Posts Tagged ‘musical

20
Feb
17

La La Land

What was all the fuss about La La Land? Since it got so many awards and nominations, I was quite excited to see it. After doing so, while I grant you it was fresh to see an update of a golden age musical, I wasn’t wowed.

La La Land stars Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, who’re okay, but not favorites of mine. They seem to lack that star quality that Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, Fred Astaire or Ginger Rogers and the like all had. It’s the story of two young starry-eyed dreamers who go to L.A. to fulfill their dreams. He wants to open a jazz club and save jazz as a genre and she wants to be an actress.

I’ve lived in L.A. and went to pursue my writing dreams. It was an interesting period, more so than the movie and less clichéd. Here we see a sanitized version of two one dimensional characters struggling to “get in.” He’s an arrogant loner and she’s a single girl looking for love and acceptance. I wasn’t particularly interested in whether they stayed together or not. I was surprised that Gosling’s character was such a churl. He’s rude to her. She’s rude back and after awhile they’re in bed, when they both should have kept looking for a better partner (or in his case done some self-examination and improved his attitude and personality and then found someone).

The commercials made me expect Gosling’s character to be a kinder person. I was surprised by how self-absorbed he was. He certainly wasn’t someone it would be fun to spend time with.

The dancing and singing were fine, but neither performer is as skilled at the old greats or as those on Glee. I’d have casted people from Broadway, included a few catchier songs and created characters that were more engaging and unique. Giving both of them good friends would have allowed the story to show why we should care about these characters.

The lyrics of the one song that I remember elude me, but the melody does pop into my head now and again. MGM would have given me songs I want to hear again and again. Song’s that were memorable like “Oklahoma!,”  “I Could have Danced All Night,” “In America,” or “Gotta Dance.”

The ending wasn’t as sad as I think the creators intended.

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26
May
14

Frozen

Frozen

I’m sorry for this pun, but I just need to say, “I was tepid about Frozen.” I started watching a few weeks back and that I can let a film languish is a sign that it isn’t a winner for me. I did like the art, the infusion of Scandinavian design and incredible icy landscapes, but the story didn’t grab me. It’s the story of Ilsa, a princess who for an inexplicable reason is cursed so that everything she touches turns to ice. Her parents are at their wits’ end, but can’t find a solution. For my money, I’d expect a king and queen to do more, lots more for their heir. Instead this woman is locked up and her younger sister is in the dark as to why her sister, with whom she was so close avoids her.

When Ilsa is coronated she inadvertently brings winter to the realm in the midst of summer. Ilsa flees to self-imposed exile and her sister pursues her. Her sister soon meets a dashing young ice seller, his reindeer and a live snowman. They’re all very endearing and clearly we’re in for some nice songs, a lesson on love, sisterly and romantic.

As I watched I was all too aware that soon Disney will put this up on Broadway or an Ice Pavilion near you. It seemed too predictable and commercial. Though I thought it could be much better, kids would like it.

25
Feb
14

An American in Paris

Milo and Jerry

Milo and Jerry

I thoroughly enjoyed Gene Kelly and company in An American in Paris. I’d never seen it before and loved the dancing and singing. It’s the story of Jerry, a surprisingly urbane U.S. G.I. who stays in Paris after WWII to try to become a painter. As the film opens Jerry’s a starving artist, who meets a rich woman, Milo who wants to be his patron. Despite being a bit leery of her, Jerry goes along with Milo who treats him like a pet project. Jerry wants to retain his independence, but he also wants to further his career. We do like him because he can sing, dance and smile. At a restaurant he spots a young French girl and becomes immediately smitten. He arranges to meet Lise, the French girl, who’s engaged to marry an acquaintance of Jerry’s. She hides this fact, as Jerry hides his interest in Lise from Milo his patroness.

An American in Paris 2

Oscar Levant plays Jerry’s wise cracking friend and really adds to the film. The Gershwin songs like “Our Love is Here to Stay,” “I Got Rhythm,” and “S’Wonderful” make the movie. The story itself is predictable and rather fluffy. The audience isn’t supposed to think too much about that Jerry’s either naive or manipulative to think he can take money from Milo and romance Lise with no blow ups. Likewise that Lise would juggle a fiance and Jerry is at odds with her being so innocent. Given the quality of the music and dancing, I overlooked the story and characters’ flaws.

