Tuesday, December 16, 2014

How to be a Writer, According to Rom-Coms

I think we all can agree that writing, whether its as a novelist, a journalist or a blogger, is the sexiest profession out there. Just kidding; but there are several romantic comedies that romanticize and glorify this wonderful artform. According to these cinematic criteria, this is what you need if you want to consider yourself ONE OF THEM; I’m currently waiting for my own film to come out with Scarlett Johansson starring as me.

Knowing no limits: Ambition is key in order to go after a great story and be able to write about it accurately. In How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days, Andie (Kate Hudson) goes after her story, which is basically what not to do when dating someone. Everything she does to Ben (Matthew McConaughey) is cringeworthy. Who could ever forget Meryl Streep’s performance as the relentless Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada? It’s one thing to be writing for an elite magazine, but as Miranda’s personal assistant, Andie (Anne Hathaway) does anything and everything in order to get a good reputation working under such an esteemed editor.  In Scoop, journalism student Sondra (Scarlett Johansson) even puts her one life at risk in order to unravel the story behind mysterious tarot card murders by having an affair with the alleged killer (Hugh Jackman).

Amazing style: Despite her clueless behavior, Rebecca Bloomwood (Isla Fisher) of Confessions of a Shopaholic is tres chic. Even though she spends her salary on clothes, shoes and jewelry more than what is probably her rent, she looks phenomenal whenever she does try to impress Luke Brandon (Hugh Dancy). Besides, it’s hard to sit through that film and not want everything she owns. You would also want to have lots of dresses like (Katherine Heigl) in 27 Dresses, even if they are the results of being a bridesmaid at 27 weddings.  

A positive attitude: Despite the challenges of being a writer, it is important to keep your chin up and your pencil at hand. It can be stressful working with deadlines, editors, and balancing your passion between your personal life. In Julie and Julia, though distressed Julia Powell (Amy Adams) cooks her way through Julia Child’s cookbook. In 13 Going on 30, (Jennifer Garner) experiences the gravity of what it is like to be an adult, with only thirteen years of life experience under her belt.  Despite this, she makes the best of her situation and brings her young-at-heart ways into the “real world.”

A beautiful city: What better place to sit at a cafe and write with a cappuccino by your side than Paris? In Midnight in Paris, the hopeless romantic screenwriter Gil (Owen Wilson), takes a trip to the city of lights with his fiance. One night, when wandering through the streets of Paris, he gets transported into the 1920s. Meeting writers like Hemingway and Fitzgerald in twentieth century Paris is an amazing place for inspiration. Besides, director Woody Allen knows exactly how to make a city look romantic. Or what about Verona, Italy in Letters to Juliet? London in Scoop?  New York in One Fine Day? You’re basically hopeless unless you have a picture-perfect backdrop.

And, most importantly...

A nice hunk of man-candy: Mark Ruffalo in 13 Going on Thirty. Hugh Dancy in Confessions of a Shopaholic. James Marsden in 27 Dresses. Hugh Jackman in Scoop. George Clooney in One Fine Day. (And some people ask me WHY I want to be a writer).

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Top Ten Films that Almost Make You Wish High School Lasted Forever

Mean Girls (2004). Despite the stereotypical blonde and bitchy that are the bane of this film’s existence, it has become a classic.  Cady (Lindsay Lohan) moves to a new high school, and becomes victim to the rude awakening of a cliquey hierarchy run by the Plastics (headed by Rachel McAdams’ Regina George).  Succumbing to everything she proclaimed she never wanted to be, Cady learns how nasty fake friends can be.  The film has so many quotable lines, many thanks to Tina Fey, and is a cult classic of the 2000s.  Why do we miss high school because of it?  Because it was so fetch. That’s why. 

Superbad (2007).The title says it all, as two guys (Michael Cera and Jonah Hill) face the ultimate worst-case-scenarios, juxtaposed while trying to impress girls.  Written by Seth Rogen, this film is filled with laughs as any guy who has ever tried to look cool as hell for a girl can relate to our antiheros.  Seth (Hill) and Evan (Cera) concoct a plan to impress some girls in hopes of getting with girls, involving the typical shenanigans of kids their age.  A simple fake-IDed trip to the liquor store takes a turn for the unexpected, and their hilarious evening unravels from there.  Why do we miss high school because of it?  Because of the thrill of illegally acquiring alcohol and all the challenges that went with those high school parties that retrospectively make us cringe.  Now, purchasing a case of beer and getting IDed for it just isn’t as fun as getting a fake for “McLovin.” 

