Archive for February, 2008

Impossible Things Happen Every Day

There have been countless interpretations of the classic tale of “Cinderella.” There is the classic Disney film, Ella Enchanted, Pretty Woman, Cinderfella (starring Jerry Lewis in a movie with a male twist to the tale), and several others in all media. My personal favorite is the Rodgers and Hammerstein version which began as a television special in 1957 starring a young Julie Andrews (fresh from her role as Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady).

I believe the role of the fairy godmother in this version is different than most interpretations. She not only creates a fancy dress, a wonderful carriage, and all the accessories to get Cinderella to the Prince’s ball; she also encourages the young lady to get up and get out of her life of servitude to her evil stepmother. “Fal-do-ral and Fiddle-de-de. Fiddly faddly foodle; All the dreamers in the world are silly in the noodle.” It is fine to dream about something but if you are unwilling to try and pursue a dream then a dream is all it will be.

Of course any musical is only as good as its supporting characters. One of the most memorable roles in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella is the Herald. He has the dauntless task of announcing to the townspeople that “The Prince is giving a ball.” He has to sing through the mile long list that is the Prince’s name as well as the King’s and Queen’s. The Prince’s name: Christopher Rupert Vwindemere Vlademere Carl Alexander Francois Reginald Lancelot Herman. Quite a mouthful! The Queen’s name: Queen Constantina Charlotte Ermintrude Guinevere Maizie. The King’s name: King Maxmillian Godfrey Ladislaus Leopold Sydney. Hope I did not forget anyone.

This version has been made into three other films and has been staged by numerous theatres. Most recently, a version was seen on television in 1995 starring Whitney Houston, Brandy, Whoopi Goldberg, Victor Garber, AND Jason Alexander. A perfect movie for the whole family.

QUIET!!!!

Ok…. so last night was dress rehearsal for Murder with a Silver Spoon to be presented Saturday night at Orchard Hills Country Club in Bryan, Ohio. Let’s just say it was an interesting rehearsal. To begin, our stage was cut from a huge space which was three smaller rooms minus retractable walls to one small area. Apparently, we were sharing the club with a group who was having a banquet. The space was not the important part. While waiting in the hall for their entrances, a few actors were told by the other group to keep the noise down… seriously. This proved to be very difficult especially for one performer who is full of energy and found it hard to keep the volume down while maintaining his energetic persona. He had to be constantly reminded to tone it down so we would not disturb the other room. Following the dress rehearsal, the director jokingly commented that she had trouble hearing anyone and that the energy was lacking. It was a good thing that Wednesday night’s rehearsal was such a success.

Spread Some Sunshine

Smiley FaceAny family who sees themselves as dysfunctional needs to watch the movie Little Miss Sunshine. The Hoover clan gives new definition to the term. At the head of the household, we have the motivational speaker (played by Greg Kinnear) who is himself a total loser. The frazzled, chain smoking mother (Toni Collette) whose idea of a home-cooked meal is a bucket of fast food chicken…. cleverly disguised as NOT KFC. The clinically depressed, suicidal uncle (the brilliant Steve Carell) who lost the title of #1 Proust student to the new lover of his ex-boyfriend. The rebellious, teenage, Nietszche follower who has taken a vow of silence (Paul Dano). FINALLY, we have the fun-loving, expletive shouting, drug addicted grandfather (Alan Arkin). They all pile into the family VW van in order to take little Olive (Abigail Breslin) from Albuquerque to Redondo Beach to compete in the Little Miss Sunshine beauty contest.

While on this road trip, the Hoover’s learn some valuable lessons. You should never apologize for yourselves no matter how dysfunctional you are. Little girls who eat ice cream may or may not get fat. AND (strangest of all) pornography can be viewed as a sign from God; or at least be useful when pulled over by the police.

While the film contains a magnificent ensemble cast, one character in the movie deserves extra credit. The poor van that almost seemed to have a personality all its own. It should have been given a screen credit. Its broken horn gave voice to the pain it must have been feeling as it continued on the long journey with a bunch of kooks. Not since THE ORIGINAL Herbie the Love Bug has a Volkswagen been as memorable a character as any human.

The Amazing Spider-Man

Returning to the genre of superhero franchise movies, one of the most successful series of movies in the last decade has been the three Spider-Man films. I believe that what has made these films so special is that they each retain the same core cast: Tobey Maguire (Peter Parker/Spider-Man), Kirsten Dunst (Mary Jane Watson), and James Franco (Harry Osborne). Plus, Sam Raimi has been the director of each of the movies. So many times a franchise fails because it goes through multiple directors. The four main people involved in these films have each stated that if any of the others were to leave then they would also. I do not think a good Spider-Man movie could be made if any of them were to step aside.