I did think the end was odd. There’s a long dance sequence just when Lise’s fiance discovers she’s meeting Jerry behind his back. It wasn’t plausible that the problem would be resolved as we’re shown. Still MGM musicals have a way of eliciting audience’s forgiveness for such things.

01
Feb
14

Showboat

showboat1951_poster“Old Man River”, “Bill”, Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man“,  I’d heard the songs before, but hadn’t seen the movie. So it’s this week’s old movie. Set in the late 19th century, Showboat tells the story of Magnolia, a young girl, whose parents own a showboat, a river boat that goes up and down the Mississippi performing for people on the river banks. (It seems like a cool idea I’d like to see revived.) The stars of the show are Julie and her husband Steve. When a jealous, no good man discovers Julie doesn’t want anything to do with him, he tells the police Julie’s secret, that she’s half Black. Since interracial marriages were illegal, the police force Julie and Steve off the boat.

Since the show must go on, young Magnolia (Nolia) and Gaylord Ravenal, a talented, dashing singer are tapped to fill in. They’re a hit and fall instantly in love. Nolia’s parents are skeptical about Gaylord for their daughter. He certainly not stable, but Nolia ignores them and marries her true love. They leave the showboat and head to Chicago where Gaylord, who is a big gambler makes a fortune and soon loses it all. Ashamed and broke, Gaylord deserts Nolia leaving her with enough money to go back to her parents. He’s unaware that she’s pregnant. Julie also hits the skids and winds up drinking too much on a regular basis while getting by singing at a nightclub in Chicago. Steve has left her and she’s never gotten over it. When Nolia comes to the club to audition, Julie catches a glimpse of her and secretly acts to give her a break. While there’s plenty of coincidence, the songs and the emotion carry the show and make it satisfying.

SPOILER

I do think that the ending is one written for an earlier era. When Gaylord eventually returns after about 5 years’ absence, Magnolia immediately takes him back and the band strikes up a happy tune. Nowadays we’re more cautious. I tend to think more proof is needed before taking a gambling husband back. In the interim, Gaylord had continued to gamble. There’s no suggestion that he can sustain real change, which wouldn’t make Nolia or her daughter’s life much better.

Still that’s a minor flaw. All in all, Showboat’s wonderful songs still make it a good musical centered on interesting themes.

07
Jan
13

Les Misérables

WEB2LesMiserables

Though Michael Phelps‘ of the Chicago Tribune’s one and a half star review diminished my expectations for the film of Les Misérables with Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe and Amanda Seyfield et al, I did love the film. While I agree with Phelps that the camera work was bizarre with too many close ups for my liking, the music and performances overcame that fault.

The music was well done and I’d forgotten how many excellent songs the play includes. Yes, the emotion is strong throughout and there’s a lot of misery in the story, but that’s intended and rings true. I thought Anne Hathaway performed admirably and wish the story had more of her plight. Women were mainly victims in Les Mis and I think that needn’t be the case to be historically accurate, not that accuracy was the goal of the musical or that it needs to be.

I wasn’t impressed by the actor who played Marius, he seemed to much of an average Joe, or average Jean, to set someone’s heart on fire with a look.

One more criticism is that this film should have actors with French accents, not English. I seem to be alone in this idea that if you’re going to make a film about a foreign country shouldn’t the actors sound like they’re from that country?

All my criticisms are minor. Les Mis enthralls and is worth repeated viewings. I expect it will garner several awards.

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14
Jun
12

Glee: Goodbye Episode

Well, I predict the disappointing season 3 of Glee won’t sell many DVDs. I’d hoped for better with the finale, but while there were a few good moments, it was really just a mishmash of emotion and storylines, that seemed thrown together.