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986).  Even as a college student, I still take a day off, as a self-assurance that Ferris Bueller is indeed my spirit animal.  Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick), takes a day off during his second semester as a senior in high school.  Joining him are his beautiful girl (Mia Sara) and fretful best friend (Alan Ruck), as they soak in life and are unknowingly trailed by Ed Rooney, the school’s dean (Jeffrey Jones).  If you are in high school (and even if you aren’t) and you haven’t seen it, shame on you. Go illegally download it, now.  And pick a day to take off as well.  Why do we miss high school because of it? Who else wouldn’t love to take a day off from being responsible and have a romp through Chicago?  And then get away with it? Yes please. 

Heathers (1988). Imagine if you could purge your high school of all those popular bitches?  Via murder?  Heathers plays out this scenario, as the black sheep of her clique Veronica (Winona Ryder) plots and kills every bully in her school.  And she gets away with it, with the help of rebellious J.D. (Christian Slater).  Without Heathers, we wouldn’t have Mean Girls.  The politics of high school’s social ladder was born here.  Even if we hated being anything but popular in high school, we embrace it now with open arms.    Why do we miss high school because of it?  Admit it, you secretly wish you could kill off the people who made your life miserable, especially during those awkward teenage years.  And Christian Slater is adorable, in his own, bizarre way. 

Say Anything (1989).  I’ll admit, I’m still waiting for John Cusack to be outside my bedroom window, trench coat clad and boom box in tow.  Lloyd Dobler (Cusack) is a fine example of a passionate young man who isn’t afraid to say he doesn’t know what he wants to do beyond high school.  And then, on the other end of the spectrum is the girl he is crushing on.  Diane Court (Ione Skye), the recipient of a prestigious scholarship that is taking her to England.   This feeling is what many face upon graduating high school, as they prepare for life in the REAL WORLD. OH NO. “How many of them really know what they want, though? I mean, a lot of them think they have to know, right? But inside they don't really know, so...I don't know, but I know that I don't know.” (Well said, Lloyd). Why do we miss high school because of it?  The way that Cusack chases the girl of his dreams and travels off to England with her at the end? Come on, girls.  We all want a noble guy like that. 

Grease (1979).  Complete with slicked-back hair, a young John Travolta, and cars we all wish we had, Grease is basically the REAL high school musical (sorry Zac Efron).  The clash of the cliques and being true to you are so stereotypical, cheesy, yet perfect all the same.  Sandra Dee (Olivia Newton-John) and Danny Zuko (Travolta) become the power couple we all wish we were part of, despite the fact that Danny is a greaser and Sandy is brighter than the sun.  And the music is great too; perfect to cruise around to and sing loudly and off-key.  Why do we miss high school because of it?  Soda shops, drive-in movies, and being able to break into song with all your friends knowing the lyrics?  This is a theater-kid’s paradise. 

The Breakfast Club (1985).  Another John Hughes masterpiece, this one reminds you that not everyone in high school will be exactly who you think they are.  A band of misfits are set to attend detention all day together on a Saturday, and their conversations and exchanges are surprisingly sophisticated, considering their age.  Molly Ringwald, Judd Nelson and Emilio Estevez are part of the cast, and their interactions are superb.  The ambiguity at the end of the film is also great, as we really question what happens once they all pour their hearts out to one another.  Why do we miss high school because of it?  It taught us not to make judgments based on who your friends were, as everyone is not always who they seem.  The library they all had detention in was also pretty sweet, for a high school one. 

21 Jump Street (2011), because I would have signed up for AP Chemistry if I knew Channing Tatum could be my lab partner.  Based on the 1990s TV show, cops Jenko (Tatum) and Schmidt (Jonah Hill) are undercover as high-schoolers, looking to bust a drug ring while reliving those uncomfortable high school days.  As out of place as they are, they manage to make the most of it and still kick ass.  Why do we miss high school because of it?  Watching Tatum and Hill go through the motions in their second round of high school is hilarious.  Even as trained cops and has-beens of the awkward teenage years, they still trip up just as badly (if not worse than) as the current high schoolers.   

