Posts Tagged ‘reviews’
After noting in this blog that I had not seen the 1952 film in its entirety, it was total coincidence that The Wife decided the family ought to watch together Singin’ In the Rain.
I did not know this until watching the extras, but the film was MGM producer Arthur Freed’s plan to use his catalog of songs, written with Nacio Herb Brown, and used in previous MGM musical films, mostly from the 1930s. It became the job of screenwriters Betty Comden and Adolph Green to create a script that would make sense. They decided that making a film that shows one studio’s foray into talking pictures in response to the real game changing film, 1927’s The Jazz Singer. Hollywood is usually good at showing Hollywood.
Singin’ In the Rain is mostly marvelous. Gene Kelly not only plays Don Lockwood, “a popular silent film star with humble roots as a singer, dancer and stunt man, ” he also co-directed it with Stanley Donen. He performs the iconic title song sequence, which I had seen often, but it works so much better once seen in context.
Don’s leading lady in the silent films is Lina Lamont, played by Jean Hagen, doing her best Judy Holliday routine. She has a voice made for silent films.
Donald O’Connor, as Don’s best friend Cosmo, is marvelous dancing with Kelly, particularly in Moses Supposes, a Roger Edens/Comden and Green piece new for the film. But O’Connor is most extraordinary in his solo stint, Make ‘Em Laugh.
Debbie Reynolds, not yet 20, plays Kathy Selden. Don, avoiding his fans, accidentally lands in Kathy’s car. She feigns disinterest in his “undignified” film career, but later Don discovers she is not a stage actress but a chorus girl. Eventually, romance is kindled.
After the disastrous preview of The Dueling Cavalier, Don, Kathy and Cosmo come up with the idea to change it into a musical called The Dancing Cavalier. It’s at this point the marvelous dance Good Morning with those three characters takes place, up and down a flight of stairs, among other tricks. Reynolds, a gymnast but not previously a dancer, managed to keep up with Kelly and O’Connor.
I understand it from a historic context, but the one part of the movie I wish were a bit shorter was the flashy Broadway Melody Ballet. Not sure what I would have cut out, although it would NOT have been the parts with Cyd Charisse as Kelly’s dance partner. Incidentally, Reynolds’ rendition of You Are My Lucky Star, sung to a billboard showing an image of Don, was cut; nicely performed yet unnecessary in advancing the plot.
All in all, Singin’ in the Rain is a quite enjoyable film, and a cultural icon to boot, referenced in everything from A Clockwork Orange to Glee. The extras, showing where the songs had been used in previous films, was entertaining, as was Debbie Reynolds’ recollections of the filmmaking.
This hasn’t happened in a very long time: the Wife arranged for a babysitter, and we went to a movie about which I knew ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. When we got to the Spectrum Theatre in Albany on Monday night, I noticed on the movie poster that the director of Stories We Tell was Sarah Polley, who starred in the very good, but kind of depressing The Sweet Hereafter (1997) and directed the very good, but kind of depressing Away From Her (2006).
This movie was a documentary about the family of Sarah Polley. There’s a lot of chatter early on with several players you can’t possibly keep track of- but you will soon enough. The conceit of the title is that we can all tell a story, but it may not be the same one, even regarding the same person and the same events.
I could spend two or three paragraphs explaining how the narrative weaves from Sarah recording her father Michael’s recollection of Sarah’s late mother Diane to others remembering her, not always the same way. But it shall have to suffice to say that the narrative structure was extremely clever, very much like the layers of an onion being peeled away.
In the exploration of the story, which involves incredibly personal revelations, it seems that most of the players were in a better place as a result of the journey that the film captured, reconstructing the truth of their collective and individual lives. Sometimes the participants reacted to Sarah as director, whereas other times as daughter or sister, as they muse on family history.
It’s interesting to me that the critics liked it more on Rotten Tomatoes (95%, at this writing) than the movie-going audience (82%). The Wife and I, and especially the guy sitting in front of us, who had a hearty laugh, really liked the film. Yet I noticed that three or four people of the 14-16 people in the room left the film with about 15 minutes to go, when a film technique was revealed; did they think it was a cheat in a documentary? (I thought it was, if not obvious, then a likely tool.)
I don’t really want to say more, except that I think you’ll find it quite worthwhile. If you see it on DVD, try to see it in one sitting to glean the maximum effect.
It pretty much starts off with Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side”: “And the colored girls go do doo doo, do doo …”. The movie 20 Feet From Stardom is an exceptional documentary about the generally ignored, unknown, but tremendous backup singers, often black women, who perform on some the biggest hit songs and albums of all time.
Meet Darlene Love, Lisa Fischer, Merry Clayton, Tata Vega, Claudia Lennear, and Judith Hill, most of whom are or were figuring out whether they had the egos necessary to be solo artists, or Read the rest of this entry »
On my birthday this month, I decided to see the Oscar-nominated short films at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany. This was predicated on the fact that I might see Zero Dark Thirty on video, but might be less likely to find these. As it turned out, it was the very last day of its three- or four-week run. The program ran 115 minutes. The films were interspersed with commentary by Luke Matheny who won a couple years ago for God of Love, which as I noted at the time, was probably my least favorite of the nominees. Unlike the commenters for the animated films this year, I didn’t think Matheny brought that much insight to the table. It didn’t help that he was trying to be wryly humorous and the films, for the most part, were not.
Film descriptions were from the Spectrum website.
It’s rare that The Daughter has gone to the Spectrum Theatre in Albany; in fact, I’m not sure she’d EVER been there. While it is the preferred film venue for the Wife and me, it often has films not suitable for sensitive eight-year-olds. But the ads said that the films nominated for Academy Awards in the animated shorts category were “family-friendly.” This is useful to know, because we saw last year’s entries, and A Morning Stroll most certainly NOT Daughter-friendly, to say the least.
On Washington’s Birthday – which was when the Wife and I went last year; a holiday tradition? – the three of us sojourned to the cinema. In previous years, they just showed the movies, but this year, there was interspersed conversations with William Joyce and Brandon Oldenberg, who created last year’s well-deserved winner, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore [watch it]. In fact, one of these guys looked a bit like Lessmore. They talked about the struggle to get their film made and the surreality of Oscar night.
Maggie Simpson in The Longest Daycare
The youngest character in the long-running show I used to watch for the first eight or nine seasons Read the rest of this entry »
The local Police Athletic League was sponsoring movies at the nearby Madison Theatre Monday morning, $3 for kids, $5 for adults, and this included a small popcorn and a drink. There were three PG-rated choices playing: Life of Pi, which I thought might be too intense for the Daughter; Parental Guidance, with Billy Crystal and Bette Midler, which was the most attended, but not something I particularly wanted to see; and the animated Disney film Wreck-It Ralph. The cartoon won out.
As a television personality, there is probably no one I enjoyed more than Mary Tyler Moore. She appears on my Top Five favorite TV shows of all time, The Dick Van Dyke Show; her eponymous show is on my Top 20 list.
Looking forward to reading her autobiography, I was mystified by the fact that, for much of her professional life, she was a bundle of insecurities. Her success on her own show and Van Dyke’s she attributed to the talented performers, writers and producers around her. Her failures, on other shows and on stage, are her fault. Such insecurity is odd, and not particularly appealing.
There is a certain arm’s length in her retelling of her growing up Read the rest of this entry »