Thursday, December 27, 2012

Les Miserables

Movie:  Les Miserables
Like/Don't Like:  Really liked, with just a few exceptions

Like just about everyone else on the planet, I love this musical. I've seen it on the stage 3 times.  I grew up listening to the soundtrack over and over and over again.  I once went to a show tunes singalong and the moment of belting out I Dreamed a Dream with a few hundred other nerds holds a very special place in my memory.  I also love the book a lot.  I think it's a perfect story.  So I was excited for this movie to come out and naturally I have a lot to say.  To the list!

1.)  I didn't hate Anne Hathaway.  Everybody knows that she's not my favorite actress, and when I found out that she was playing Fantine my initial reaction was, "Ugh. Of course she is! I'd like to spit now, please." but I went in with an open mind because I genuinely wanted to like her so that I could like the movie on a whole.  So I think that it shows real growth that there were only a few moments when I thought, "Oh, GIVE ME A BREAK ANNE HATHAWAY!" She sang her song, and all in one long shot and on key, which you have to give her props for, and then she died and we all moved on.  Side note: I think the short hair suits her.  It has turned her into the edgy waife she's always wanted to be.

2.)  Do not see this with expectations of awesome singing.  These are not trained singers who can act, like you would see on the stage.  These are trained actors who can sing.  Nearly all of them are outmatched by the songs. So just be prepared for Marius to sound like Kermit the Frog at times.  And Javert to be so understated that you wonder if someone should check for a pulse.  That being said - they all sang well.  And live.  They were not recorded in the studio and then dubbed in but actually recorded live as they were filming, and that takes a lot of skill. And what they lack in vocal power they make up for in performance.  Except for Russell Crowe.  They could have put epaulets on an animatron and you would have seen the same performance.

3.)  Be prepared to see a lot of pores because this was shot almost entirely in close-up.  Which was great for the really intimate songs but dreadful for the big numbers when all you want to see are waving flags and rifles being thrust in the air and not actors with their mouths wide open sustaining a note. I mean, I love Hugh Jackman but I don't need to see how many freckles he has on his nose.

4.)  So I would have made different casting and directorial decisions.  But I can't complain too much because it's Les Miserables.  The story is so powerful and the music is so breathtaking that even if it was nothing but close-ups of Anne Hathaway's nostrils (which sometimes it was) I still would have loved it. What I'm saying is it's hard to go wrong with this.  And it's hard to not get swept up in the whole thing. I wept like a baby at the end.  And at the beginning.  And parts in the middle.  And I had to stop myself from singing along with Do You Hear the People Sing. I really appreciated the authenticity they were going for and I felt like they captured the drama grandness of the stage production while still giving us an intimate film.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Gone With The Wind

Book:  Gone With The Wind
Author:  Margaret Mitchell
Like/Don't Like:  Like.  Although I would have liked it more if were half the length.

Much like Sherman's march to Atlanta, reading this book was a long slog. But it in the end it was mostly worth it. There's always something rewarding in reading a grand and epic novel.  Because it's so vast I'm going to need a list to capture most of my opinions:

1.)  Scarlett O'Hara is a moron.  And I spent 900 pages wishing she would just shut it because every time she opened her mouth she said something dumb.  She was selfish and conniving and dumb as a box of nails.  She was also spirited and brave and quick, which saved her a bit in my eyes.  I wish that she had evolved a little throughout but she stayed the same almost the whole way through. It wasn't until the very end that I started feeling sympathy for her and that still wasn't enough to make me wish for a different ending.  She got what she deserved.

2.)  Rhett Butler is the best kind of anti-hero.  Confident, unapologetic, roguish, handsome, mustachioed.  If he weren't such a cad he'd be a dream.

3.)  I thought the writing was effortless.  Margaret Mitchell knew this world perfectly and it was fascinating to read about a time and place from such a insider point of view.  I never got tired of reading about it, which is saying something. I especially loved how she treated her characters.  She never blamed nor excused her characters flaws. Because of that she had some truly profound insights into human nature. 

4.)  Oh, those Yankees.  Always coming around to burn something down.  Like all wars, the Civil War was much more complicated than we think it was.  So I appreciated getting the South's side of the story.  However, the most tedious part of the book was all the history thrown in.  It kind of got in the way of the story.

5.)  I had to keep reminding myself that this was a book written by a southerner in the 1930s about the Civil War from a southerner's point of view.  So I had to kind of gloss over the INCREDIBLY OFFENSIVE ideas about blacks and women.  I cringed a lot.

6.)  As far as an epic goes, this was a good one.  When things were winding down I could think back to the glorious early days at Tara with fondness and see how far all the characters had come.  It was a satisfying read.