Pretty in Pink (1986). Sorry (not sorry) for all the John Hughes films, but if they weren’t so honest, they wouldn’t have a place on their list. Molly Ringwald is his muse once more, as her big moment of turning sweet 16 gets overshadowed by her sister’s wedding.  What’s worse is that she is crushing on a guy who doesn’t know she exists (typical), and her family is flocking from all over for the wedding.  The worst part?  Her grandparents even forget her birthday (a new self-esteem low is reached!)  Why do we miss high school because of it?  Any girl can attest to having embarrassing relatives, seemingly unrequited love, and those picture-perfect moments that outweigh all the face-palms in between. 

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012).  Based on Stephen Chomsky’s conversational novel of the same name, Charlie (Logan Lerman) starts high school and makes efforts to make friends.  His companionship of two spunky upperclassmen who aren’t afraid to live awakens a bright light inside him.  The growing pains of high school are rough, but Charlie makes the most of what he’s got, no matter how dark it can be.   Why do we miss high school because of it?  Despite its darker parts, high school is an important part of the whole “find yourself” stage.  It also shows that it is cool to have a teacher as a close friend, and not just all about kissing ass for an A+.  

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Summer 2014's Most Savory Film: Chef

Never have I ever left a theater craving a Cuban sandwich.  This savory reaction has been stirred by Jon Favreau's latest film, Chef. A post-film Cuban sandwich and pork sliders become a necessary evil, as a man gets back in touch with his liberating culinary creativity in such a sweet and satisfying fashion.    

Upon learning about the magical world of social media, LA chef Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) tweets a prestigious food critic Ramsey Michel (Oliver Pratt) that gave him a bad review.  He invites the critic to come back for a new menu, but is told he can’t cook it by the restaurant’s owner (Dustin Hoffman).  Casper walks out of the restaurant before Michel’s arrival, and returns only to lose his cool.  The fame that ensues is negative, even though there is no such thing as bad press. After losing his job, Casper goes on some soul searching in hopes to find happiness again, and cook for himself.  

On a trip to “nanny” his son Percy (EmJay Anthony) with his ex-wife Inez (Sofia Vergara), he gets a food truck in hopes to start over and reconnect with those important to him.   The selling item: mouth-watering Cuban sandwiches.  Casper reconnects with his creative side, as he is inspired to pursue the “crazy food truck” idea that his ex-wife had been pushing for a while.  It turns out to be a turning point in his career—and his life—as he travels from Miami to LA with it, gaining popularity for the delicious sandwiches. 

This wonderful ensemble cast includes a hilarious five minute cameo from Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson as a restaurant manager, Dustin Hoffman as a restaurant owner, and Bobby Cannavale as a chef. To top it all off, John Leguizamo is the sous chef for Favreau, providing good vibes and comic relief throughout the film. 

To call this film “a feast for the eyes” would be hopelessly obvious, but it really is.  The scenes filmed where Favreau’s character is prepping and cooking his food—whether it was a simple grilled-cheese or an elaborate three-course meal—was colorful and fun.  If Food Network was directed by Favreau, I think it is fair to say we would all watch it more often than we already do.  (I’m kind of waiting for him to get his own show, but one thing at a time). 

Jon Favreau not only wrote, directed, and starred in the film, but he did his own cooking as well.  He trained with food-truck god Roy Choi, who helped him enroll in French culinary courses to learn the ins and outs of cooking.  "I brought him into the kitchen, and he just kind of fit in," Choi recalls. "I threw him a couple tests, like a case of chives, or a case of onions, or peel two cases of avocados. Just to see where his mind and his situation and his abilities were and how interested he was in these things. He just attacked them. He really became a part of it." Favreau looks natural as his character, as his cooking skills and culinary products are enough to make the audiences’ mouth water.

Chef is a feel-good delicacy.  Its wit keeps its audiences laughing and charm makes you smile.  The only letdown from seeing Chef was that there were no food trucks selling Cuban sandwiches in the Regal parking lot upon my departure from the theater.  The delicious nature of the film (and the food) is inspiring, and a must-see this summer.   

