bunrab: (me)

So when we last met, I had mentioned that I was going to attempt to read one of the volumes in Daniel Abraham's current series; two chapters of that disabused me of the notion. It's definitely complicated enough that one would have to start at the beginning. And given the size of each volume - fatter than the volumes of Game of Thrones, for comparison - it would be far more than I want to take on at this time. So back it went to the library, unfinished.

lengthy book stuff )

Now under way: another Patricia Briggs, but this time a series I haven't read before, or even noticed existed before, which appears to include dragons, maybe - at the moment, at the beginning of the book, the dragons appear to be extinct. So that will be the next one I report on.

Also read a graphic novel that sort of counts as fantasy: Beasts of Burden Volume: Animal Rites - cute, not terribly deep, but the dog characters and the cat are sort of cool.

Other things: took the euphonium to a Browningsville rehearsal and played it for about half the time, and there were moments when I didn't make a fool of myself. And saw "A Million Ways to Die in the West" with Larry, speaking of the West, and Seth MacFarlane's West is probably almost as fantastical as the books above, and from the first couple of measures of the score during the opening credits I was laughing, and I think I enjoyed it so much because so much of the humor was audio in one way or another, which is what I was paying attention to rather than the gross and tasteless poop jokes. From the snippets of Copland in the score, to "Mila Kunis" by way of "People die at the fair" and not forgetting the uncredited cameo by Bill Maher, I laughed a lot. I'll probably buy the soundtrack album.
bunrab: (me)
Having complained about LEs Mis, I should mention some movies I liked in 2012. Of course the awards nominations tend to be for movies that happened near the end of the year - they always neglect a lot of earlier movies. And of course, there will always be movies that everyone loved but the critics will NEVER take them seriously and no one will EVER nominate them for an award, even though millions of people had more fun than anywhere else - yes, I am talking about The Avengers - so it wouldn't matter where in the year that opened, it wouldn't get nominated. And I will mention one more movie I didn't like, even though it's been nominated for several awards, and that's Beasts of The Southern Wild. I just did not like that one - I am not a big fan of magical realism, and I'm also not a big fan of "every lifestyle and culture has equal value" - that's just not true, when it's a lifestyle and culture that perpetuates ignorance, poor health, and the neglect of children. OK, not gonna do a long rant on that. But I did not like the movie.

On to what I did like. The Avengers, of course - it was fun, it was funny, it was fast, I was never at any point complaining about the acting or historical accuracy or realism because hey, we all came in knowing it was a comic book, and it was a damn well done comic book!

Moonrise Kingdom. Too neat - right about that year, I was right about that age, and my family, while not rich lawyers with a summer home, was the sort of culturally and intellectually inclined family where kids played "Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra" on the little portable record players. Besides all the Britten and Mozart in the score, I loved the newer music too, that was written as homage to Britten. And damn, it was a funny little movie, with the omniscient narrator popping up looking like a crazed Jacques Cousteau with a Boston accent, and the heroics of the scoutmaster after his total failure as a troop leader - oh, and the wedding!

Robot and Frank. Can't believe how few people saw this. In fact, I bet most of you never even heard of it. Go look for it. Funny, decently done science fiction touches, great performances by Frank Langella, Susan Sarandon - and how often do you get movies about cat burglars anyway? There were just SO many neat scenes - and though there's a happy ending, there's also the heartbreak in the scene where we find out just how serious the extent of Frank's dementia has been... it was really touching. Go find it and watch it, people! It should be a damn cult classic like Harold and Maude.

Argo - while Ben Affleck apparently can't act his way out of a paper bag and has only one facial expression, ever, nonetheless the suspense in this was great, and a lot of the performances  by other people were superb. I mean, we all already knew how the story ended and nonetheless everyone in the theater was on the edge of their seats, rooting for them and practically holding our breath, until the plane took off, whereupon we all cheered. They really did good pacing and timing on this.

