Sunday, September 27, 2009

Musical triple-bill

Last night I found myself watching back-to-back-to-back movie musicals (none of which I had seen before), although I use the word "watching" very loosely because there was quite a bit of muting/listening to other music/putschking around the house/five minute naps while in the vicinity of the TV during those five-plus hours. Especially during the first film, "Mamma Mia".

I love ABBA's music, and didn't like the musical when I saw it live several years ago. But the movie is just horrifically bad, and everyone involved just be embarrassed that their sloppy, amateurish karaoke was caught on film (except for Meryl Streep, who is incapable of having a truly bad performance in any genre, even if she has absolutely nothing and nobody to work with, as she did here). Did you know that this movie is the biggest grossing movie ever in Britain, surpassing "Titanic"?

I can't believe that "Chicago" won the Academy Award for Best Picture, well, strictly speaking I can believe it because it's not such a stretch to imagine Academy members falling for the simple gimmick of a few big movie stars trying their hands at singing and dancing. Along the way, we learn an important lesson -- the media is vicious, uncaring, and in the blink of an eye you can be yesterday's news. Wow, I'd never thought about it that way before, that's so deep. And look everybody, Catherine Zeta-Jones (who was good but hardly worth the hype given to her performance) and Renee Zellweger (who was tasked with the burden of looking button-cute but hardly did anything else notable) are doing a closing dance number, who ever thought we'd see that? Give them an Oscar! However, the whole thing *looks* great, I'll give it that, it was a "Moulin Rouge"-esque splash of constant light, colour, and flashy costumes. The real star of the film was Richard Gere. I can't recall ever liking him in a movie before, but he pulled off the part (and the singing and dancing!) better than I would have ever thought possible.

After those two films, I really didn't have the energy to stay awake for "Dirty Dancing 2: Havana Nights", but somehow I couldn't turn away from this trainwreck. I had to keep watching to find out how much horrifically bad dialogue could force its way into a single movie, and to see how they'd oversimplify the issues in the Cuban Revolution for easy consumption by an under-12 Disney Channel audience. The homages to the original movie were obvious, but not overbearing (e.g. the water scene, the hair-combing scene, the scene where PATRICK MF'IN SWAYZE reprises his "Johnny's Mambo" dance routine OMG!!!!!). Sela Ward is meant to play the Jerry Orbach role as the overprotective parent, but she wasn't on screen enough to have much of an influence on the direction of the movie, and a sweet ex-ballroom dancing mom isn't much of a rudder compared to a steely, rich and influential dad who will do anything to keep his little girls out of harm's way. Oh, and Sela Ward is no Jerry Orbach.

There was no conflict in the movie because the villains were villain-y enough, which is what happens when you have to sanitize everything for a pre-teen audience. Ooooh, that rich boy tried to make out with her and she didn't want to. Scoundrel! The sister character can't establish her unsavoury-ness by sleeping around like in the original, so she shows her true colours by ... using racial epithets? What kind of lazy cheap heel heat is this? And remember kids, it's OK to follow your dreams and support the revolution, just remember that America is still #1.

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