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Okay? Okay. The Fault in Our Stars.

The YA film genre blockbuster hit of the summer is unarguably the adaptation of John Green’s novel, The Fault in Our Stars.  The bestselling book has left many with teary eyes, as the star-crossed lovers between the lines (and on the silver screen) prove how limitless love can be.  Already amassing over $60 million domestically in the box office, The Fault in Our Stars
Enter Hazel Grace Lancaster (portrayed by Shailene Woodley), a cancer patient suffering from terminal thyroid cancer that has made its way to her lungs.  At a cancer support group one evening, she encounters Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort), who is in remission of osteosarcoma, but has led to the amputation of his leg.  Her sarcastic wit attracts him immediately, and they embark on an infinity in their limited days together.  Featuring Laura Dern and Willem DaFoe, The Fault in Our Stars is a film that will reawaken the nature in which you love and show how strong it is.   
The unrequited love that Hazel and Augustus have for each other is beautiful, and the onscreen chemistry between Woodley and Elgort proves it so.  When Augustus proclaims he is in love with Hazel, it is pure.  Yes, his charm and good looks could easily make anyone groan, as he is what every girl in the young adult demographic would look for in a guy.  He was real and honest with her, and the basis of their relationship is more than enough to pull on the heart strings of a skeptic.   Hazel is bright, and despite the hardships that she feels she has put her family and others through, she looks for silver linings, especially once she forms a close bond with Augustus. 
The soundtrack to the film is phenomenal.  It features the talents of Ed Sheeran, Grouplove and Charli XCX.  It fit so perfectly into the film, as it carried the spirits of Hazel and Augustus with it. 
A portion of the film took place in Amsterdam.  The scenes shot there made it look absolutely breathtaking.  Springtime in Europe had never looked so extraordinary, yet was very modest as well.  The streets and rivers that cross through the city are simple and almost made me wish New York was like that. 
The film held very true to the book.  However, I noticed two things that were missing that would have made the film better.  First off, the book talks about how Hazel did have friends that she would try to remain in touch with, but it was difficult between all the doctors’ appointments and their still being in high school.  The film starts out with her at a doctor’s appointment being told she is depressed and should join a support group.  However, it isn't exactly significant to the love story of Hazel and Augustus, so maybe it’s okay that it wasn't included?
Another important nuance that somehow escaped the film was the namesake of the movie.  It is mentioned in the novel, but nowhere had I heard where the title of the film comes from.  In the Shakespeare play Julius Caesar, Cassius tells Brutus, "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars/But in ourselves, that we are underlings."  It means that people aren’t driven to act based on fate, or destiny, but based on the human condition and feeling what they feel.  Pain is meant to be felt, after all.  This quote so perfectly fits in with the film, as it gives a richer meaning to everything that goes on from the opening scene to the end credits.  I was disappointed that it was left out, as it would have tied everything together quite nicely.    
Josh Boone directed the film, with the meticulous help of John Green onset during production.  He gave tips and advice to the cast to ensure that his novel would be brought to life in the way he hoped.  As the film went on, I felt all the nuances and details fill the screen, and the amount of attention spent recreating the events was hard work that definitely paid off.

Overall, The Fault in Our Stars is a compelling film (and novel, too).  The book is very cinematic in nature, as its fast-paced and engaging story keeps the pages turning and the tears coming.  Make sure if you go see Fault in theaters, you bring plenty of Kleenex, even if you are weary of the film’s ending.  

Sunday, May 18, 2014

"Ferris Bueller, you're my hero."

Through hours and hours of countless film watching, there have been very few that have stuck with me.  John Hughes’ “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” is high on that list, as I grew up watching it and know the script verbatim.  Impacting my mindset during my time in high school and college, it has taught me to live life to its fullest, even if it means breaking a few rules.  

For those of you unfamiliar with this cult classic, shame on you.  It is one of the most brilliant, sophisticated teen movies out there.  Go rent it after you read this article.  

Almost 30 years old, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” follows slacker Ferris (Matthew Broderick) as he takes a personal day with his tense best friend (Alan Ruck) and beautiful girlfriend (Mia Sara).  His delightful romp through Chicago is one for the books, as he checks out the Sears Tower, the Art Institute of Chicago, and rides a float during the German Day Parade.  