So, there's what I did like in the moooobies this past year.
bunrab: (me)
that part of what makes them good is the cleverness of the stagecraft. What can be done within the limitations of the size of the stage, with the fact that only so many costume changes can be done within a certain time, with the fact that every singer is live every night? The songs and the acting fit into that frame and part of what we admire is how the songs convey stuff we aren't seeing. Also, the immediacy of hearing the emotion in the songs from live people, who may feel slightly differently about it every night but who still have to convey the same intensity no matter what, is part of what leads us to identify with the characters.

When you switch it to a movie, unless the movie is just a straight filming of a stage production, you remove the immediacy - no matter how close up the actors' nostrils you get while they're singing, it's still not the same as hearing it live - and you remove all the cleverness. They get to do multiple takes, and you know you're seeing only what they selected as the best take of each song - and so it's even more disappointing when even that is not as good as an average stage singer on an average night. And when you remove the limitations of size of set and ability to change scenery, so that, for example, Gavroche gets to ride all over Paris, you have taken away a lot of the cleverness, and a lot of the intellectual reward we get from filling in the scenes ourselves.

And in the opening scene - we come back to that again, that the opening scene is full of everything that's wrong with the whole movie - well, we have all that big expanse of water, and the enormous ship, and the scores more of men than would fit on a stage - and it takes our attention away from the opening song and from the emotions of the men who are singing. We scarcely see or hear any one of them sing his line. Also, for me at least, since I had recently seen Life of Pi, seeing the ship turned somewhat sideways kept reminding me over and over of the ship in Life of Pi as it tilts and sinks, and then my mind would go for a second to an island full of meerkats, and I really don't think that helped me concentrate on the story of Les Mis.

OK, now someone tell me why I'm wrong, what I missed, what the movie did better than the show, at least for you.
bunrab: (me)
The many, many, MANY uses of water, please stop hitting us over the head with virtual BRICKS of water, we GET it already! That was the essay I was composing in my head by about 20 minutes into this film.

Anthony Lane in the New Yorker had it all backward - he thought that people who loved the musical would be the ones who love the film, regardless of anything he said. But in fact it's the opposite: people who have seen the stage production and are fans of it, people who are serious goers-to-musical-theater, are the ones who find the most to be upset about, myself among them. The people who like the movie seem to be people who have never seen a musical performed live, they've spent their lives going to the movies. And not even all of those sorts of people liked it; some people who aren't theater-goers or musicians nonetheless found that there were things about the movie that turned them off.

Let's start with the opening scene. My boyfriend, Larry, who is not a musician and who has never been to a musical performed live onstage, but who was a history major at Penn, was upset right off. That's NOT how ships were brought into drydock. Doing it that way would destroy a ship completely. Ships, even really disabled ones, were floated into the dock, and THEN the hard labor was pumping the water out of the dock - treadmills and turnscrews and such. And, the flag that Javert has Valjean retrieve, is the wrong flag - it should have been the Bourbon flag with the fleur-de-lis, not a tricolor.

Javert using spoken word to have Valjean do that is a big omen to many of the flaws in the film: Russell Crowe can't sing worth a damn (I don't care if he's in a rock band; rock bands are almost never known for the quality of their singing anyway!!), and the director is going to hit us over the head with bricks of message, because he's afraid that the subtleties of the show will go right past us, so he has to make the message far more obvious, and Russell Crowe is the least convincing Javert ever, and close-ups of people's faces while they're singing is a really bad idea. All of that is telegraphed in that couple of minutes. We get closeups of Jackman's face, with lots of twitches and tics even when he's not lifting heavy objects. We get Russell Crowe trying to look mean and succeeding only in looking constipated.

Jackman, for someone who isn't a singer by trade, does a workmanlike job of the songs - one can tell he's put some effort into trying to do it right, even if he's never going to be able to sing it like an opera singer. Hathaway sobs through most of her songs, so we have this close up of her face with tears, and frankly, I kept thinking that she must really have anorexia, because even at the beginning of her role where she has a job, that is one skinny face with way too prominent cheekbones, and really skinny arms - when she's starving and tubercular at the end of her part, she doesn't look that much different, because she was already far too thin. Couldn't they have CGI'd her a bit at one end or the other, so that Fantine alive and well looked somewhat different from Fantine dead?

