Tag Archives: Hugh Jackman

My Lingering Thoughts on the Oscars

26 Feb

So, the Oscars happened last night. And I have thoughts! So let’s just dive in, shall we?

-First of all, did anyone else feel like they didn’t have a horse in this race at all? I saw a bunch of the nominated movies, more than I usually do, and my feeling on almost each and every category was ‘yeah, whichever is fine.’ Not because there weren’t great performances or great movies, but I just didn’t feel personally attached to any of them this year. Honestly, I think my favorite performance of the year was Hadley Fraser in Les Mis, because he managed to make the guy who sings “you at the barricades listen to this” into a character with a rich full inner life and history, and I didn’t think that was even possible.

-Renee Zellweger, what the hell?! I spend a good chunk of my life saying that we squinty-eyed folk actually do have functional eyeballs, and then you go and stumble around oddly and seemingly can’t read anything. Get it together, Zellweger!! We need you! The large-eyed Tarsier people are winning!!

-One of my favorite things about this Oscars was the fact that Quentin Tarantino’s date was a woman named Lianne Spiderbaby:

This is awesome for a number of reasons. First of all, because I adore that dress and always support messy sidebraiding. Secondly, because if you google image her a lot of photos of her with knives and blood come up, which leads me to believe that they are one of those ‘inevitable’ couples, like Bjork and Matthew Barney and Tim Burton and Helena Bonham-Carter. I mean, who else would they date? “So, what are you into?” “Oh, graphic violence. Blood spatter. You know.” “Oh my god, me too!!” See what I mean? And lastly, and most obviously, because her name is Lianne SPIDERBABY. I would like to imagine that many generations ago in a little village somewhere, a town elder said “John who mills we shall call John Miller. And Robert the barrel-maker shall be Robert Cooper. But whatever shall we call Sven, who midwives the arachnids?”

-How amazingly charming were Channing Tatum and Charlize Theron dancing? Who knew?!?! And Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Daniel Radcliffe?! I mean, come on now. I think they should host the Oscars next year as a saucy song-and-dance team, and Charlize Theron and Channing Tatum can just glide on in whenever there’s a transition or a joke that doesn’t go well.

-What is with these otherwise fashionable girls choosing wan ill-fitting pink prom-y dresses to actually win an Oscar in? Between Gwyneth Paltrow in this:

And Anne Hathaway in this:

It’s like there’s something about the promise of an Oscar that makes ladies think that they must find some pink satin stat, but not invite any boob support to the party. And then pair the look with a necklace that doesn’t suit the neckline (Anne Hathaway’s necklace drove me nuts. No necklace with that neckline – long simple earrings! Arm full of bracelets! Rookie mistake!!)
Come on, ladies. If you want to do a pink dress that says THAT’S RIGHT, BITCHES, I AM WINNING A FUCKING OSCAR TONIGHT, take a look at Fan Bingbing:

Fan Bingbing is one of my favorites always, because she is a woman who knows how to wear a dress. Probably very few on the red carpet knew who she was, but I bet when she passed, every single head turned. Take notes, ladies – that’s how you win the evening, whether or not you win the Oscar.

-I feel like Kristen Stewart on the red carpet is the equivalent of those toddlers you see responding to having to go somewhere they don’t want to go by throwing a tantrum and then becoming dead weight that their parents have to drag; they’ll go, but they’ll make it as hard as possible and let you know that they are miserable the whole time. I always think when I see Kristen Stewart that she probably HAS to go to some events, but I doubt she HAS to go to the Oscars. And if she does HAVE to, please remember that your profession is being an actor, K-Stew. You could at least act like having to put on a dress and comb your hair isn’t the most miserable boring thing that has ever happened to you.

-For real, is Nicole Kidman wearing the Batman logo over her navel?

I loved this dress on camera (it’s so shiny she looks like a seal just coming out of water in the red carpet photos), but I honestly can’t figure out that belt. Is she signalling her willingness to take over the franchise when Christian Bale leaves? Is she telling us with the very Klimt-ian gold swirls at the bottom (which match the design on the floor of the stage) that she wants to be a new villain called ‘The Kisser’? Inquiring minds want to know.

-Speaking of those swirls on the stage, those are EXACTLY the doodles I used to draw all over the stage in high school. I even drew them on a lampshade when I was in my DIY phase in college.

-I love that they did a tribute to musicals, then did three musicals. You know, only those three musicals that they’ve made movies of. Good thing they could think of those three, because there certainly aren’t any other possible choices to include. I mean, really, if they were going to pay tribute to something, they really should have picked an industry with a rich full selection of options, not puny musical theater. And there’s definitely no other musicals on film. That must have been hard for them.