Each of the films develops the three characters in new ways, primarily the main character. The original film shows how Peter becomes the webslinger and begins to accept the sage advice of his Uncle Ben: “With great power comes great responsibility.” Spider-Man 2 finds the hero attempting to find a balance between his life behind the mask and that of Peter Parker. Spider-Man 3 takes Peter on a journey of his dark side and forces him to see how far his power can take him.

So many times action/adventure movies are just that: action, adventure but no character. With a director such as Sam Raimi who really cares about the characters he is putting on film, the three Spider-Man films thrived. Not only do audiences thrill to the escapades of “your friendly neighborhood superhero” but they also see into the life of Peter Parker and the characters around him.

Imagine

WOW…. that is all I can say about the final singer on American Idol tonight (and I know that I am going off on another tangent here).  When a 17 year old hopeful performs one of the most difficult songs from any era as if it were made for him then it deserves some acknowledgment.  This is the first night I have actually had a chance to enjoy an episode with play practices going on and such.  There were probably 3 of the top 10 guys whom I would even consider voting for (I do not vote).  However when young David Archuleta came out and nailed John Lennon’s “Imagine,” I thought that he is sure to be one of the final contestants.  Strangely, the performer chose to start on the final verse of the song.  Randy Jackson even commented on the choice.  Contestants are only allowed so much time to perform so David brilliantly chose to sing the verse that meant the most to him.  The young man’s tone, range, and overall execution of the classic song just sent chills throughout my whole body.  I find it totally flabbergasting how a 17 year old (who was not alive when John Lennon wrote and sang the classic) could even attempt such a remarkable, challenging piece.  I’m not sure that I would even try to master such a memorable selection.

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world



Tis the season to be Mary

Ok…. it is not Christmas time. However, as we are under a dreaded Winter Storm Warning I felt like talking about one of my favorite Yuletide movies. As I was playing Scene It with my niece earlier this evening, this question was raised: “In the National Lampoon Vacation movies, what was the nickname of Clark Griswold’s son?” Of course anyone who has seen the misadventures of the Chicago suburban family knows the answer: Rusty.

Christmas Vacation is my favorite of the four films (yes, there were four…. let us not forget the travesty that was Vegas Vacation). It shows the hapless Griswold clan as they do their best to entertain their whole extended family (both sides mind you). Everything from chopping down the family Christmas tree to the reading of “A Visit from St. Nick” on Christmas Eve. My favorite scene from this classic has to be Clark hanging from the eavestrough attempting to staple lights onto the roof. I can imagine my father doing the same thing…. even attaching his coat sleeve to the roof and sliding down with the collapsing ladder.

One nitpicky bit though. Speaking of Rusty (as well as Audrey, the daughter), they seemed to age differently in each movie. The young man seemed to decrease in age between European Vacation and Christmas Vacation. Rusty was played by Jason Lively (?) in Europe and by Johnny Galecki (before he was cast as Darlene’s boyfriend on “Roseanne”) at Christmas. I often wondered why the change in age. It’s not as if Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, and Randy Quaid could decrease in age. Just a minor quibble to an otherwise hilarious holiday tradition.

Sunday Bloody Sunday

Well… another Oscar night has come and gone. I was actually please with my ballot results this year: 10/24!!!! I usually do much worse. Perhaps it was the thrill of actually having something to win that created the competitive urge in me. Most of the movies nominated this year in the BIG catergories were not ones you would expect to see in Northwest OHHO so you do the best with what you have.

I started off on a roll. I think I successfully picked 4 or five in a row. THEN, we got to the technical awards. Most of these were won by The Bourne Ultimatum. I have seen the first two films in the Matt Damon starring spy trilogy but have yet to see the third and that won for Best Sound Mixing and Sound Editing. How terrible would it have been if it had won one and not both awards.

Another downfall was in Best Song. I should have known that when a movie (even a Disney movie) is nominated more than once in the same catergory, it is the kiss of death. I know very little about the movie Once from which the song “Falling Slowly” comes.

The contest came down to the final award: Best Picture. Three of us were tied. I picked There Will Be Blood. WRONG!!!! AH, well… I was really pleased with my results. I won two packages of gift bags which is a quite useful prize and did not end up with the Spider-Man cap that I provided as a prize.