And then Marius - he did an OK job, and his singing was OK - but he has those freckles, and zooming the camera in on those freckles for minutes on end while he sings is really distracting and really detracts from whatever quality he gives the song. About the only person I enjoyed as both a character and a singer was the grown-up Eponine, whose singing absolutely blew away everyone else in the movie. I liked her much better in the movie than I had liked her as a character in the stage show; I suppose for many people that would depend on the casting in whatever production they saw. But I liked her acting as well as her singing.

Larry's comments on Crowe as Javert: "He's not obsessed; he's not even focused." and he noted that when Javert jumps, we don't even really know why - as far as one can tell from anything Crowe expresses, it might just be because he's disappointed that he's apparently failed in his mission to catch Valjean - there's no hint of the conflict in his mind about his rigid notions of right and wrong and justice. Even when he sings the lyrics about it, we don't feel any connection between the song and what he's doing. And jeez, can we stop with the repeated, repeated, repeated identical views of the Seine already?

Cosette is a character I've never liked - she's wimpy. She's too pretty and too sweet and too passive for my tastes. Wimpy. My opinion of her in the movie is no different.

So, overall: The zooming in on the faces did a disservice to just about everybody; the stuff that was changed from the stage show was mostly for the worse, the director's conviction that we wouldn't understand anything subtle without spoken hints was especially insulting; Crowe as Javert was a complete failure. People who loved the stage show will mostly dislike the movie; for people who aren't used to stage shows, your opinion of the movie will rest on what balance you give to individual acting performances.
bunrab: (Default)
Without looking it up on the web, when I quote from the following description, from Time magazine, of a new movie, how many of you recognize the original short story and know the author, before the first sentence is finished? (If you really want your nickel, send me your address and I'll send it to you. This offer excludes Sam, and my spouse, who undoubtedly recognized this even more quickly than I did.) Here's the excerpt from Time, in an interview with Rainn Wilson:
The Last Mimzy is kind of complicated. Can you explain it? RW: Some children find a box of toys from the future. The toys start to teach them...

some spoilers here, based on the movie's web site )

Oh yeah, and what kind of a name is Rainn? Does he have a sister named Sunnshinne?
bunrab: (Default)
We went to the symphony this evening, which was performing Pictures at an Exhibition and Brahms' Violin Concerto. The violin soloist was young, and was wearing what people of my generation would call a Nehru jacket, in black, which looked quite spiffy. However, I was a little disappointed in the performance. I thought that the violin wasn't quite strong enough, that it sounded a little thin and soft. If it were brass, I'd have said he needed an instrument with a bigger bore. Anyway, there was nothing technically wrong with it, and other people didn't seem so picky. After intermission was Pictures, which I enjoyed. There were a few tiny flubs but overall it was good, and loud. I liked the alto sax interpretation, although [livejournal.com profile] squirrel_magnet thought it was a little bit too moderate and should have stood out more (OTOH, he liked the violinist in the concerto just fine). For "Byddlo," rather than the tuba player, the third trombonist picked up a euphonium and played the solo part. He did an excellent job, with a lovely tone. He appeared to just switch the same mouthpiece between the two, which certainly makes it easier to use two different instruments in the same performance! I've never been sure of the difference between a euphonium and a tenor tuba, myself, and I asked [livejournal.com profile] squirrel_magnet; his response was "Opinions vary." In other words, in a blind taste test, even experts can't actually tell the difference; it's whatever the manufacturer claims it is. (Technically, a baritone horn has a slightly less conical bore than a euphonium, but that's another one that if you put it in a lineup, you'd need a micrometer caliper to tell them apart, or else have to actually play them. With the euphonium/tenor tuba pair, even blowing into them wouldn't help.)

Afterward, we went to Sabatino's for supper. They sure have good rum cake!

Speaking of music, Netflix sent us Ice Age II: The Meltdown, which has a hysterical scene of buzzards singing "Food, Glorious Food," and also has Scrat eying the heavenly acorn to ballet music from Khatchaturian (the adagio from "Spartacus, if you're interested), even doing some jet├ęs and spins to it.


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