-Hey, remember when the Tonys had Lin-Manuel Miranda and Tommy Kail write a rap about the show for Neil Patrick Harris to do at the end of the evening? Remember how funny and perfect and awesome that was? Then remember last night when Kristen Chenoweth came out, and dueted on what was Seth MacFarlane’s maybe fifth unfunny song of the evening? Yeah.

-How adorable was it when Hugh Jackman came to Jennifer Lawrence’s rescue when she tripped on the stairs? Can we just declare Hugh Jackman to be officially the best human being ever? I mean seriously, I feel like if an alien race ever attacks, we should present Hugh Jackman as proof of what humans can be, and then I’m sure the aliens would be like “oh, good point, you guys have potential. Okay guys, back to the home planet.”

-Also in the running for best person ever is George Clooney, who is the only person who has ever called to mind both a beautiful Roman statue and a sexy young Santa Claus at the same time.

-And speaking of impressive hair, how about all the long blond-haired guys winning? It must have been a party in Lothlorien last night, is all I’m sayin’.

-Okay, if I don’t end now, I’ll go on forever. So until I remember the big huge thing I forgot to say tomorrow, I’ll say au revoir until next year!

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Mes Réflexions Sur ‘Les Miserables’

31 Dec

As you may have heard, the movie version of ‘Les Miserables’ opened. And people have opinions! So many opinions. But you know who else has opinions? Why that’s right! Yours truly. And so I thought I’d share some of them. But you might want to buckle up, because I’ve been listening to and watching Les Mis for years, and as a natural-born overanalyzer, I’ve thought a lot about how the show works. So some of my movie thoughts are going to be a little more musical theater wonk. But don’t worry, I’ll also talk about fun stuff like OH MY GOD HOW MUCH POOP ARE THEY COVERED WITH WHEN THEY GET OUT OF THE SEWERS. So, in no particular order, mes reflexions:

-On the whole, I loved it. It’s a beautiful movie that captures the soul of the show, which captures the soul of the book. And I love that it is unabashedly a musical – I’m so glad they stuck with it being through-sung and recorded live.

-Russell Crowe. Oh, Russell Crowe. You see, I adore Russell Crowe, ever since I saw him as Bud White in ‘L.A. Confidential’, which is an incredible performance and if you haven’t seen that truly excellent movie you should stop reading this right now and go rent it. There is no one I can think of who captures better the combination of true dangerous violence with a vulnerable pain visible right at its heart. I was super psyched when I heard he would be Javert, because I thought that this combination would be great for Javert, a character who must shed his righteous, protected facade to reveal the panic at having his entire worldview shattered. But it just didn’t work, did it? I realized that Russell Crowe, as good as he is, just doesn’t read well as a law-keeper; he is best as a law-breaker, as in ‘L.A. Confidential’ and ‘Gladiator’. And of all the characters, Javert is the one whose voice should be most in control: he is a man who is literally all about being rigidly in line, within boundaries, maintaining the law. Russell Crowe’s rocky sliding all over the place weakened Javert in a way that made the character never quite make sense. Hold on to your butts for a moment, because I’m about to get all dramaturgical up in here: Javert and Jean Valjean are doppelganger characters. Both are men who believe 100% in doing the right thing, but their versions of this are completely opposed; Valjean believes in doing good for others, no matter how that is best achieved (breaking parole), Javert believes in following and maintaining the law. Thus, when they have their final confrontation and Javert realizes that Valjean might be a good man AND a criminal, two things that are mutually exclusive in his head, he has to choose whether to change his entire worldview (as Valjean did after being given the candlesticks, singing THE SAME MUSICAL PHRASE OH MY GOD THIS SHOW IS SO SMART), or end the life that has now proven false. He cannot change, so he dies. But without a rigid Javert to contrast with fluid Valjean, and without confrontations that make you realize their similarities, you lose a big part of the piece. And I hated Javert walking on the edge; he’s the opposite of a daredevil, he follows rules obsessively.

-Yay Colm Wilkinson! I loved that he came back at the end for Valjean, too – it’s always struck me as strange that a character who has such a huge effect on Valjean is never seen again. And I’m so glad they didn’t have Eponine come back with Fantine for Valjean – as previously discussed on this here blog, I always thought that was weird.

-I did sort of miss the candlestick moment that the show has, in which Valjean takes the candlesticks out at the end and you realize for the first time that he’s kept them all along. The movie does a nice job of tracking the candlesticks, though, and I guess it’s harder to reveal stuff like that in a movie, when he has to be somewhere that makes sense in the last scene and not just in ‘undefined theater space’. But why was the Bishop in black? That seemed sort of morbid.

-Since I’m on a Bishop kick, I thought it was super interesting that they changed the Bishop’s lyric “I have bought your soul for God” to “I have saved your soul for God”. I would love to know why – did ‘bought’ seem a little mercenary? I always liked the idea that he’s talking to this rough convict in his own language – not, you are now saved, but, now you owe me. But saved works too.

