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Entries in musicals (198)

Wednesday
Jan222014

Sundance Stills: The Voices, War Story, Song One

One can never be fully caught up at festivals but one does what one can. So today, three quick takes on movies I saw yesterday during a five-film day. Let's use their festival guide images as a framing device just because I always find it interesting which images movies use to promote themselves, don't you?

THE VOICES
This still from Marjane Satrapi's (Persepolis) horror comedy looks nondescript enough until you pair the title with a man looking at his cat. Yes, they're "talking". The cat is the Scottish brogued "Mr Whiskers" and like 99% of cats in films he is unrepentantly evil. (Can we form a Anti-Cat Defamation Cinematic League or something?) And then you notice the woman's head (Gemma Arterton's to be precise) to the left. Gross! One thing you don't get at all from this still is the film's hard working production design, which is relentlessly candy colored (bright pink is favored) and stylized. The whole film mirrors the strainuous commitment of the design elements but it's hard to know what possessed anyone to be involved let alone give it their all (I've never seen Ryan Reynold work this hard to put a performance over. Why use all that energy now on this?). It's cutesy and gruesome simultaneously which is an unwise and at time repulsive thing to attempt to pull off... but I should admit that the production design really works in the moments when it slides mercilessly off the cliff between from one moment to the other (Jerry's warped fantasies and the actual situation) as in a scene after his first kill when he starts taking his medication and we're back in reality. But still, this "comedy" about a man-boy who works at a hot pink toilet factory, eats at a Chinese restaurant with live Elvis shows, and lives above an abandoned bowling alley where he chops up women is largely unfunny. That last sentence should give you a clue as to what the movie feels like. It's like being stabbed to death by tweeness. The Voices is not even comfortable with being scary. This marks the first time I ever walked out of movie during a happy end credits musical dance sequence... starring Anna Kendrick (and other cast members) no less! In my defense this brightly lit comic number also featured an actor playing Jesus. Grade: D? F?... or maybe it's an "A" cult movie and I just didn't get it?  Distribution: Not that I'm aware of but I'm sure it'll get something. Maybe a VOD future?

SONG ONE
This image features Franny (Anne Hathaway) falling for her brother's favorite musician James Forester (Johnny Flynn) while her brother lies in a coma. Very specific plot set up that.  I had to brighten it in photoshop so you could actually see the image which just gives a sense at how dangerously low key this film is for a festival bow. I saw it in the middle of a five film day and fought off sleep (others succumbed to the sandman without shame) but I actually think it's good if extremely modest. But relatively calm romantic dramas about women and dreamy alt-folk musicians are probably asking for it with exhausted legions of film critics who -- I'm stereotyping but I see it all the time --  prefer harrowing and heavily masculine films to anything gentle and feminine. The big selling point is the return of Anne Hathaway (what a perfect movie face she has - all anime sized eyes and expressive memorable mouth) and the films song score by Jenny Lewis and Jonathan Rice (mostly performed by Johnny Flynn). If the movie gets a release I hope it campaigns hard for Best Original Song nominations next year. Weirdly, Anne Hathaway only sings twice and only in off-hand character beat ways, though the movie has a lot of performance scenes. In fact the film it most reminded me of was Michael Winterbottom's Nine Songs only instead of pornography inbetween each musical number there was low key family grief and a tentative 'help me through this' love story.
Grade: B/B- Distribution: Not at the moment. It's appeal is surely very limited but with no brainer marketing hooks like Hathaway and all the great music, why not a small distributor? 

 

 

WAR STORY 
Finally let's wrap up with Catherine Keener in a Mark Jackson movie about a war photographer named Lee who is shown abrasively walking and talking and wandering about in Italy. (Does Keener ever do anything non-abrasively any more?) Lee has clearly lost her mojo, is hugely depressed (a companion was recently killed, execution style, in front of her) and is searching for new purpose while avoiding loved ones on the telephone. The image above features her listening to a conversation in the street. Or maybe thinking one of her many dark thoughts. That lack of information is representative of the movie but the image isn't since Keener's massive helmet of hair is not covering her facial expressions. I found the movie maddeningly withholding in nearly all ways: narratively, visually and emotionally. Sometimes the focus on Keener in profile (essentially just a side shot of brown hair with occasional glimpse of her nose) was so tight that I couldn't even tell what she was doing in the frame. In one disposable lengthy shot, for example, I thought she might be staring at a vending machine indecisively and then she did something with her hands (offscreen) but the image was too hard to understand and the next cut didn't clear up what had just transpired. I couldn't find any way into the movie so it was inert for me as a drama, despite possibly intriguing dramatic elements like Keener's fascinating with a Libyan refugee seeking an abortion or a late film visit to a former friend (Ben Kingsley). One minor caveat, i was a bit late to the movie (I am very rarely late to a movie) so perhaps the opening scene explained everything but given the filmmaking elsewhere I highly doubt it. Grade: D; Distribution: Unlikely unless Keener and Kingsley is enough

Which of these are you most interested in and what was your last triple feature?

