You wanna go to see U2 tonight?”

In 1984, Bill and I was stationed in Northern Scotland at a communication station at Thurso. That was a momentous year. We married. I gave birth to my first child, Steven, and we discovered the Irish rock band, U2. Bill was an avid record collector, and we frequented the local record shop weekly to hear what was new, finger through the rows of albums for sale, and listen to the newly released albums. It was a social event for us; how strange times have changed!

The owner showed us the new U2 album, The Unforgettable Fire. Back then, I remember listening to UK albums, flying home to the States for leave, and the new rave in the UK hadn’t been released yet in the USA. Vice versa. There always seemed to be a six-month lag. Once we heard The Unforgettable Fire, we researched and found three previous albums and connected the dots. “Oh, yeah, that song. That’s U2? Let’s buy the album.”

So we gobbled up Boy (1980), October (1981), and  War (1983). The happiest times of our marriage was going home after a shift and listening to albums while we drank, played cards, and memorized all the songs. When Steven was born, I refrained from drinking and smoking, and U2 was in the background while I fed the boy, changed him, and thought about my future. I was only twenty-one years old. I didn’t have a clue how to be a mother and no family around to lend support. A friend sent me a baby book in the mail, and I was glad she did, for I felt inept.

The concert last night was a greatest-hits concert. 50,000 people in the stadium sang along to the top twenty hit repertoire. Steve didn’t know “Pride” was about the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. “I was in third grade, I think. I didn’t know about the lyrics.”  Each song conjured a different memory from my past. “I Will Follow” from Boy made me remember when I worked out to get back in shape after my son’s birth. I still see myself jumping up and down working up a sweat. From The Joshua Tree (1987), arguably their best album and the namesake of this tour, thirty years later–really?– I was getting ready to have my last child, my daughter. My marriage to Bill was suffering, and the melancholy songs resonated with me, especially “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”.  

During the 1990s, I was divorced, a driven student, and hungry to learn. I remained in school for seventeen years while I started teaching in 1999 and continued on with graduate school. All That You Can’t Leave Behind (2000) reminded me of my commuting time as a non-traditional student. How many times did I listen to that album? “It’s a Beautiful Day” was an anthem song. During sad moments, I sang it loud to lift my spirits. How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb(2004) was the last album (CD) I bought. I was in my early forties and so busy with teenagers and school, I listened to music on the radio, but didn’t choose to buy anything.

Eye level seats. They were perfect.

So yesterday, when Steve called me up and asked me to go to the U2 concert with his wife Tabitha and him, I jumped at the chance. The last time I went to a rock concert was in the late 1980s when I saw Paul McCartney and Wings at Madison Square Garden. I was long overdue.

The songs were played loudly, and that baby from 1984 is strong today despite whatever ineptness I imagined as a new mother. While you may not care one iota about U2, to me, they have been a part of my life for almost thirty-three years. I had always heard what outstanding performers they were over the years. I just thought before I died, it would be great to see the band that had somehow sewn their songs into my heart.

U2 is unique. Who else but they could sing rock songs about getting the girl and God in the same song? There’s something spiritual about Bono. He’s a minister who tries to change the world in a positive way with his belief in the power of love and the power of the people. Looking at Bono’s wrinkled face during the close-ups made me smile. We both have been through a lot. Sharing the concert with my son brought me back to my days of naiveté. It seemed fitting that I would watch the concert with Steve. U2 has accompanied me all of my adult life, and I am the better for it.

Are You Not Entertained?

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I was. Here continues a monthly series featuring the music, the books, and the movies that occupied my time.  

MUSIC

Bach’s six Brandenburg Concertos epitomized the Baroque period. Introduced to them twenty years ago, and despite my leaning toward the passionate Russian romantics, I learned to appreciate the symmetrical beauty of Bach’s piano works. In the 1950s and 60s, no one denied Glenn Gould the title of genius when performing them. A quirky man in a world of his own, humming on his own recordings, I highly recommend the unusual, artistic film of 32 vignettes by Director François Girard (The Red Violin) and Colm Feore starring as Gould.

