Category Archives: Movies

“Yellow”

There is a backstory about the compelling letter that Director Jon Chu wrote to the members of the band, Coldplay asking permission to feature a cover of their song “Yellow” in the movie “Crazy Rich Asians.”  I’m very glad Coldplay agreed!!

This is sung in Chinese by Katherine Ho.

 

The movie takes place in New York City and Singapore and features an all Asian cast.  The film is based on the first book of a trilogy written by author, Kevin Kwan: Crazy Rich Asians (Book 1); China Rich Girlfriend Book 2); and Rich People Problems (Book 3) .

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Agatha Christie — Writer, Traveler, Playwright, Wife, Mother, Surfer

AgathaChristie1925                                       Agatha_ChristiePhoto

This weekend (specifically Saturday, September 15, 2018) was the birthday of the British writer, Agatha Christie.  Born in 1890 in Torquay, Devon in southwestern England, Ms. Christie is best known for her detective mystery novels and short stories.  The youngest of three children in an upper middle class family (her father was American and her mother British), Ms. Christie was educated at home by her mother and later studied, also, in Paris.

It is believed Ms. Christie began writing detective stories during World War I when she worked as a nurse volunteer.  Her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, was published in 1920.  In this story readers are introduced to one of Ms. Christie’s best known fictional characters, the eccentric Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot.  Along with Poirot, the other well known, albeit, “amateur,” detective fictional character that eventually also became familiar to readers is the elderly spinster woman, Miss Jane Marple, who began appearing in Ms. Christie’s novels and stories in 1927.

While Ms. Christie’s crime stories brought her much professional success, her private life was not without heartbreak.  Her father died when she was 11 years old and her mother in 1927.  In the late 1920s, her 1914 marriage to Archibald Christie, with whom they share a daughter, ended badly.

In 1930 Ms. Christie fell in love and married the archaeologist, Max Mallowan.  This pairing proved to be happy, and Ms. Christie often accompanied her second husband on his archaeology digs in the Middle East as well as spent time traveling with him in Europe and Asia.  Ms. Christie began to feature the places they visited and spent time in as locations in her some of her novels including Death on the Nile and Murder on the Orient Express.

agatha_and_max                   Agatha&MaxinSyria

A prolific writer, Ms. Christie is now recognized as one of the most widely read authors in the world.  In 1971, several years before she died at the age of 85 in 1976, Ms. Christie had been given the title “dame” by the British Empire.  Along with being credited with writing 66 crime novels, 16 plays and numerous short stories, Ms. Christie also wrote 6 psychological romance novels under the pseudonym Mary Westmacott — this is something the public did not know until it was revealed in 1949 that Ms. Westmacott was actually Agatha Christie.

There have been many films made of Agatha Christie novels and short stories (just recently, for example. a 2017 movie adaptation of the novel “Murder on the Orient Express” was released).  One of the most memorable movie adaptations of an Agatha Christie story, made while Ms. Christie was still alive, is the 1957 movie “Witness for the Prosecution” starring actors Tyrone Power, Marlene Dietrich, Charles Laughton and Elsa Lancaster and directed by filmmaker, Billy Wilder – this film still captivates movie goers today!

MurderOntheOrientExpress                            WitnessFortheProsecution

 

“You Shouldn’t Look at Me That Way”

Elvis Costello song from the 2017 movie “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool” (featuring actors Annette Bening and Jamie Bell)

 

Montage

“Montage” is a long ago song that for some reason left an imprint on my mind.  It was when I was a teenager that I heard it in the movie “How Sweet It Is” starring James Garner and Debbie Reynolds who portray a married couple who become chaperones to a group of teenagers, including their adolescent son, on a trip to Europe.  While this song’s pop melody and catchy lyrics peaked my interest, it’s actually taken me some years to actually track it down.

From what I’ve read recently it is believed that songwriter/composer/singer, Jimmy Webb, was asked to write a song specifically for this movie “How Sweet It Is” (released in 1968) and this is how the song “Montage,” was created.  The version here is sung by the group “Love Generation.”

