Ridley Scott's new film Exodus: Gods and Kings recasts the myth of Moses in typically grimdark swords-and-sandals fashion. It... ain't so good. Want something more artful? Look no further than The Prince of Egypt [alt], an underrated masterpiece of DreamWorks' traditional animation era. Directed by Brenda Chapman (a first for women in animation), scored to spectacular effect by Hans Zimmer and Stephen Schwartz, and voiced by, among others, Voldemort, Batman, and Professor X, the ambitious film features gorgeous, striking visuals and tastefully integrated CGI in nearly every scene. It also manages the improbable feat of maturing beyond cartoon clichés while humanizing the prophet's journey from carefree scion to noble (and remorseful) liberator without offending half the planet -- while still being quite a fun ride. Already seen it? Catch the making-of documentary, or click inside for more. [more inside]
Is Saving Mr. Banks, Disney's retelling of the events surrounding the adaptation of Mary Poppins a corporate, borderline-sexist spoonful of lies which throws author P. L. Travers under the bus?
French film Amélie (2001) is going to be adapted into a Broadway musical by American composer Dan Messe (Hem), who will be creating new music for the score. Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet is disgusted by these plans, but sold the rights anyway to support a charity.
Want to watch a film based on a musical by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil? No, for that one you'll have to wait until Christmas. Until then: Martin Guerre: A Musical Journey.
I got an e-mail from a friend asking if I wanted to attend a screening on the Fox lot of Peter Bogdanovich's original cut of At Long Last Love. And the answer in a case like should always be yes. [more inside]
Pennies from Heaven is the most emotional movie musical I've ever seen. It's a stylized mythology* of the Depression which uses the popular songs of the period as expressions of people's deepest longings - for sex, for romance, for money, for a high good time...there was never a second when I wasn't fascinated* by what was happening on the screen. - Pauline Kael (* SPOILERS)
A decade on, the Coen brothers' woefully underrated O Brother, Where Art Thou? [alt] is remembered for a lot of things: its sun-drenched, sepia-rich cinematography (a pioneer of digital color grading), its whimsical humor, fluid vernacular, and many subtle references to Homer's Odyssey. But one part of its legacy truly stands out: the music. Assembled by T-Bone Burnett, the soundtrack is a cornucopia of American folk music, exhibiting everything from cheery ballads and angelic hymns to wistful blues and chain-gang anthems. Woven into the plot of the film through radio and live performances, the songs lent the story a heartfelt, homespun feel that echoed its cultural heritage, a paean and uchronia of the Old South. Though the multiplatinum album was recently reissued, the movie's medley is best heard via famed documentarian D. A. Pennebaker's Down from the Mountain, an extraordinary yet intimate concert film focused on a night of live music by the soundtrack's stars (among them Gillian Welch, Emmylou Harris, Chris Thomas King, bluegrass legend Dr. Ralph Stanley) and wryly hosted by John Hartford, an accomplished fiddler, riverboat captain, and raconteur whose struggle with terminal cancer made this his last major performance. The film is free in its entirety on Hulu and YouTube -- click inside for individual clips, song links, and breakdowns of the set list's fascinating history. [more inside]
[Absolute Beginners] has a glossy immediacy, and you can feel the flash and determination that went into it. What you don't feel is the tormented romanticism that made English adolescents in the 70s swear by the novel the way American kids had earlier sworn by The Catcher in the Rye. - Pauline Kael [more inside]
Regardless of the outcomes and foreshadowing, the lethal combination of the sudden musical revival and the roller disco fad that was freshly in the cultural air in the late 70’s was still too good to pass up. It was only inevitable that someone somewhere would make the explosive connection….and at this intersection, Xanadu would happen... [more inside]
After creating four successive masterpieces in the 1970s, culminating in the tortured production of Apocalypse Now, Francis Ford Coppola began the 1980s by directing "a romantic comedy, a musical fantasy and an erotic love story set amidst the neon glitter of Las Vegas on a Fourth of July weekend." [more inside]
"To make off with hubby's fortune, yea, I think I heard of that happenin' once or twice around L.A. And… you want me to do what exactly?" He found the paper bag he'd brought his supper home in and got busy pretending to scribble notes on it, because straight-chick uniform, makeup supposed to look like no makeup or whatever, here came that old well-known hard-on Shasta was always good for sooner or later. Does it ever end, he wondered. Of course it does. It did. Thomas Pynchon's next novel, the 416-page Inherent Vice, is described by Penguin Press as "part noir, part psychedelic romp, all Thomas Pynchon — private eye Doc Sportello comes, occasionally, out of a marijuana haze to watch the end of an era as free love slips away and paranoia creeps in with the L.A. fog." While we wait for its August 4 publication, we can read an essay on the dystopian musical he co-wrote at Cornell or watch a clip of that movie they made of Gravity's Rainbow. [more inside]
The Little Shop of Horrors movie was originally intended to be.... very different. Three-part YouTube link. Amazing.
Jonathan "King of Hits" King is a former pop impresario now best known for his conviction and imprisonment for having sex with teenage boys. He has turned his experiences into a satirical musical, Vile Pervert [NSFW], and released the film for free online. In one number, adopting the persona of Oscar Wilde, King asserts that "there's nothing wrong with buggering boys".
Quick, before Tim Burton's "re-imagining dark gems of the 1970s" spree continues with the film version that will obliterate all recollection of the original musical thriller's style! Check out 1982's Emmy-winning televised performance of Sweeney Todd, with George Hearn and the inimitable Angela Lansbury. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15. Or, just skip to the highlights, A Little Priest, Epiphany. Also, check out the style of the inventive, minimalist revival or read the original penny dreadful!
"I would like to do better, to be better than I am". He's the French New Wave maverick and Academy Award winner (at 26, for his first short) who, to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz -- with considerable personal pain and the admission that "no description, no picture can reveal the true dimension" of what happened in the camps -- made what François Truffaut called "the greatest film ever made", duly censored by French authorities. Four years later he baffled audiences with "the first modern film of sound cinema", shattering the rules of chronology to describe the “anguish of the future”: even if all he ever wanted was "to stop death in its tracks" (French language link), only for one minute. But he is also the unabashed lover of la bande dessinée who learnt English by reading comic books and in the Seventies dreamed (French language link) of making "Spider-Man" into a movie (the Hollywood studios were not convinced), the MGM old-school musical and operetta nut so in love with design that "half of the fashion photography of the past 40 years owes a debt" to him. Now, Alain Resnais' new work, just shown at the Venice Film Festival where his buddy David Lynch was awarded a lifetime achievement Golden Lion, is a French film inspired by an English play with 54 short scenes, music by the X-Files's Mark Snow. (more inside)