I even went the distance of penning my SAT essay about why we should break the rules and cut school every now and again, citing Ferris as my muse for why it is healthy.  Needless to say, the College Board didn’t agree with my fantastical quipping, and my SAT scores were awful.

Nonetheless, the film has everything, as John Hughes epitomizes being a teenager in his work.  Comedy, romance, an awesome 80s soundtrack, and even a cameo of Charlie Sheen playing a drug addict (oh, the irony).  Most importantly, it is full of life lessons that shouldn’t be taken for granted.   

It is, in fact, healthy to cut school.  Not making a regular habit, of course.  An escape from reality is crucial to the human mind when things seem to be closing in, especially during the tumultuous parts of our journey into adulthood.  Between classes, exams, holding down a job or two, and experiencing “the feels” of pursuing a romantic partner, life gets hectic.  Fast.  So much is happening so fast, and our thoughts are popcorn kernels in a movie theatre popper, as until we open a door to allow some stress out, it gets chaotic, and fast.

Whether it is bumming around your place in pjs watching movies or going downtown and frollicking through Central Park and several museums, we should all take Ferris’s lead and escape.  

Some people go to the movies as a form of escapism.  Others take an intense amount of drugs and drink away their problems.  However, the true adventurers are those who take off from school to pursue a learning experience outside of the classroom.  You won’t be in high school-or college-forever.  So, perhaps, it is in your best interest to take a day off from your resident institution and find adventure elsewhere.  

Nonetheless, only the meek get pinched. The bold survive.

Ferris Bueller is a hero.  Not necessarily one in a cape and colorful tights, but one who just wants to have fun.  Ferris is a symbol of gratuitous pomp, under the circumstances.   He also sees how profound reality is, and fearless enough to test the fates with a romp through Chicago that fine spring day.  Ferris breaks the fourth wall, giving us his commentary about all that unfolds.  The monologue about life in the first scene of the film is full of quotable quotes.  He is candid, sharp, and self-centered (“it still wouldn’t change the fact that I don’t own a car”).  But we love it!  
Matthew Broderick’s character has become such an icon.  At one point or another, your professor HAD to take attendance and say, “Bueller...Bueller…Bueller…” paying homage to the glorified slacker.  

Psychoanalysts have been trying to push theories onto him, saying his pathological lying,  a grandiose sense of self-worth, and his emotionless reactions to the tragic things around him are reasons to hate him as much as Ed Rooney, the dean of students, does.  This narcissistic id is simply blown out of proportion; what kind of teenager DOESN’T think they know everything? Seriously?

Although his selfish ways and his mischievous lifestyle are all innocent fun, he still gets the backlash of being a psychopath.  If he really is that crazy, though, who’s to say we don’t need him?

Take his best friend, the insufferable Cameron Frye.  He grew up in a broken home, with a father in love with cars and out of love with his mother.  “ A man with priorities so far out of whack doesn't deserve such a fine automobile.”  His cold childhood makes him such a nervous wreck that falling ill actually makes him feel better than normal.  Someone as existential as Cameron needs someone as boisterous as Ferris in their life.  His friendship with Ferris is a vacation day in itself, as the care-free attitude Ferris offers eases Cam’s tension.

Cameron and Ferris’ bromance is undeniable.  Their psychological pairing behooves their respective lifestyles.  No matter how many times Ferris does throw Cam into the crossfire, he does redeem his soul by singing for him on a parade float, or taking him to the top of the Sears Tower, as  “Anything is peaceful from one thousand, three hundred and fifty-three feet.”  A meal encompassed with pancreas is even offered to the poor soul.  The question isn't "what are we going to do," the question is "what aren't we going to do?"

And his love life?  Ferris Bueller insists he will marry Sloane, his gal pal.  Even though he seems passive about the decision, it’s a strong thing to say and then pass off so lightly so soon.  An open mind about the confusing feelings high school relationships foster is admirable.  Instead of becoming heartbroken of her reluctant decline, he doesn’t let it get to him.  Even when he once more breaks the fourth wall and tells us that he will indeed marry Sloane, he is sincere, and passionate, as any young hopeless romantic would be.  