Montage

“It was written on my mind like the back of an envelope rehearsed
and very carefully in reach,
Like cool cucumber noncommittal speech,
That I wrote while hanging out down at the beach.
And I shivered from the cold of the ice in my granite heart,
Knowing that you didn’t have a prayer,
And then I rang the bell and you were there.

And darling, then your face was full of me,
And then your eyes were, too.

And I knew that you knew that I knew
That you knew that I knew that you knew
That I knew that you knew that I knew.

I regained my self control and I tried to close my big fat mouth
Before I love you fell out on the floor,
I didn’t feel like Batman anymore,
I hit my funny elbow on the door.
And then your brother asked if I had money for a haircut,
And the pimple on my neck began to hurt,
Suddenly I wished I’d changed my shirt.

And darling, then your face was full of me
And then your eyes were, too.

And I knew that you knew that I knew
That you knew that I knew that you knew
That I knew that you knew that I knew.”

—Jimmy Webb (born, 1946)

the-love-generation-montage-from-how-sweet-it-is-i-knew-that-you-knew-imperial                       MontagePicardy

“Don’t Think Twice” – Movies borrowing Bob Dylan songs and lyrics

Most of the literate world is aware at this point that songwriter musician Bob Dylan was recently awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature.  For those who don’t follow the news regularly there was some concern in the days following the announcement that Mr. Dylan couldn’t be found because he hadn’t formally commented about receiving this honor.  Finally he did respond publicly saying that receiving the award was “amazing, incredible.  Whoever dreams about something like that?”  It’s been reported that Mr. Dylan won’t be attending the awards ceremony, however, in Sweden on December 10 as he has another commitment at this time.

In the aftermath of Bob Dylan being the recipient of this award, I was reminded about seeing earlier this autumn two recent film titles that are lines lifted from Bob Dylan songs.  It made me realize how much his music has permeated our cultural consciousness.  These very recent films are entitled “Complete Unknown” (2016) and “Don’t Think Twice” (2016).

I began to wonder how many movies have borrowed their titles from Dylan songs through the years.  Here is a list of some films (as well as a few TV series):

“Forever Young” (1992)

“Corrina, Corrina” (1994) (Dylan didn’t write this blues/country song – his cover of it is well known)

“Just Like a Woman” – Three movies with this title since the late 1960s: 1967, 1992 and 2012

“A Simple Twist of Fate” (1994)

“Like a Rolling Stone” (1994) – Japanese film

“If Not For You” (1995) – TV series that ran 8 episodes

“Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” (1997) – German film

“All Along the Watchtower” (1999) – TV series that ran 6 episodes

“Tangled Up in Blue” – Three different full length films have been made with this title.  Their respective years of release were 2004, 2009 and 2011.

“Shelter from the Storm: A Concert for the Gulf Coast” (2005)

“Gotta Serve Somebody: The Gospel Songs of Bob Dylan” (2006)

“Blowin’ in the Wind” (2007)

“One Too Many Mornings” (2010)

“My Back Pages” (2011) – Japanese film

I’m actually leaving out innumerable short films and individual television episodes (from a wide range of TV series) whose titles also borrow from Dylan’s repertoire.

Epilogue

In spring 2016 Rolling Stone magazine published this list of the 100 best Bob Dylan songs. Here is the online link: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/lists/100-greatest-bob-dylan-songs-20160524

And in providing some commentary in regard to these songs, writer/director Cameron Crowe states “Dylan’s stuff continues to inform every generation – it just lives and lives and lives…”

Elvis, liking his music (& also a movie about him meeting Nixon)

Elvis!   I was too young to understand what all the fuss was about when I was growing up – I grew up on the Beatles and the first wave of the British Invasion bands that followed and Elvis just seemed corny and out of date to me.

Then one nite, in the mid 1980s, I heard a song sung live by a local rock band in the city where I was living at the time.  This song was pure rock n roll, up tempo and very danceable – it dazzled me like a meteor roaring across the sky (to make my own corny metaphor).  Afterwards I asked someone in the band who wrote this song and the musician looked at me oddly – it’s an Elvis song.