And then, for a musical treat, I got a kick out watching an old television program which featured some fabulous icons–Leonard Bernstein, Glenn Gould, and Russian composer, Igor Stravinsky. You can watch Glenn Gould play around the 18:00-minute mark.

BOOKS 

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It’s been all about Steve McQueen in my house this past month. For the winter project, I’ve immersed myself in Marshall Terrill’s biography. As a cultural icon of the 1960s and 70s, I was reminded how free-flowing the sex, drugs, fast cars, and fashion mattered. McQueen loved it all and was an international star, commanding at his zenith almost a million dollars a film. In 1980, he died at the age of 50 of Mesothelioma from his days as a Marine, scraping asbestos off the walls of a ship. Did I like Steve McQueen after reading all about him? Not particularly, but he was cool to watch on the screen, and the biography was fast and fun, just like the man. 4/5.

MOVIES (TV)

st-vinyl-vol-1-front-cover_3000Stranger Things, the Netflix series starred a shrilled, hyperventilating Winona Rider, an ensemble of geeky pre-teens, stereotypical high schoolers, and two actors whose characters were interesting: Chief Hopper (David Harbour) and the fantastic Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) who reminded me of a young Natalie Portman. Nostalgic, dripping with Steven Spielberg tricks, it is my new guilty pleasure. 4/5

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Controversial director, Roman Polanski, has a gift for making beautiful films, and this political thriller is no exception. You may think you are on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, but not so. The sand dunes, bulbous gray clouds, and windy spray was located on the North Sea island of Sylt. The Ghost Writer matched style with substance. Ewan McGregor and Pierce Brosnan lead a fine ensemble cast with enough twists and turns to keep you engaged. And that closing shot is one of the best I’ve seen in a while.   4/5.

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Quiz Show(1994). Directed by Robert Redford. Stars Ralph Fiennes, John Turturro, Rob Morrow, and Paul Scofield. It’s funny. It’s smart. Based on true events, Ralph Fiennes plays Charlie Van Dorena WASP, a professor of literature, whose ivy-league-Brahmin-of-a-father has basked in fame and respect for decades and junior sets out to make a name for himself. Unfortunately, his moral dilemma piques the journalistic interest of a brilliant investigative reporter played by Rob Morrow. The acting is outstanding and Paul Attanasio‘s adapted screenplay is an English major’s dream. Who wouldn’t want to sit at the family picnic table with academian greats and listen to them recite Hawthorne and Shakespeare while munching on corn on the cob? Okay, well, I would. Robert Redford warns us of television’s manipulative power, run by executives, who will do anything for ratings. Sound familiar?  Mark Van Doren: Cheating on a quiz show? That’s sort of like plagiarizing a comic strip.”  4.5/5. 

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For the Love of Spock (2016). Even if you aren’t a Star Trek fan, I forgive you; everyone should watch this outstanding documentary for the cultural-historical relevance (breaking television boundaries with interracial mixing and science fiction influencing the leading scientists of today) and insight as to why Star Trek fans are a loyal bunch. On Netflix, it’s perfect entertainment during a work week evening when you are loafing on the couch with not much going on. Nimoy’s son chronicles his father’s life with balance and grace. I vividly remember as a girl lying on the floor in front of the TV mesmerized during all 79 episodes. Then came the movies. That’s a lot of emotional bonding and why creator Gene Roddenberry and Leonard Nimoy are tops in my book. 4.5/5 

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The Innocents (2016). At first, I wondered if this was a remake of the 1961 Jack Clayton film with the same title starring Deborah Kerr during Victorian England. Looks great! However, this is not the case. This French film directed by Anna Fontaine is about a young French Red Cross doctor (Lou de Laâge) who is sent in 1945 Poland to assist the survivors of the German camps and discovers several nuns in advanced states of pregnancy during a visit to a nearby convent. It is a fantastic based-on-true-events effort by Fontaine.  My only criticism is the space between the doctor and the nuns. The nuns remain “others” and in spite of the intimacy of delivering baby after baby; the nuns remain foreign entities other than a couple of brief conversations. On the plus side, I thought it a good call in the script to avoid flashbacks of the rapes. 4/5.