Tuesday
Jan142014

I Dream of Arendelle

Last night, surely prompted by Frozen's Golden Globe win and upcoming Oscar run, I dreamt that I discovered a magical threat to Arendelle. I helped Queen Elsa find enemy spies who were watching her every move through carefully planted glittery baubles placed around the kingdom. Since Disney princesses veritable sweat glittery knickknacks, you can imagine how difficult the foreign objects were to discover and destroy. [more...]

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Jan092014

Wintry Hit Musicals and Anna Kendrick To The Rescue!

This time last year the instant if much-hated hit Les Misérables (2012) was topping Billboard's Top 100 Albums chart, powered largely by Anne Hathaway's belting through hacking fits from freezing pneumonia (or whatever she died of - she certainly wasn't dressed for the snow!). Fast forward one exact year: the instant and much-loved hit Frozen is topping Billboard's Top 100 Albums chart and at the same time it's crossing an incredible $300 million at the box office. That's quite a feat. No Disney toon has topped Billboard since Pocahontas 18 years ago and no Disney toon (sans Pixar) has crossed that box office threshold since The Lion King (1994)... though if you adjust for inflation it's closer to a Beauty & The Beast (1991) level of audience rapture. But still... that's quite a lot of rapturizing!

Fast forward to Christmas/Early January next year. Will it be Annie or Into the Woods moving the most discs/downloads? Both of them are opening for Christmas but -- happy news -- they're not the only movie musicals hitting us in 2014...

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Jan082014

Link is the New Blog

Salon Laverne Cox (Orange is the New Black) continues to be a great spokesperson for trans people, shutting down Katie Couric's indelicate questions 
HitFix the composers from Frozen working on Bob the Musical for Disney. Sounds like a silly/fun project. 

Gawker Neil Patrick Harris has many margaritas in Mexico. LOL. #12 is my favorite, for the text as much as the picture 
Variety Meryl Streep's ode to Emma Thompson and Walt Disney diss at the NBR gala 

NYFCC Aftermath
Film Society of Lincoln Center has the audio of Harry Belafonte's moving speech in honor of Steve McQueen 
Variety reports on the damage control the critics circle is doing now 
The Carpetbagger on official apologies and Armond White's own denials that he heckled. Since I know people who were there, I know he's lying about other people lying about him.

Julianne Moore & Liv FreundlichFinally...
We never talked about Carrie (2013) after it hit theaters, primarily because I didn't see it. I guess it's on DVD next Tuesday? Up until very recently I had seen everything that Julianne Moore ever made after falling in love with her in [safe]. Yes, even that straight to DVD horror flick with Jonathan Rhys Meyers. I have only met two people in my entire life who love Brian dePalma's Carrie (1976) more than I do: drag superstar Jackie Beat (who told me it was her all time favorite film) and my friend JA at My New Plaid Pants. He finally saw the misbegotten studio cash-in remake and lived to write about it. He predictably hated it but actually found one nice thing to say about Chloe Moretz so that... surprised me. 

The photo to your left is of Julianne and her daughter so you can see that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree and also because theyre so pretty and wouldn't you rather look at that glorious matching set than a still from Carrie (2013)? You're welcome. 

Monday
Dec302013

Podcast: A Disney Double, "Frozen" and "Saving Mr Banks"

On a quiet Sunday Nathaniel & Katey get together for a Disney Double that we are surprised to realize we hadn't yet discussed as a group.

Is Saving Mr Banks a 'corporation knows best' propaganda nightmare or a rich investigation of artistic compromise or somewhere inbetween? Does the existence of Mary Poppins, automatically make Disney (Tom Hanks) the hero and P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) the villain? We're more enthusiastic about Frozen. We see its gears and its formula and we don't necessarily love the song score but it transcends. Katey loves the message it's sending little girls.