Ferris is fearless.  He encompasses traits that every kid wants: getting away with everything, being care-free, the works.  He’s someone we should all look up to, even if we can’t be him.  His actions are brazen, yes, and he challenges authority too regularly.  But Ferris’ constant putting himself at risk is something we should appreciate, and take a risk every now and then.  Isn’t that what experience is all about, anyway?  If we don’t take chances now and learn from them, we will be stuck on a piece of wood floating in an ocean full of missed opportunities.

The most important thing we learn from Ferris throughout Hughes’ film?  Not that teen angst sucks, or driving in reverse won’t take miles off of a Ferrari.  “Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Best Biographical Films

“The Aviator” (2004).  Or, as I like to call it, one of the Oscars that got away.  Oh, Leo.  Mr. DiCaprio stars in this film as Howard Hughes, movie mogul and aviation master.  He is successful, specific and always gets his job done.  The film spans over 20 years of his life, as OCD invades his career and relationships with some of Hollywood’s finest (Ava Gardner, Katherine Hepburn, just to name a few).  The bright costumes, music and layers of WTF will haunt audiences and make them want to order their own copy off Amazon.

“Lincoln” (2012).  So brilliant that you forget that it’s really Daniel Day-Lewis, “Lincoln” follows the president during the Civil War.  One of my favorite biopics, Spielberg thoroughly researched  Lincoln’s life and even included some personal assets of the president in the film.  A stellar cast encompasses the screen, including Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Tommy Lee Jones.  The essence of difficulty is definitely there, as Congress struggles to pass the vote to free all the slaves in the Confederate states.  Spoiler alert: Lincoln still gets shot.

“My Week With Marilyn” (2011).  Michelle Williams takes on the titular role, and audiences get a snippet of her life.  Based on a memoir of the same name, Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne) becomes an assistant onset while Monroe and Sir Lawrence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh) are in the process of shooting “The Prince and the Showgirl.” At the time, she was married to playwright Arthur Miller.  The film documents so candidly, yet so perfectly, what it was like to be Marilyn.  Her sex appeal and vulnerability shine, and we see the dazed and confused side of the bombshell cameras seldom saw before her sudden death.  No wonder why Williams and Branagh were both nominated Oscars for their performances.   

“Dallas Buyers Club” (2013).  This film garnered Matthew McConaughey an Oscar, and after losing 47 pounds anyone deserves one for such commitment.  Due to a lack of hygiene and awareness about STDs, Donald Woodroof (McConaughey) is diagnosed with HIV.  In pursuit of a cure, he illegally smuggles drugs into the US.  With the help of a transgender woman, Rayon (Jared Leto), the two create the Dallas Buyers Club.  Woodroof’s efforts to help others in his position and find a cure (even if illegal and risky) were heroic.  

“Wolf of Wall Street” (2013).  The rambunctious world of Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) is documented in this film.  Based on the memoir of the same name, viewers are taken on a roller coaster of drugs, sex, and piles of cash.  Belfort’s penny stocks scheme makes him millions instantly.  Though much of his activity is legal, all are overcome with envy of his excessive lifestyle.  DiCaprio as the unreliable narrator is dynamic, and we cannot help but wonder to what degree did everything happen, as he was doing enough drugs “to sedate Manhattan.”  The antiheroic Belfort may not be the best narrator, but regardless, the film is a wild romp through a world of endless wealth.  

“Amadeus” (1984).  An adaptation from the play of the same name, the story of musical prodigy Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is told through the bitter eyes of Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham).  Tom Hulce stars as the composer, as he impressed the Austrian court with his talent.  Salieri lets jealousy consume him, and goes to great measures to extinguish him from the royal court of Vienna. You won’t soon forget the elaborate film, from the costumes to the set design and music, or course.  Or, the eight Oscars, including Best Picture.  And even if you do, Mozart’s haunting laugh will remind you soon enough.

“Walk the Line” (2005).  As though Joaquin Phoenix wasn’t talented enough already, he can sing too!  He stars in the film about Johnny Cash’s rise to fame.  From humble beginnings on a farm in Kansas to recording with big names like Elvis, Phoenix wows audiences with his incredible voice! Co-stars include Reese witherspoon as June Carter and Ginnifer Goodwin as Vivian Cash.  Phoenix received an Oscar nod for this role, and Witherspoon took home the Best Actress award.