 A Man Called Ove (2016) This Swedish gem directed by Hannes Holms and his screenplay adapted from Fredrik Backman‘s novel of the same name was a surprise treat. This dark comedy affected me to tears which I wasn’t expecting. The grumpy old man, Ove, (Rolf Lassgård) who can’t come to terms with his wife’s death, discovers there’s still meaning in life. He seems like the dull model of mediocrity, but his love story told through flashbacks about his beautiful wife Sonja (Ida Engvoll) provides depth and surprises. The grumpy old man stereotype turns into a complex character when the people in his present like the Middle Eastern young wife (Bahar Pars) who helps him realize that life has a purpose even when you think you’re done with it. Touching and beautiful. 4.5/5.

 

Are You Not Entertained?

Here continues a monthly series featuring the music, the books, and the movies that occupied my time.  

MUSIC

For anyone who likes 60s Rock and Roll music and music history in general, check out the 2008 documentary, The Wrecking Crew.  On Netflix,  it is easy to be absorbed with a unique story about the Los Angeles entourage of approximately fifteen session musicians who made groups and singers like The Mama and the Papas, Elvis, and The Beach Boys sound great. Their names didn’t make it on the album, but for fifteen-odd years, they played on hundreds of albums and created the iconic sounds we take for granted today. 4.5/5.

BOOKS 

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Margaret Atwood, The Robber Bride

What does Margaret do best? She creates a cast of characters, rich with dimension, and stages each with a different perspective about the world around them. First published in 1993, Atwood adapts the Brothers Grimm story, “The Robber Bridegroom.” Three friends are connected by Zenia, who rises to monstrous proportions and wreaks havoc on their lives. My favorite character is Tony, a professor of military history who sees the world via tactical advances and retreats. Tony plays word games by spelling them backward and noticing the how the spin transforms the word into a new connotation thus expanding her vocabulary in an atypical way. This is a clever example of how Atwood drapes details around her characters to breathe originality into her creations. If you appreciate character-driven stories, you’d like this one. 4/5.

MOVIES

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After watching director David Mackenzie’s efforts in Hell or High Water (2016), I want to see his British prison film, Starred Up (2013)Taylor Sheridan has an authentic, dialogue-rich script on his hands. As regionalist American writer William Faulkner was famous for revealing the death and disillusionment of the deep south in the early twentieth century, Sheridan and Mackenzie paint a gloomy, desperate rural Texas. Add the outstanding acting by Ben Foster and Chris Pine, brothers who are a believable team, and Jeff Bridges who reprises his guttural mutterings from True Grit to play the smart, irascible Texas Ranger, Marcus. His friendship with his Mestizo partner, Alberto (Gil Birmingham) is endearing. 4.5/5

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Hunt for the Wilderpeople(2016). The first third of the film was great. However, as the plot devolved into the ridiculous, I wondered what I was watching. Was it made for a young adult audience? The over-the-top she-cop (Rima Te Wiatta) made sense then. Was it a dark comedy for adults along the lines of Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom? The violence of the animal hacking and skinning and the themes of death and hopelessness made sense then. Sam Neill performed well as the hairy, grieving misanthrope and Ricky (Julian Dennison) was at times annoying to watch with alternating moments of flatness and sincerity. The lush New Zealand landscape was a plus. 3.5/5. 

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Dr. Strange (2016). I’ve read a lot of varying reviews regarding this new addition to the Marvel galaxy. Benedict Cumberbatch, who did his best to sound just like Harrison Ford, becomes the protegee under the marvelous sorceress, Tilda Swinton. I enjoyed the relationship between Stephen and Christine (Rachel McAdams), and appreciated the new spin on Inception/The Matrix borrowings of dimensional shifting and appearance vs. reality. The time-moving-backward scene was brilliant. I was less enamored with the talk and the trap of the golem. I loved the red cape that functioned as a cool suit of armor. Overall, it worked for me. 4/5.