BEEE True To You

This above all: To thine own self be true,

And it must follow, as the night the day,

Thou canst not then be false to any man.

Hamlet, Act I scene iii

 

 

 

 

How rich these words sound nearly 400 years after William Shakespeare put them to paper. Polonius is advising his son Laertes to be true to himself and he will be true to those around him. Know himself for the person he is before others can know the true him. Many works of art have included this theme within them. One example is a seemingly simple movie: Disney’s Aladdin.

Aladdin is a street wise beggar who lives by his wits in the village of Agrabah. However, he longs to be much more. One day in the marketplace, Aladdin comes face to face with a beautiful young lady who appears to be a common peasant girl until she reveals herself as the fair Princess Jasmine. When he finds a magic lamp, a comical genie appears and grants him three wishes. Almost immediately, the young peasant wishes to be something he is not: a prince. As Prince Aliababwa (or Ali Abooboo), the streetrat fumbles around making himself look totally foolish as he tries to win the heart of Princess Jasmine.

One night, Ali takes Jasmine on a magic carpet ride to show her a “Whole New World.” However, even before the couple go on their flight, Jasmine begins to see beneath the “prince’s” disguise. Following the date, Jasmine tricks Aladdin into admitting his ruse. BUT, riddle me this, why was it ok for Jasmine to pretend to be something she was not in the marketplace? Can we say….EEEEVIL WOMAN.

There must be thousands of books, movies, songs, plays, or any type of art which attempts to convey the message of honesty to one’s self. Isn’t it ironic how such a fun Disney cartoon displays this message to children of all ages? Take the time to look back at the best of Disney’s animated movies and see how many of life’s lessons you can discover.

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Inspiration

Everyone has a passion in life. For some it is a hobby. Others maybe family. But whatever it is, most have to learn to balance their passion with what may seem like the mundane world of everyday life. In the movie Mr. Holland’s Opus, one man struggles to do just that and along the way finds that his passion in life may have changed.

Richard Dreyfuss portrays Glenn Holland, a would-be composer who accepts a “day job” teaching music appreciation to high school students. During the course of his 40 year career, he finds that he has the power to instill passion in others. A clarinetist lacking confidence and an academically challenged athlete who HAS to take his course to fulfill his graduation requirements are just two of the students he encounters. My favorite student is the young promising singer who he encourages to follow her dream. Glenn not only inspires musically but in all aspects of life.

However, Mr. Holland’s personal life is often filled with turmoil. He spends a lifetime searching for the inspiration to compose his one great piece of music. He struggles to find a balance between work and family. His musical passion and his family life are put to the ultimate test when his young son, Cole loses his hearing. A brilliant scene shows Mr. Holland attempting to bridge the rift with his son my performing a personal rendition of John Lennon’s “Beautiful Boy.”

Some intriguing historical flashbacks are used to show the passage of time. This creates the illusion that the audience is watching a movie based upon the events of a real person. The Vietnam War is seen through flashbacks and creates drama in Mr. Holland’s life.

Mr. Holland’s Opus is a remarkable movie for anyone who has inspired or been inspired. It is sentimental without being sappy.

Holy Bologna, Batman

Sometimes a movie franchise which begins on a promising note can take a big leap downhill. One case would be the Batman films began by Tim Burton in 1989. The original Batman was dark, very atmospheric, close to the comics began in 1939. By the time Batman and Robin was made, the movies were an all out farce. In 2005, enough time had gone by to attempt a rebirth of sorts with Batman Begins.

Batman and Robin ended the franchise for several reasons. George Clooney did not a Batman make. He even considered the performance terrible. Perhaps he wanted to be part of a sure-fire money making movie series but upon reading the script found himself in trouble.

The villains were lame. Mr. Freeze was a carry over from the 60s television show and was a laughable character at best. Arnold Schwarzenegger seems well cast in movies in which he can deliver memorable catch phrases (Hasta la vista, baby; I’ll be back; Chill out). That seems to what he does best in any movie he is in to say nothing of his ability to govern the richest, most populous state in the country.

Another great big flaw was in costume design. In some awful anatomical promotion, a cod piece was added to the Bat-costume. To add even more insult, nipples were added to the chest area. These may not have been so noticable had it not been necessary to blatantly display both in close up shotsbatman-and-robin-6.jpg. This must have been an attempt to promote the new and improved Bat-suit. And who to blame for this…. the director himself, Joel Schumaker (who should take all the blame for this mess).

After the success of Batman Begins, one can hope that the superhero will once again return to the movies in a good way.

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