After that I began to take an interest in this American icon of rock n roll.  Within that year I watched the film performance of his 1968 Las Vegas concert.  I began to realize Elvis contributed quite a repertoire of very likeable rock n roll songs to contemporary music.  While I didn’t make it a mission to seek out any other specific songs per se, I definitely had a new respect for Elvis Presley and his music.

Now recently I saw the movie “Elvis and Nixon” released in Spring 2016 starring actor Michael Shannon as the King of Rock n Roll and actor Kevin Spacey as the President.  It’s based on the real life meeting between Elvis and Nixon that took place sometime in  Dec 1970/early January 1971.  The film takes its premise from an infamous photograph of the two of them shaking hands when they met at the White House.  No one knows what their conversation, however, was actually about.  The movie extrapolates on this meeting by additionally focusing on friends of Elvis who possibly accompanied him to the White House when he traveled there and also on Nixon’s aides who (in this film version anyway) encourage Nixon to go and ahead meet this visitor, Elvis Presley.  “Elvis and Nixon” is ultimately kind of quirky and fun and possibly of interest to Elvis fans.

Anyway here is the song that made me like Elvis!

 

More Soundtracks…”Aloha”

The film “Aloha” was released in 2015, and before its release evidently this film was riddled with controversy.  Criticism initially stemmed from what is regarded as insensitive casting choices, and then in the wake of Sony studio’s hacked email communications, it was revealed that some studio executives believed the film was a mistake and the studio would lose money.

I saw “Aloha” on DVD the other night – it isn’t a great film, and in my opinion some of the plot lacks plausibility.  The chemistry among the actors was believable, however, and that kept my interest.

What “Aloha” does have is a cavalcade of good music ranging from traditional Hawaiian songs to selections by David Bowie, the Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac, Hall & Oates, Eddie Vedder & his seven-year-old daughter, Harper, and more.  Given that the writer/director, Cameron Crowe is a former editor/writer for Rolling Stone Magazine, and Crowe’s other movies have similarly memorable musical moments, the abundance of music in “Aloha” is not all that surprising.

“Heart is a Drum” by Beck Hansen is a song in the film that captured me.

Soundtracks

I like to watch now and again movies that I saw some years ago when they were first released. If it’s been a number of years (25 or more), I often remember the film’s basic story line and not much of the details. Some movies I like to see more than once after it’s been a long time. A movie that I just saw for about the 3rd time since its initial release is quite full of music from an era of time when the film’s characters first met.

At this 3rd viewing of the film I thought about all the songs that are featured in it and thought of what my two top favorite songs are among them all.

Here are the songs that appear in the 1983 film “The Big Chill” that have emerged as my favorites:

“The Weight” by the Band

I wasn’t really aware of the Band until they broke up. I think it was the 1978 film “The Last Waltz” that introduced me to their music in a complete way, and ironically it was a film about this group’s final concert. “The Weight” is a song that has grown on me over the years.

“Gimme Some Lovin’” by Spencer Davis Group

I have loved this song and it’s uptempo beat since it was first released. This a song that will make a person want to dance! (and shout “hey!”)

In the film “The Big Chill” this song is played when there is a backyard touch football game going on.

I’m just realizing here that “Gimme Some Lovin'” is actually a fairly short (time-wise) song.

A film and a poem about AIDS

After recently seeing the now award-winning film “The Dallas Buyers Club” (with kudos to Matthew McConaughey for his best actor Oscar and to Jared Leto for his best supporting actor Oscar), it brought back memories of the years in the 1980s when the disease AIDS first emerged.   So much at that time was unknown about this frightening and then terminal illness that it was not only the general public who was mystified, the medical establishment was also in the dark.  News stories about the one drug, AZT, that seemed to ward off the disease for a time anyway, depicted the horrendous side effects that this medication inflicted on people who needed it.  There was also talk about how the U.S. FDA was too slow in releasing the results of the clinical trials for other AIDS medications.  This hampered terribly the availability of other approved medications in reaching the AIDS patients.  Much of this that went on back then is depicted in the real-life story of Texan Ron Woodroof that the film “The Dallas Buyers Club” is about.