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Congratulations, Viggo Mortensen, on another great performance. Wouldn’t it be cool if your brilliant parents hid you out in the middle of the woods, gave you lots of siblings, and you all grew up in harmony as a cult of the Übermensch? Captain Fantastic is a heartwarming tale that satirizes everything wrong with modern society. In the end, the individual vs. society argument ends with a compromise. The freak must conform to find happiness. The conformist must break free of materialism and live pro-actively. Far-leftists and homeschooling parents will love Captain Fantastic. Survivalists and naturalists will love Captain Fantastic. There is a lot to think about with this dark comedy. Let’s all turn off the television and pick up a book. I’ll start with Chomsky. 4.5/5  

mv5bmtyxmjk0ndg4ml5bml5banbnxkftztgwodcynja5ote-_v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_ Manchester by the Sea (2016)Yes, I agree with everyone that Casey Affleck gave an outstanding performance as the passive-aggressive janitor Lee Chandler. He wasn’t the only one. His ex-wife Randi played by Michelle Williams was outstanding.  Lucas Hedges played the tossed around nephew, Patrick, yet he annoyed the heck out of me. Many people know Matt Damon produced the film and indeed, writer and director Kenneth Lonergan, created a realistic, Bostonian culture with all the profanity that you’d expect. When the reason for Lee Chandler’s despair was exposed, I wept all over my buttered-popcorn stained napkin. I am not suggesting there should have been a happy ending, but I hoped for some type of resolution or redemption. Instead, this is a tale of a man who is lost and finds no solution to his guilt. It’s one of the more depressing films I’ve seen in ages. 4/5.  

The Wrong Man(1956) This American docudrama film directed by Alfred Hitchcock starred Henry Fonda as Manny, a poor musician from New York, who is in love with his wife Rose and his two sons. He is a sincere man, who cooperates with detectives who claim he has held up various stores and an insurance company. His wife, Rose (Vera Miles), cannot handle the scandal and upheaval of her life. Bernard Herrmann‘s score is a chisel to the brain. Hitchcock includes ingenious camera angles like the simulation of Manny’s panic in his cell by shaking the camera in a circle or the appearance of the real thief transposed over Fonda’s face. I expected something more from Fonda who felt wooden to me. Did you think it was suspenseful? 3.5/5.

 

Are you not entertained?

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Here continues a monthly series of the music, books, and movies that have occupied my time. 

MUSIC

Spoon

My son suggested I’d like the Indie rock band, Spoon. From Austin, TX, Spoon has been around since the millennium, but I wasn’t listening to them. I’ve been catching up and like their easy beats, clever harmonies, and rhythms that keep you in a good mood. Need background music at a party? They are your band.

Check out this top ten list with more videos by the music pros at CONSEQUENCE OF SOUND

BOOKS 

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A Thousand Splendid Suns (2007). Depressing and insightful. Four stories weave around the political dynamics of Afghanistan from the 1960s to the present. A fast, informative read. Khaled Hosseini writes with a graceful style. If you liked The Kite Runner, you will like this story, too. Though depressing throughout, at least the ending is uplifting. Highly recommend. 4.5/5

 

FILMS 

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Love and Friendship (2016)Sorry, period film fans. I was bored. The great costumes and gorgeous manorial setting couldn’t lift my dislike for the principal character, Lady Susan (Kate Beckinsale). Maybe if she didn’t treat her daughter like a pawn and wasn’t so shallow and manipulative, I would have laughed at the jokes. Sir James Martin’s character was so idiotic, it was hard to root for anyone except for the daughter, Frederica. I’m in the minority, here.  3/5.  

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Sully (2016) In the last decade, Clint Eastwood has rebounded with a formula that works:  he finds quiet protagonists who possess old-fashioned virtues like fortitude, honesty, optimism, perseverance, and fairness; with calm dispositions and a dry wit, they save the rest of us without asking for applause. They are modern heroes. Sully is no different. It’s an entertaining tale analyzing the five-minute flight and emergency landing through many perspectives. I can’t help but feel Clint is trying to tell us something before his curtain closes in Hollywood. How to behave? How best to live? In Sully, humans, not technology, win the day. I sure love the positive message. 3.5/5.  