It’s been a year of far-fetched incidents and caustic humor that’s grown old. This episode was no exception. It seemed that after winning Nationals, the writers didn’t know what to do with the cast. Quinn helped Puck study for his make-up exam and her flat-line emotion inspired him to buckle down and get the C- (a Puckerman A) he needed to graduate. Whoo who. So much for music improving students’ grades.

Finn fooled Rachel, who got into NYADA,  into going on to New York on her own and this manipulation was packaged as a positive. While she probably should go, it would have been better if she decided to with Finn. This is 2012, right? Then out of the blue, more or less, Finn decided to enlist in the army. Quite a squandered event as no one but Rachel gets to challenge his signing up and when she sees the lights of Broadway, Rachel quickly forgets that her true love is most likely headed to Afghanistan. Are we to think she’s that vapid?

At one point, Will confesses to Finn how he planted the pot in Finn’s locker to get him to join Glee and Finn thinks that’s cool. He might have reacted that way, but it really didn’t seem worth mentioning after all this time.

One high point was Burt Hummel‘s dance to “All the Single Ladies” which he offered to Kurt as a graduation present.

Blaine, who really should return to the prep school where he’ll learn more, brought up the topic of breaking up with Kurt. After all long distance relationships are hard. Yeah, but Blaine, you’ve got all summer with Kurt so why mention this now? That’s what irks me about Glee, it’s far fetched when it doesn’t have to be.

Santana toyed with the idea of going on to New York and it seems she is NY bound. Her mom, played by Gloria Estefan, first wanted Santana to go to college as she hadn’t and the mom had been scrimping for years for the tuition. Their discussion was very rational and non-dramatic compared with real daughter-mother discussions of this sort. Santana’s gotten too mean and caustic for me to really care about her. She’s one dimensional and it’s hard to see what Brittany supposedly finds to love. I think this character, like many on Glee, is just a lump of clay that writers shape as they like without thought of consistency.

It was odd that during graduation, this little club that is a bleep on the school’s radar was so prominent in the graduation ceremony. McKinley seems to have students graduate in random order, neither alphabetical or reverse alphabetical order. This episode and the previous one about nationals points out one strange omission of Glee. In this era of hover parents, these characters’ parents, except for Burt, have been implausibly absent. I think the writers have missed out on good stories by neglecting Quinn’s parents after the first season and Rachel’s till this season. Seasons two and three could have been richer by bringing in more conflicts with parents. That’s a big part of teenage years and fits with our times.

I do hope Kurt doesn’t just mope around Lima for the next year. He can and should get into college. I’d expect him to have the brains to find another interest that he can cultivate.

23
Feb
12

Funny Girl

Funny Girl (film)

Image via Wikipedia

One of the films I watched on my flight to China was Funny Girl, which I haven’t seen in ages. This story of a talented ugly duckling, Barbara Streisand as Fanny Brice stills entertains. So many great songs – Second Hand Rose (which keeps replaying in my head) People, I’d Rather be Blue Thinking of You, Don’t Rain on My Parade. Barbra sings them all so well.

The movie hits all the right notes  showing a Jewish girl from Henry Street make it big despite not fitting the image of the WASPish beauty most Ziegfeld girls did.  Of course, you wish her chutzpah extended to the wisdom to know that all that glitters isn’t gold and that debonair gambler Nick Arnstein wasn’t all he seemed cracked up to be.  I suppose part of the plot’s momentum is watching the impending wreck we see coming before Fanny does.

As much as I liked Funny Girl  and appreciated the dark theme of “be careful what you wish for, ” I’d like to see a new movie about Fanny Brice, something more realistic that reveals more about the relationship between Fanny and Nick, showing whether Fanny ever saw her insecurity as her Achilles’ heel.

Checking out Wikipedia’s entry on Brice makes for interesting reading. Evidently, she came from a well-off family and Arnstein was her second husband. He was a mooch and not as honorable as the play or film make out. While the truth might not have gone over with a 1964 or ’68 audience, I think contemporary audiences could go for the realism.

Despite the poor food and scandalous baggage fees, I will applaud United Airlines for its improved entertainment selections. Between the recent movies, classics and TV offerings it’s easy to while away the 12+ hours from Chicago to Beijing.




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