Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Cinema Babble: I Dreamed A Dream Of Singing For 3 hours

The Flick: Les Miserables

The Peeps: Hugh Jackman (again), Ann Hathaway, Russell Crowe, Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne, Sascha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter, etc, etc.

The Dealio: This is the story of  prisoner Jean Valjean (Jackman) whom we meet on the eve of winning his parole. After serving 20 years.  For stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister's sick child. Falling repeatedly under the eye of his guard, the tenacious Inspector Javert (Crowe),  Valjean realises, early on, that Javert is simply waiting for him to violate parole. And eagerly anticipating his return to  Javert's relentless rule. Set against  post-revolutionary France, riddled with poverty, corruption, disrespect for human life and the unrest of the underclasses against what is perceived (and for a reason) as  the squandering of France's finances by the rich, entitled and idle. This story takes us through the many reversals of fortune  of the characters- including the  hapless Fantine, Valjean and even Javert. In almost every instance, the fickleness of their fates  depends on the tiniest of details. So frustrating. 

The Grading Session: 4.72 pengies out of 5. A lot has been written about how horrible Crowe's voice is- which I found to be an exaggeration. His voice was fine. But was a bit dismayed by how good Jackman's voice...wasn't. I've grown to expect more, but perhaps, he was remaining in character, and one can not expect a starving, exhausted prisoner to belt 'em out like Ethel Merman (there's a picture for ya). I also did not cry when Hathaway sang 'I Dreamed A Dream'...although, maybe I shouldn't admit that. I loved the confluence of voices tracking through their separate strands of thought and lyrics. I also felt that Hooper did a magnificent job of keeping all the balls in the sweeping tale, in the air at the same time. Not easy. I confess to growing weary of Bonham Carter's repetitious portrayal of the blowzy, slovenly, weirded out, tarted up harridan. Seen it a time or two too often for me not to feel this is a default setting for her. And finally, I did mow through a half-packet of tissues in the last 20 minutes of the flick. So sue me.

Lessons Learned: Nothing says Les Miz for me like a 15 minute refreshment break in the lobby. Look into it. Next this: if you are looking for a flick where almost every word is NOT sung, but still featuring a strong cast and the same story, you want the Liam Neeson version out a few years back, and available for streaming even as we speak. Lastly this: this is art. It is best to just let it wash over you...and not make such a big noise about Russell Crowe's headgear. It's not as though he picked it out himself, after all. Just let it go.

Cinema (and a little Biblio) Babble: When Myths Unite

The Flick: Rise of the Guardians

The Peeps: (voice talent) Alec Baldwin, Chris Pine, Isla Fisher, Hugh Jackman, Jude Law, etc, etc.

The Dealio: Law's smoothly shiver-inducing Pitch threatens the dreams of children everywhere by unleashing war on the mythological Guardians of Childhood: Baldwin's Chris North (AKA Santa), Fisher's Tooth Fairy, Jackman's E. Aster Bunny, and Pine's Jack Frost. The idea here is to make kids stop believing in these characters, causing them to lose their powers to protect children from nightmares. One of the most evocative characterisations, though, is Sandy (the Sandman), who does not utter a single word, but wields enormous power and has true presence in unfolding of this tale. Now, for the Biblio Babble: This film is based on a series of books I absolutely love. Created by William Joyce (if you want to hear the truly touching backstory, drop me a comment and I will provide). The artwork is so gorgeous, that I have bought about four of these and am itching to give them away to someone with kids who would really appreciate such  books. The artwork is stunning and the Hubs and I have poured over them several times, totally immersed in the world of finely wrought deets which Joyce has created. Now, here's some good news: in the Spring, a second Guardians-related flick- Epic- will come out and the book from which it springs is, I feel, the most beautiful of the ones we have. Can I get a YAY!?.

The Grading Sessions: 4.98 pengies out of 5. Could have done more with the music. Should have done more with the music. However, the art-effects were so spectacular, I feel the film-makers did justice to Joyce's work.

Lessons Learned: Wonderful movies  can be made from a children's book. Not easily, but can be done with care and intent. Lastly this: as long as someone believes in you, anything is possible, and you do become more powerful. Try it.