Good Ol’ Freda (2013)Whether you are a die-hard or casual fan of The Beatles, there are lots of new details to learn from the perspective of Freda, the Beatles secretary, who politely and loyally provides fun insights about the colossal band without blemishing any of them. A great way to spend the evening. 5/5.

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Son of Saul (2015). This academy award winner for the Best Foreign film from Hungary is unique. Director László Nemes’s interesting cinematography confines the audience alongside a prisoner at Auschwitz who is Sonderkommando, forced to work in the gas chambers, when a boy who survives the Zyklon B assault, the clean-up worker, played by Géza Röhrig, devotes his remaining time trying to find a Rabbi who will give the boy a proper burial. Happenings and people are out-of-focus except for Géza Röhrig. The effect places the audience inside the death camp unable to escape. There are no transitions, no time to digest or refocus. Holocaust films are painful to watch. This was painful but beautiful in its message and the heroic attempt by the worker who salvaged his humanity. Once is enough. 4/5. 

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A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014). This was my pick for Halloween. I had heard that this Iranian vampire movie was a cult sensation. Set in a worn-down Iranian community which has the flavor of a forgotten Texas oil town, a skateboarding vampire (Sheila Vand) preys on men who disrespect women. Female writer and director Ana Lily Amirpour created unique characters and handles the camera with style. Perfect for Halloween. 4/5 

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Swiss Army Man (2016)I’m a sucker for ironies, and there’re so many clever aspects about this crazy film, I fell for the magical realism. I think Paul Dano is on fire–he impresses me every time he’s on the screen. It was great to see Daniel Ratcliffe pull off playing a corpse who teaches the hopeless Hank how to live. The script is superb. 4.5/5

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In 1948, Jack Cardiff won an Oscar for “creating color with the camera” for his innovations with technicolor. Narcissus is a beautiful, sensory masterpiece about five British nuns at a Himalayan convent who waver in the exotic setting. Light and color are used to express emotion. If you enjoy the technical aspects of filmmaking, I learned a lot about the process of technicolor and the behind-the-scenes story of Narcissus in the documentary below. First, if you want a scrumptious classic to watch, you won’t be disappointed with the cast: Deborah Kerr, Kathleen Byron, Jean Simmons, and David Farrar.  Perfection!  5/5.

Are You Not Entertained?

How many times a day do you seek to be entertained? It is elusive. It is dangerous. The rush of stimulus bombards us. The mob mentality of pop culture is easily distracting. Yet, I love music and books and movies and have no intention of stopping my search for fine entertainment. Here continues a monthly series of the entertainment that has occupied my time, for better or worse.

MUSIC

Tedeschi Trucks Band is a modern Blues band featuring the husband-wife duo Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks. She sounds like Bonnie Raitt and he plays like Gregg Allman. When I’m shooting free pool on Thursday nights, I play their songs in the satellite jukebox and relax. They have released a new album this year, Let Me Get By. Want to hear more? Check out their music videos on the Tedeschi Trucks Band  website. Try listening to this fine example of their talents in “Midnight in Harlem”.

BOOKS 

The Joy Luck Club was published by Amy Tan in 1989 followed by her adapted screenplay in 1993. I’ve seen this classic lying on desks and stuffed in lockers for years. I never got around to reading it. So I borrowed a copy from our school bookstore this summer and fell in love with Tan’s imagery and her parables and stories of four Chinese immigrant mothers and their daughters. It is an elegant book about the universal worry of the older generation who wonders if the younger one will forget the history of their people, the traditions of their ethnicity, and the fear they will be forgotten. 4.5/5.

I haven’t seen the film version. Have you?

The Road by Cormac McCarthy 

For the Lucky 13 Film Club, I chose Cormac McCarthy as an author whose novels become films. I heard how depressing this post-apocalyptic book and the film was, and perhaps that’s why I put off reading it. Actually, I wasn’t depressed at all with either. In gray surroundings, love shines brightly. Even with the horrific elements thrown in to spike your heartbeat, I thought it was a beautiful tribute of the love between a father and son. Viggo Mortensen carries the weight of the world convincingly. McCarthy typically stages the good vs. the bad in his stories and the good son (Kodi Smit-McPhee )is a beacon and reminder to us all for which side to strive. When the world has come to the end, will you run or embrace your fellow-man? I highly recommend both versions. 4.5/5.