“La Vie en Rose” (2007). Even if you dropped out of your third period French class in the tenth grade, don’t let the language barrier deter you from checking out this film.  “La Vie en Rose” follows the life of Edith Piaf, portrayed by Marion Cotillard.  Though the film doesn't take place in chronological order, its flashback nature effectively displays the tumultuous nature of her rise to fame.  Perhaps Piaf’s iconic song, the haunting “Non, je ne regrette rien” is reflective of her life.  Loss, love and music encompass the film that scored Cotillard an Oscar for her performance.

“Beyond the Sea” (2004).  Kevin Spacey can sing! Well!  This film is about Bobby Darin, the man whose voice immortalizes “Beyond the Sea.” A true rags-to-riches story, Darin had no father and learned about the world of entertainment from his mom.  The film focuses on his relationship with the beautiful Sandra Dee (not the gal from “Grease”; sorry to disappoint; portrayed by Kate Bosworth).  As a singer, dancer, and actor, he balanced his career with his health, marriage and family life, proving it to be difficult at times.  This biopic is especially different.  Through the employment of a younger Bobby Darin accompanying him onscreen (William Ullrich), the older version gets a sense of perspective to what happened to him.  

“The Fighter” (2010).  This film takes place in the world of boxing, as Micky Ward’s (Mark Wahlberg) rise to fame under the guidance of his brother, Dickie (Christian Bale).  In the late 1980s, Dickie’s career is going downward as he struggles with a crack addiction.  He attempts to guide Micky in the right direction to box, but Micky may have other plans.  The movie was filmed as a reflection, as Micky and Dickie sit on a couch in the opening and final scene, reminiscing on the highs and lows of both of their careers.  Director David O’Russell, known for character pieces, creates a dynamic film that makes you root for everyone, really, as their good intentions are more prominent than their flaws.  “The Fighter” managed to win two Oscars for Best Supporting Actor (Bale) and Best Supporting Actress (Melissa Leo).  

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Best Movie-Musical Adaptations

“Singin’ in the Rain” (1952).  Basically the quintessential movie musical.  Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds star in this classic film, and they are Hollywood stars adapting to the shift from silent film to talkies in the later 1920’s.  Tunes like “Good Morning” and “All I Do is Dream of You” will follow you for the rest of the day, and you won’t be complaining, as it is contagious the moment it plays from the movie.  The upbeat vibe given off from this film makes it stand the test of time.  It’s bright, colorful, and If you don’t feel happy after watching Gene Kelly sing and dance to the titular song (which he filmed under the stresses of a fever!), then there really isn’t much to bring happiness your way.

“The Music Man” (1962).  Insert Fourth of July Fireworks nostalgia.  Robert Preston plays the leading man, Harold Hill in the film, along with on Broadway.  It is probably one of the most difficult roles to play onstage, and onscreen.  The lyrics are quick and smart, and weave themselves into extensive and complicated dance sequences.  Fast-talking conman Harold Hill (Preston) charades around as a music professor and tries to convince River City, Iowa, that he can turn the local kids into a marching band extraordinaire.  While making some money and wooing the librarian, Marian (Shirley Jones).  “Trouble” and “Madame Librarian” are two examples of ensemble numbers with Preston at the forefront that were very detailed as to choreography and incorporating the set effectively.  

“An American in Paris” (1951).  In Paris, naturally, three friends (Gene Kelly, Oscar Levant, and Georges Guetary) struggle to find work.  As though things weren’t complicated enough already, two of them fall for a dancer (Leslie Caron).  “‘S Wonderful” and “I Got Rhythm” are two well-known songs from this film, and the tunes Gershwin composed are wonderful, and the film won six Oscars, including Best Picture.  Showcasing music, dance (especially in the final scene between Kelly and Caron) and the beautiful French landscape makes “An American in Paris” a classic.

“West Side Story” (1961).  The musical adaptation of William Shakespeare follows the Jets and the Sharks and takes place in New York City instead of fair Verona.  Tony (Richard Beymer) and Maria (Natalie Wood) are both parts of constantly feuding clans, and their love for each other becomes self destructive, and negatively impacts the people around them as well.  “The Jet Song” will keep you snapping your fingers, and anyone who falls in love will replace their lover’s name with Maria’s whilst singing “Maria.”  Though the story of forbidden love is cliched, Ernest Lehman’s screenplay is the best musical adaptation (and shall remain so). If the ten Oscars it garnered doesn’t support the previous statement, very little will.  

