After seeing the new movie Elvis – and knowing the limitations of the biopic genre – I wish my father were still around so that we could debate the merits, but not the film per se. It was more that he hated Elvis for his cultural appropriation. I believe that the film showed that the kid from Tupelo, MS (the young Australian actor Chaydon Jay) came by his love of black music honestly. (Unlike, say, Pat Boone covering Little Richard’s Tutti Fruiti.)
When my wife and I saw the previews a few months ago, featuring the somewhat older Elvis (the magnetic Austin Butler), my wife asked, “Was Elvis REALLY that sexy?” I SHOULD have said, “50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong!” which is (sort of) the title of one of his greatest hits albums. Instead, I just said, “Yes, yes, he was.” Her query comes from only being familiar with the “fat Elvis” stuck in Vegas.
I liked it a lot. Sean P. Means of The Movie Cricket wrote, “It’s big, bold, and brassy. It’s not perfect, and at 2 hours and 39 minutes still doesn’t deliver everything you’d expect in a telling of Elvis’s life story. But it’s always holding your attention.” Yeah, that’s about right.
Who is that?
It’s always nice to see the bits one’s aware of, such as Elvis singing to an actual hound dog on Steve Allen’s show. I don’t know exactly what his relationship with some of the black stars of the era was, but it was fun to try to identify them. I didn’t recognize B.B. King (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) or Arthur ‘Big Boy’ Crudup (Gary Clark Jr.). Still, Sister Rosetta Tharpe (Yola), Big Mama Thornton (Shonka Dukureh), and especially Little Richard (Alton Mason) were obvious to me. Sadly, Shonka Dukureh died recently.
The one aspect I’m still puzzling about is Tom Hanks’ accent as Colonel Tom Parker. It’s…weird. Parker biographer Alanna Nash says that’s not what he sounded like, which frankly doesn’t bother me. Nash said, “He didn’t have an impediment — he was just trying to wrap a Dutch tongue around the English language, Southern-style… But [director Baz Luhrmann] wanted to make him seem more ‘other.’ Or as Baz told me in an interview, ‘I thought it was very important that Tom presents the audience with a strangeness, a sort of ‘What is going on with this guy?'”
But “Nash did say that there are some things Baz Luhrmann got right with Elvis. This includes the suggestion that Parker did all he could to prevent Presley from fulfilling his dream of embarking on a European tour. It was unfortunate for Presley, as the reason had nothing to do with the singer but with Parker’s lack of a passport.”
I suspect Austin Butler will get an Academy Award nomination for playing Elvis. His energy and charisma, and talent are tremendous. All in all, I recommend the movie.
Very Jane Austen-y
“A young woman courts a mysterious wealthy suitor in 19th century England.” That’s the premise of the newish movie Mr. Malcolm’s List. Do you want more? “When she fails to meet an item on his list of requirements for a bride, Julia Thistlewaite (Zawe Ashton) is jilted by London’s most eligible bachelor, Mr. Malcolm (Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù). Feeling humiliated and determined to exact revenge, she convinces her friend Selina Dalton (Freida Pinto) to play the role of his ideal match. Soon, Mr. Malcolm wonders whether he’s found the perfect woman…or the perfect hoax.”
My wife loves this stuff and was very fond of the film. I thought it was fine, and the diverse cast was entertaining.
We saw both films at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany in July 2022.