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Now here is a clever retell of the classic story, Snow White. It’s a Spanish silent film and beautifully executed by Pablo Berger. Rescued from her evil stepmother (Maribel Verdú) by dwarves, a young woman (Macarena García) becomes a bullfighter like her late father. You might think a silent film would be difficult to stay with today, but not so. It’s engaging to the last frame. 5/5

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I enjoyed the background article on this human endurance story found here Is it a true story?Director Peter Weir has half the world at his disposal for great cinematography and Mother Nature doesn’t disappoint. From a Russian Gulag in 1939, a group of escapees journey 4,000 miles from Stalingrad to India. What could go wrong?

The natural settings are jaw-dropping, but if the elements cause the characters to become invisible behind scarves, masks, facial hair or sunburns, it becomes a challenge to remain vested in the characters. That is, the personalities need to come forth to compensate falling into the obscurity of a group. How about a little scene chewing? The only two characters who show a personality are a knife-swinging thief Valka (Colin Farrell) and lying, charming Irena (Saoirse Ronan). All the other characters could have been interchanged with any actor out there. This is too bad for Jim Sturgess who is the central protagonist and gives a lackluster performance. Ed Harris as the cynical, iron-faced wise one softens and mixes well with Irena as the daughter-figure. It’s too bad Irena didn’t have more screen time to coax out the rest of the group more. Their personalities finally rose to the surface like mud in the Gobi desert. I like a good endurance story, and this one covered the extremes nature can offer, so it was good entertainment. 3.5/5.

Hector and the Search for Happiness (2014)I love Simon Pegg. He plays the Everyman with perfect comedic timing and can turn ridiculous plots into fun adventures. While this story is lame, the lessons are always worth reviewing, for I forget where I put the keys to happiness. I preferred The Life of Walter Mitty (4/5) much more.  HSH:  2.5/5.

Being Jane (2007) I watched this one because I chose Jane Austen as a writer whose stories become films. Pride and Prejudice is a gem and this film suggests how the spinster had it in her to portray the complexities of love. It’s a nice twist on an idea. Being Jane was loyal to the period costumes and settings and the overall feel of the 18th century, but the principal members were miscast and disappointing except for Julie Walters who captured Mrs. Austen perfectly. What’s the moral of the story? Jane Austen learned that love has a happy ending if it’s fictionalized. For everyone who has lost love or realized an affair of the heart in another time or place would have worked, well, that’s Jane Austen’s specialty. In her novels, at least, the lady gets her man. 2.5/5. 

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Agora (2009) Roman Egypt. The Library of Alexandria. Rachel Weisz and Oscar Isaac. I’m interested! What a great opportunity for director/writer Alejandro Amenábar to highlight the female mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher, Hypatia. Science and religion are at war. Fanatical Christians are the aggressors against the pagan elites. Ptolemaic vs. Heliocentric explanations are debated. In this film, Hypatia suggests in the 4th century what will be advanced a thousand years later. Meanwhile, two men adore her, but she is an independent woman and not about to succumb to a man’s authority. Guess what happens? 3/5.

L13FC: Musicals

It’s June 13. ROBIN and I are happy you joined us to comment about the Lucky 13 Film Club topic, MUSICALS. From the stage to the screen or made for the film, musicals have been a part of cinematic history since 1927’s The Jazz Singer. Once theaters were wired for sound, silent films added pre-recorded scores and songs, and it only took a few years before the infant heartbeat boomed with enthusiasm by the end of the 1930s.

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Cindy’s thoughts

What I’ve noticed about musicals are the intense reactions you get when you talk about them. I happen to like Chicago. Others can’t stand it. I happen to like Les Misérables and others claim it’s atrocious. Really? Hugh Jackman sang his heart out. What more could you want from an entertainer? Please don’t make me watch Meryl Streep in Into the Woods or Mama Mia. However, Robin, my co-host, likes it a lot. I’m one of the few out there who yawns during Disney animations. Yes, even The Lion King. Why is Frozen so beloved? I never liked Beauty in the Beast. When it comes to musicals, my favorite decade is the 1970s. I was a teenager and thought the rock musicals were cool. However, my favorite musicals come from the 1960s: West Side Story, Cabaret (1968/72), and The Sound of Music. Still, I prefer the voice of Barbara Streisand over Julie Andrews. Besides our subjective tastes, can we all agree Bob Fosse transformed the musical more than any other director/choreographer? Probably not.