Moving ahead to present time I wanted to feature, in honor of Women’s History Month, the poetry of the American woman poet, novelist and memoirist writer, May Sarton (1912-1995).  Contained with a collection of Ms. Sarton’s poetry I found this poem entitled “AIDS” written in the late 1980s.

AIDS, a poem by May Sarton

We are stretched to meet a new dimension
Of love, a more demanding range
Where despair and hope must intertwine.
How grow to meet it? Intention
Here can neither move nor change
The raw truth. Death is on the line.
It comes to separate and estrange
Lover from lover in some reckless design.
Where do we go from here?

Fear. Fear. Fear. Fear

Our world has never been more stark
Or more in peril.

It is very lonely now in the dark.
Lonely and sterile.
And yet in the simple turn of a head
Mercy lives. I heard it when someone said
“I must go now to a dying friend.
Every night at nine I tuck him into bed,
And give him a shot of morphine,” And added, “I go where I have never been.”
I saw he meant into a new discipline
He had not imagined before, and a new grace.

Every day now we meet face to face.
Every day now devotion is the test.
Through the long hours, the hard, caring nights
We are forging a new union. We are blest.
As closed hands open to each other
Closed lives open to strange tenderness.
We are learning the hard way how to mother.
Who says it is easy? But we have the power.
I watch the faces deepen all around me.
It is the time of change, the saving hour.
The word is not fear, the word we live,
But an old word suddenly made new,
As we learn it again, as we bring it alive:

Love. Love. Love. Love.

[1988]

 

 

Becoming Better Friends (a bit of surprising U.S. & British history found in a movie)

First off I’m not actually an Anglophile or a big fan of the British royals (other than former Princess Diana and her two now adult children).  Having seen the movie “The King’s Speech” about the efforts of England’s newly appointed King George VI (real name Albert) in the late 1930s to overcome a stuttering problem, I was surprised how happy I was to see him and his wife reappear in the 2012 film “Hyde Park on the Hudson.”   This time it is 1939, and following up on an invitation by President Roosevelt, King George and his Queen visit FDR and the First Lady, Eleanor, at their home away from Washington, D.C. in Hyde Park, New York.  In his invitation to the royals in late August 1938 FDR writes:

…”If you should be here in June or July you might care to avoid the heat of Washington, and, in such a case, it would give us the greatest pleasure to have you and Her Majesty come to visit us at our country home at Hyde Park which is on the Hudson River, about eighty miles north of New York and, therefore, on the direct route between New York City and Canada. Also, it occurs to me that a Canadian trip would be crowded with formalities and that you both might like three or four days of very simple country life at Hyde Park — with no formal entertainments and an opportunity to get a bit of rest and relaxation…”

The film “Hyde Park on the Hudson” is primarily about FDR’s relationship with his distant cousin, Margaret “Daisy” Suckley (rhymes with Bookley).  However the visiting British royals kind of stole the movie for me.   While not central to the movie’s plot per se, considerable attention is given to their visit with a highlight of it being a picnic held in their honor where they are served “hot dogs” to eat.  Neither the English King nor the Queen had ever eaten a “hot dog” and just between the two of them they are not sure if this is all on the level or perhaps to make fun of them.

King George VI, however, decides to be a good sport and heartily eats the hot dogs he is given, and this incident became a symbol of England and the U.S. becoming stronger allies and better friends.  Evidently much was made of this by the U.S. press.  What is true is the visit leads to FDR and King George VI becoming fast friends and this friendship, in part, is reflected in the U.S. becoming a staunch supporter of England as WWII began to loom.

Daisy Suckley, FDR’s close friend/distant cousin, also attended this same picnic held for the British King and Queen.  Interestingly, in June 1989 there was a 50th anniversary reenactment of this picnic at the Roosevelt home on the Hudson known as Springwood and Daisy, now age 97, attended this event also.  It turns out she and one other person were the only two remaining original picnic attendees that were still alive.  Daisy was able to give some insight on the British royals and the hot dogs, and in her eyes it was not a big deal and all rather silly.  Still, in honor of the occasion Miss Suckley, also a good sport, tasted a hot dog at the commemorative picnic.

                                              

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