“The Sound of Music” (1965).  Based on the real-life Von Trapp family singers, “The Sound of Music” is warm and touches the heart.  A nun, Maria (Julie Andrews) is assigned to become a governess to a Naval captain (Christopher Plummer) with seven children.  Although the children are notorious for tormenting their governess, they give Maria a chance and form a close bond with her, as her contagious optimism infects them.  Shot in Austria, the backdrop is breathtaking, as the film opens with aerial shots of the vast landscape.  The Rodgers and Hammerstein score is wonderful.  Some quality tunes from the film include “Do Re Mi” and “16 Going on 17.”  Although Carrie Underwood’s live performance was delightful and had high ratings last November, Andrews Plummer are simply irresistible.

“My Fair Lady” (1964).  The film adaptation of the musical made Americans think now more than ever that anyone from England had the exaggerated cockney inflection that Audrey Hepburn has at the film’s start.  Eliza (Hepburn) is chosen by an arrogant Professor Harold Higgins (Rex Harrison) to transform her into a woman of high society.  Marni Nixon was behind most of the songs that Hepburn’s character sang in the film, but we won’t hold it against Hepburn.  Famous songs from the “Wouldn’t it Be Lovely” and “On The Street Where You Live.”  It had captured the attention of the Academy by winning eight of the twelve Oscars it was nominated for, including Best Picture.  

“Wizard of Oz” (1939).  The musical adaptation of Frank L. Baum’s children book put Judy Garland on the map as Dorothy Gale, immortalized by her iconic ruby slippers.  The film transitions from a black and white filter into a magical technicolor wonderland, as a tornado takes Dorothy and her dog Toto to the Land of Oz.  On her journey to find the Wizard (Frank Morgan) to get her home, a Scarecrow (Ray Bolger), Tin Man (Jack Haley) and Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr) accompany her on her musical adventure.  It’s perfect in a storybook-comes-to-life sense, as it has talking animals, witches and fairies.  “Wizard of Oz” won two Oscars for Best Music (Original Score and Original Song), and we all will keep dreaming of the utopia located “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

“Grease” (1978).  The true “High School Musical” takes you to the 1950s in the midst of poodle skirts, hot rods and leather jackets.  Badass greaser Danny Zuko (John Travolta) and goody-two-shoes Sandra Dee (Olivia Newton-John) meet over summer, and reunite at Rydell High School to find that they are part of different social groups.  They struggle to make a relationship work, and suffer from the pressures of fitting in.  Well-known songs deriving from the film are “Greased Lightning,” “Summer Nights” and “We Go Together.”  Filled with high school hijinks, awesome dancing and an abundance of cars, “Grease” is a classic high school love story for the ages.  “High School Musical” will never be nearly as refreshing as “Grease.”  

“Hello, Dolly!” (1969).  Barbra Streisand shines as Dolly, a woman infamous for her involvement in everyone’s personal lives.  She plays matchmaker more than anything,and she makes her latest endeavor wooing the “half-a-millionaire” Horace Vandergelder (Walter Matthau).  Dolly ventures to New York City to find him, along with two store clerks and Vandergelder’s niece and her beau. The film is delightful, and Streisand shines.  “Put on Your Sunday Clothes” and “Leave Everything to Me” are great songs from the film, and “Hello, Dolly!” is the true hallmark of the film, as it has become such a common phrase.  

“Mary Poppins” (1964).  The arduous process of adapting P. L. Travers’ childrens’ book into a fun Disney movie musical was well worth it.  The Banks family is in search of a nanny, and Mary Poppins (Julie Andrews) flies to their London house with her umbrella and suitcase equipped with infinite space.  She brings warmth back to the Banks house, and with the help of her chimney sweep Bert (Dick van Dyke), it is indeed a jolly holiday with Mary.  “Chim Chim-er-ee” and “Spoonful of Sugar” are part of the award-winning music in the film.  Andrews collected the Oscar for Best Actress that year, and “Poppins” also received Oscars for Best Music (Original Song and Score).