Asides, as we do, to: Titanic, Tangled, The Hobbit, Blue Jasmine, and Meryl Streep in August: Osage County

You can listen to the podcast right here or download it on iTunes and let us know what you think of this Disney holiday double in the comments. 

Disney Double

Tuesday
Dec242013

Stage Door: Why no remake of "Oliver"?

In just one year's time the newest incarnation of Annie will be on movie screens. It'll be the third major filmed version after a handful of Broadway revivals. So why can't its boy counterpart Oliver! get any love? Both are musicals about optimistic orphans who get caught up in a web of criminal activity involving boozy lying scene-stealing adult caretakers (Miss Hannigan and Fagin). Both orphans escape the clutches of criminals to find great happiness / wealth in a proper home in time for the curtain call. The sun'll come out tomorrow, indeed.

I'm on record as being a huge fan of the much maligned Best Picture winner Oliver! (1968)  but the current stage production at Papermill Playhouse in New Jersey (running through the 29th if you're interested) is unlikely to provide me with lots of new company. [more]

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Dec212013

Randomness: The Hunt, Film Scores, Burlesque Memories

I'm experiencing something a bit like ADHD today. I've started several articles none of which got past a few lines and worked on a few oscar chart updates or revisions none of which ever felt like I'd finished (visualdocumentary and music / sound charts). And I also spent some time stressing about Sundance which starts in less than a month and which The Film Experience will be covering. But mostly my head has remained a jumble of criss-crossed movie thoughts, so in the effort to get unstuck, I'm just blurting out a handful of random ones, a couple of which might feel familiar if you follow me on twitter.

• I'm curious to hear what your favorite film scores of the year because in this regard, I'm not sure I have any! I tend to be a fan of Alexander Desplat's work but I can't even remember Philomena's score which I saw so recently and which one assumes is an Oscar shoo-in on the composer's name alone. (See also: John Williams and The Book Thief)

• January 16th is going to be insane: Oscar nominations, Sundance's Opening Night, and the "Critics Choice" ceremony are all taking place within 12 hours of each other. Spread it out a little, showbiz! Seriously.

• I watched The Hunt last night, Denmark's finalist for The Foreign Film Category. Mads Mikkelsen is always super and his face, so full of confusion, disbelief, and hurt that's cutting as deep as the lacerations on his face from town beatings. He won Best Actor in Cannes way back in May 2012 and if the film wins its Oscar category in March 2014 The Hunt may well serve as the new poster boy reminder of how deeply strange global cinematic culture is in terms of distribution models. I've heard that people get seriously worked up about this movie, loving or hating it but frankly, either reaction is, um, foreign to me. It's an effective drama, and wholly plausible -- see also the Meryl Streep drama A Cry in the Dark (1988), a predecessor in how ugly "guilty as soon as your accused" mob mentality can be -- at least until the ending which seems tacked on as failed provocation. But it's also not doing anything particularly interesting cinematically or in the screenplay. I expected more from Thomas Vinterberg, who once made the genius Festen/Celebration (1998) which was famously snubbed by Oscar despite causing quite a stir with cinephiles. And I kept feeling like the final scene was shot at the same house where The Celebration took place. Am I crazy or is this true?

• I was at a party the other night (not a film crowd) and an older gentlemen, hearing that I was a film critic, asked me what my favorite movies were. When I got to "Woody Allen's Manhattan" he interrupts... "you mean Annie Hall?"

• Back to the foreign film finalist list, 3 of the 9 finalists each year are selected by special committee with the other 6 coming from popular vote. So which films do you think are which? I'm guessing the committee shoved Cambodia's The Missing Picture and maybe Bosnia's A Day in the Life of a Iron Picker but otherwise I can't suss out which film needed a committee boost since the other 7 finalists strike me as having obvious wide appeal Oscar hooks.

• Today Burlesque was on Oxygen and it remains insanely watchable. "Wagon Wheel Watusi"! It's not a movie that reveals something new everytime you watch it but rather a movie which just reconfirms everything you felt the first time and heightens it. It's RIDICULOUS but in a good way. And it's nice that Kristen Bell got Frozen since Burlesque has a bad case of Yentlitis -- "Only the star may sing even though we've cast a bunch of people with musical chops in this!"

• Finally, I don't know why I didn't tell you this sooner but I swear to god, last week I dreamt that Nicole Kidman was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for Blue is the Warmest Color. When I woke up I tried to go back to sleep since I didn't want this nonsensical actressexual dream to end. It's been haunting me ever since...

No wonder I can't concentrate!

What's going on in *your* movie addled mind?

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