Bob Fosse His trademark featured dancers posing on mundane props like chairs, steps, and ladders. Dancing duos and trios, quads or the entire chorus linked visually in silhouette or by movement with exact precision. His staging used the extremities like hands and fingers to stress a beat. His sexual vision blended humor and acrobatic mastery. Whispers and pillow talk built to fortissimo eruptions that sparked the imagination and claimed the senses. He made sex on the stage and the screen artful, funny, and interesting.

West Side Story: The choreography paired with the orchestral music of Leonard Bernstein is so powerful, I’m simultaneously energized and drained every time I experience the magic expressed by the two opposing gangs. The bold jewel tones worn by the Sharks contrast with the gang’s reserved, cool demeanor. The washed out colors of the Jets contrast with their boisterous, brash personality. Their dancing reflects that duality. There’s nothing better than the opening segment of the musical choreographed by Jerome Robbins.

What are your favorite musical scenes?

Robin’s impressions 

The film, A Chorus Line (1985)  was an entertaining adaptation of the Broadway production. The story is about how people who are singers and dancers end up in lesser parts as in a chorus line rather than the leading singer or main character. Sir Richard Attenborough took the screenplay and gave it a few boosts of energy while some say he took away the homosexual entendre and watered it down. The plot includes a director played by Michael Douglas in his handsome prime, who interviews a diverse cast of various ages and ethnic groups. The book was made into a screenplay by James Kirkwood, Jr. and Nicholas Dante.The music was written by Marvin Hamlisch and Edward Kleban. While it was nominated for Academy Awards, Tony’s and Golden Globes but was “beat out” by great competition in 1985.

I love “One,” which I hum when I meet someone who enchants or interests me and I think, “One, singular sensation. . . ”  Cameron English singing, “Who Am I Anyway?” resonates. Charles McGowan sings, “I Can Do That,” with verve and gusto. A new song, “Surprise, Surprise” was nominated for Best Song. It replaced but had some lines taken from original Broadway version of, Hello 12, Hello 13, Hello Love.” Interestingly, Alyson Reed is 58 now, playing a variety of guest TV roles and characters such as a mother from Mad Men, Modern Family and in the older television series, (one of my favorites) Providence. Alyson sings as Cassie, “Let Me Dance for You” and another favorite, “What I Did for Love.”
From Richard Attenborough’s autobiography, he interviewed “a woman with the last name of Ciccione” and rejected her in February 1984, for the Broadway version of this. Are you freaking out yet? I did! She later became known by her own “singular sensation” name–Madonna.
I would give “A Chorus Line” film version 3 out of 4 stars.
My one-liner review would be: “This film had punch, pizzazz and poignancy all wrapped up with lovely music.”
The main advantages of the movie Rent(2005) are the fabulous ensemble cast members and Chris Columbus directing this film version of the Broadway musical. Columbus was able to get six leading actors who performed and sang in Broadway version. My favorite songs are “Seasons of Love” which talks about how many minutes and hours are in a person’s lifetime. It embraces the closing mantra, “No Day but Today.” There are several apartment dwellers behind on paying rent in this story plotline, and they struggle with sexuality, gender identity, drugs, and the AIDs disease in the specific time frame of the late 80s. One of five people who chose to put their money into this Tribeca Productions was Robert De Niro.
My true ending song was when the cast stand a few feet from each other and sing the beautiful ensemble song, “Seasons of Love.” Jesse L. Martin’s voice and Idina Menzel‘s (Frozen) are my favorites but each is invaluable to the song. I rate Rent all 4 stars.
The third movie, Mamma Mia, makes me smile as I think about how much better this becomes as a film than as a stage production. I mean, it is filmed on a Greek Island! Once you have seen the hayloft scene with Meryl Streep or her scene with Pierce Brosnan on the rocky cliff by the Aegean Sea, it would be hard for me to reign in my love for this frivolity and to put it back inside theater walls. The musical play was written in 1998 by Catherine Johnson and performed at the West End in New York City in 2001. The film was directed by Phyllida Lloyd and released in 2008. The music was composed by the Swedish band, ABBA. Meryl Streep’s Donna is relaxed and playful. Donna owns a villa on the Greek island Kalokairi. When Donna had a daughter, she didn’t think ahead to Sophia’s wedding day. As the wedding date approaches, the bride wants to know who will walk her down the aisle. Once Sophia gets the names, she invites all three of her mother’s lovers to come to the island. Pierce Brosnan, Stellan Skarsgard, and Colin Firth are the men who are potentially Sophie’s father.
What songs from any musical are seared into your heart and mind? Why are they important? 
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 LET’S TALK. 