-Okay, let’s talk about that poop. My sister, who saw the movie before me, said there was a lot of poop post-sewers. But then in the movie, OH MY GOD I HAD NO IDEA, THERE WAS SO MUCH POOP!!! My sister leaned over to me and whispered “it’s like he’s in poop blackface!!” which pretty much made me miss the rest of the scene in a fit of snorting giggles. But she was right – all you can see is the whites of Valjean’s eyes! Wouldn’t Valjean just wipe his face off? Nobody is so virtuous not to be like, hold on a second, I just have to get this HUMAN FECES OFF MY FACE. I mean, even Javert I’m sure would have been like, dude, I’ll just wait here for a minute, you do you, that is gross. And did they have crew members with buckets off camera? Was it a hose? Realistically, how would Marius ever have survived getting THE WASTE OF MULTIPLE PEOPLE in an open wound? That’s sepsis for sure.

-Wow, that was some sound that Javert made when he hit the water. I got a little distracted wondering what the foley editors used – corncob broken in half by hitting it with a steak? Stomp on skin bag full of cornflakes? Hammer onto a full chicken? It was like a real meaty crunch.

-In ancient Greece, when they performed tragic plays, they would put shorter funny plays in between to balance out all the sad, and probably to make everyone not want to kill themselves immediately (because oh my god, can you imagine a day of all Greek tragedies?!) Anyhoo, this proves the vital concept that tragedy is best when balanced by comedy. That’s what ‘Master of the House’ is really there for – a fantastic number of some comic relief in an otherwise glum show. But oh man, one thing the movie ‘Master of the House’ definitely isn’t is fun. Yikes! I was actually hoping we could go back to watching some poor people starve for a while. And without a little levity break, it’s a long glum story indeed. And how could they not have a big fun number on that cool set? That was a bummer.

-How incredibly adorable was it that Marius got truly flustered on “I’m doing everything all wrong?” I ‘awwed’ audibly.

-All the prizes for Grantaire!! How great was that guy? For the first time Grantaire felt like a major part of the story, and they even cut his big song! George Blagden, you are a star.

-Also all the prizes for the army guy who sings “you at the barricade listen to this” etc. You could see and hear his hope that they would surrender and not make him have to kill anyone, and that was a beautiful and unexpected addition. I think that was Hadley Fraser, who apparently has played many roles in Les Mis over the years, so he was probably like “bitches please, I could do this whole movie as a one man show.” And I would watch that show.

-Also all the prizes for Gavroche, who was awesome and could also probably do the entire movie as a one man show. It did bother me a lot, though, that they changed one detail in his getting the ammo from the other side of the barricade; in the show, Gavroche is increasingly scared in this moment, which is heartbreaking (in the movie he’s more brave the whole time), but, more importantly, he throws the ammo over the barricade before getting shot – he’s actually doing a vitally important thing for the uprising. In the movie, he doesn’t get the ammo to them, and then someone comes out and gets him, which made the whole thing seem less important; I feel like it’s really important that Gavroche dies helping the cause in a way only he could, not by failing at his attempted task.

-I loved Javert giving the medal to Gavroche, though. A lovely touch: Javert doesn’t like lawbreakers but he’s not a monster.

-The other change that I missed was having Eponine deliver the letter to Valjean, then get shot rejoining Marius on the barricade. I guess it tightens it up the movie way (although my sister pointed out that there’s a little weirdness in that it looks like she gives Marius the letter after ‘On My Own’, which makes him run to the house, but then gives it to him again on the barricade), but I miss having her try to complete her task for him then be unable to stand. Also, I always want people to do that scene like Lea Salonga does in the anniversary concert – she gasps with pain at one point, which causes Marius to truly have to comfort her with “hush now, dear Eponine”, and over the course of the rest of the song gradually weakens, until by the end she can’t finish the phrase and dies. It’s incredibly moving, and you are always aware of her fading, but I feel like the movie kept Eponine pretty robust until she died. It’s just not as great that way, methinks.

-Okay, another little nitpicky thing, courtesy of my sister, who apparently is even more plot-detail-tracking than I am. What are these empty chairs and empty tables that Marius is singing about? Because I’m pretty sure we saw all the furniture around being thrown onto the barricade. Did they just put some stuff back after they picked off the dead bodies?

-Fantine doesn’t get her hair back in the afterlife? Come on now, heaven, that was some great hair. I hope at least she gets her tooth.

-You know what would really suck? To die in a failed uprising and then have the afterlife be A GIANT PERPETUAL BARRICADE. Don’t you think that all those guys would be like, oh great! You know that thing that we did that totally didn’t work and then we all died? We get to relive this forever, yippee. This’ll be super fun.

Of Musicals and Mutants.

