Musical | Kilburnlad | Film | Reviews


La La Land

We went to see La La Land this week. For a change I found myself going to watch a film that had received almost unblemished positive reviews. So did it warrant the hype?

It's a homage to the classic Hollywood musicals and perhaps that's what's holding me back from saying, "Yes, it was everything I expected, a truly wonderful movie." Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are faultless as two young people navigating the uncompromising pitfalls of show business in Los Angeles, but they're not Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. It is, therefore, in my opinion wrong to compare it with the remarkable musicals of yesteryear. Once you put that comparison aside then, yes, it is wonderful.

La La Land

In the opening sequence a 'spontaneous' song and dance routine breaks the monotony of an LA traffic jam. It's fun but I'm not sure that it will stick in the eternal memory in the same way as Fame or Grease Lightning. But it serves to introduce us to Sebastian (Gosling) and Mia (Stone). Sebastian is a frustrated jazz pianist working as a purveyor of trite melodies to diners in a club, a job that's clearly driving him mad. Mia, meanwhile, is working in a diner while trying to break into acting. I found the initial audition scene quite amazing and, quite frankly, if they rejected her, as they did, then whoever got the job must have been truly gifted. Emma Stone is an amazing actress even when she's acting at being a not-so-amazing actress.

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Sunshine on Leith

Today's film was Sunshine on Leith. Anybody who comes out of the cinema not feeling uplifted after seeing this film must be very depressed indeed.

You have probably already guessed that I thoroughly enjoyed it. The narrative is woven around the songs of the Proclaimers and it all makes for a very enjoyable 100 minutes of cinema.

Contrived - yes. Artificial - yes. But it's nice sometimes just to settle back and enjoy the fairy story, even though there were a few heartbreaking moments along the way. But, as with most fairy stories, everything more or less comes right in the end.

A Song for Marion

Today we saw 'A Song for Marion', starring Terence Stamp, Gemma Arterton and Vanessa Redgrave.

Basically a comedy but wrapped up in a beautifully crafted story of the relationship between Arthur (Terence Stamp) and his terminally ill wife Marion (Vanessa Redgrave).

I've had a liking for Gemma Arterton ever since seeing her as Tess in the BBC production of Tess of the D'Urbervilles. Her role in this film as Elizabeth, the music teacher, was made for her.

It's in the same genre as Quartet, but for me was more convincing. And don't forget the tissues. A comedy it may be but the emotions are raw.

Les Miserables

We finally got to see Les Miserables today. Fantastic. Although I suppose I'm a bit biased as I loved the stage musical.

A number of people to whom I had spoken had expressed disappointment with the film. Some thought the singing wasn't up to scratch while others hadn't actually realised that nearly all the dialogue would be sung.

For those who didn't realise it was a 'musical' I can understand their 'disappointment'. However, I think that those people who felt the singing wasn't good enough were, to my mind, missing the point.

The lead roles were taken by actors, not singers. And this is important, because whereas on stage you see things at a distance, and it's the music, singing and stage craft that carries the show, on film you are up close and personal. In the scene where Anne Hathaway as Fantine sings "I Dreamed a Dream' you get a close up of the extreme anguish and despair that this poor woman is experiencing. The song itself is a heart-breaker but with Hathaway's incredible interpretation the thing is almost unbearably sad to watch. OK, it wasn't the best rendition of this song, which has been performed by some fantastic vocalists. But as a piece of acting alone it was brilliant, and to act like that while singing, with the whole thing being done live during the take, was something very special indeed. To my mind she should get an Oscar for those 4 minutes 40 seconds alone.

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The Sapphires

Our cinema experience today was The Sapphires.

I didn't expect a great deal of it but must admit to being pleasantly surprised.

Definitely in the 'feel good' movie category, with some really good singing, lots of humour and, of course, romance. Plus the Vietnam war as a side-show. Basically The Commitments meets Good Morning, Vietnam.

The reviews have been generally good and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it.

And it's based on a true story.

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