I enjoyed exploring John Kenrick’s MUSICALS101.COM to gather dates and information about the history of musicals in film. It’s impossible to break down the decades and give a summary worthy of the genre. Therefore, here’s a hodge-podge overview, omitting many classics, many actors, many directors, and trends. The purpose of the following list is to trigger your memory and to offer an impetus for discussion.

1930s.  Busby Berkely makes the camera move with the dancers. 42nd Street revives interest in the musical. 1930 Production Code censors films in general. MGM owns Micky Rooney and Judy Garland. RKO claims Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Walt Disney‘s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. The Wizard of Oz. 

1940s.  Shirley Temple, Danny Kaye. Bing Crosby & Bob Hope’s Road series. No one topped MGM’s star Judy Garland during the decade with sixteen musicals and fourteen feature films. Her marriage to top director Vincente Minnelli propelled her talents. Gene Kelly was at the top of his game and so was Frank Sinatra.

1950s.  Says John Kerrick: “The 1950s were both the brightest and the saddest years for the Hollywood musical. The genre reached its zenith, with two musicals winning the Academy Award for Best Picture. At the same time, television drew millions of customers away from movie theatres and sped the death of the studios that had made lavish screen musicals possible. How sharp was the change? In the mid-1940s, 90 million Americans went to the movies each week – by the late 1950s, that figure had dwindled to 16 million. This coincided with the U.S. Federal courts forcing the studios to sell off their nationwide theater chains. Shaken by these changes, a long-profitable system fell apart with amazing speed. By the decade’s end, the major Hollywood studios disbanded most of their full-time employees, from the rank and file tech crews to the stars, writers, and directors.”

20th Century Fox: Rogers and Hammerstein classics Oklahoma, Carousel, South Pacific. 

MGM Greats: An American in Paris, Singing in the Rain, The Band Wagon, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Gigi. 

1960s.  Julie Andrews and Elvis Presley. The Beatles, A Hard Day’s Night. Adapting Broadway musicals to the screen: The Music Man, My Fair Lady, West Side Story, Funny Girl, Sweet Charity, What a Way to Go. Oliver!

1970s. Bob Fosse‘s Cabaret and All That Jazz. Rock rules: Jesus Christ Super Star, Quadrophenia, Tommy, The Rose, Rocky Horror Picture Show, and Grease. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. 

1980s. The Blues Brothers. Footloose. A Chorus Line. Purple Rain. Yentel. The Muppets. Little Shop of Horrors. Victor-Victoria. Hairspray. The Little Mermaid. 

1990s.  Disney’s New Golden Age. Beauty and the Beast. Alladin. Pocahontas. The Lion King. 

2000s. Chicago collects the Oscar for Best Film, 34 years after Oliver! in 1968. Moulin Rouge. 8 Mile. Phantom of the Opera. Rent. The Producers. Sweeny Todd. Mama Mia. Dream Girls. Walk the Line. 

2010s.  Les Misérables. Frozen. Into the Woods. Jersey Boys. 

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What are your favorite musical scenes?

What songs from any musical are seared into your heart and mind?

Stephen Sondheim or Andrew Lloyd Webber? 

The best musical pioneer?

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