22 Jun

I am a little hungover today, so I can’t think of a clever way to start this post. You see, I was out last night at the New York Musical Theater Festival’s ‘Best of Fest’ concert, which was a really lovely concert featuring the work of some of musical theater’s new writers and composers and talents, and it was delightful. Afterwards, there was a reception in which you could mingle with said new writers and composers and talents and drink wine, and that was delightful. After that, some of the aforementioned new writers and composers and talents and I went and sang karaoke (well, I didn’t. For the good of all involved) and drank more wine, and that too was delightful. And then I went home and went to sleep, and when I woke up, well, that wasn’t so delightful anymore.

Anyhoo, lots of fun happenings in our little world of musical theater these days. But one of my favorite things of the week happened when something from within our own little peculiar universe ventured outside, and the world at large reacted in a way that pretty much made my week.

You see, one thing you learn when you are a fan of musical theater is that those who are not fans of musical theater seem to not really understand what goes on in our magical, mystical realm of sequins and jazz hands and Mondays off. We speak of strange, wonderful things, of men named Sondheim and things like backphrasing and we use words like ‘nut’ and ‘dark’, but in entirely different ways than most other people use them. And even better, musical theater performers can do things that normal humans cannot. Let me explain.

The X-Men movie franchise is alive and well, and as the newest incarnation, called ‘X-Men: First Class’ (because it shows the origins of the X-Men school, and thus young versions of the older characters in the previous films) is gearing up, casting rumors have been flying fast and loose. One such rumor that began last week began when the Times said that Benjamin Walker, star of the Public’s ‘Bloody, Bloody, Andrew Jackson’, had been offered a plumb role in the new franchise. But who could he be playing?

Aww. So cute.

Now, let me back up a bit here and talk about Benjamin Walker. First of all, Benjamin Walker is dreamy; a strange combination of a big man with a baby face, and very pale man with very dark hair, it all somehow works. Benjamin Walker is also talented – he’s a Juilliard grad who’s been working consistently since graduating, he anchors ‘BBAJ’ so completely that the industry talk is that there is no point in moving the show if they don’t have him in it. But most of all, Benjamin Walker’s got what I call ‘the Juju’ – whatever he does, you can’t look away. Benjamin Walker, simply put, is a star. And it’s not surprising that movies figured this out.

Benjamin Walker leading the cast of 'Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson', and wearing the world's luckiest shirt. (What? I'm allowed to be pervy sometimes.)

Alright, back to the casting rumor. So, Ben Walker’s awesome, he’s been offered this mystery role. I, being in casting and a musical theater and X-Man nerd, eagerly search the internet to see what role this could be. And though the most common guess was that he would play ‘Beast’, a furry blue genius with superstrength, I come across a piece in a British newspaper blog that says this (and was echoed many other places on the interwebs):

“Walker’s musical connections could mean he is in line to play Sean Cassidy, the Irish mutant called Banshee with a sonic scream (and whose similarly-powered daughter was seen shrieking like an intruder alarm when the mansion was raided in X-Men 2).”

Yes, that’s right. Ben Walker is in musical, and he sings, so clearly he must be playing the mutant WITH A SUPERHUMAN, SONIC SCREAM. That completely makes sense. Because being able to sing definitely means that you can create mutant noises.* And there’s no way that this movie franchise would ever use, say, special effects to create that scream (that daughter must have been played by Anna Kendrick – she does the musicals too!). Nope, better hire a singer with ‘musical connections’ (like the mob!).

By the same standard, the only reason that James Marsden  must have gotten the role of Cyclops was because he had bad eyesight, and Hugh Jackman must have landed Wolverine because his fingernails grew slightly faster than normal people’s. And Rebecca Romijn only played Mystique because her body was supernaturally perfect (oh wait, scratch that last one.)

But wait a second there… Hugh Jackman has won Tony Awards for his musical theater doin’. James Marsden was in the movie version of ‘Hairspray’, singing and dancing up a storm. Kelsey Grammar, who played the older version of the part that is now officially Ben Walker’s, is currently starring on Broadway in ‘La Cage Aux Folles’, a musical. Maybe I don’t have this quite right at all – maybe musical theater people really do make the best superhuman mutants!

So there ya go, X-Men film franchise. Congratulations on your snagging of the delicious and talented Ben Walker. But next movie, could you throw a little credit our way and acknowledge the secret talent pool from which you’re drawing? I’m thinking you can throw in a new mutant – ‘Bernadette Fosse/’Razzmatazz’ – a brassy belter who can shoot electricity out of her fingertips. But only when she’s doing Jazz Hands, of course.

*It also begs the question that if Banshee’s power were something that most singers could do, why would his parents have sent him to Mutant school, and not, say, Stagedoor Manor? Does that mean that the next X-Men movie will be set in Stagedoor Manor, and the kids will all be like ‘mutant power: tap dancing’.