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A Midsummer Night's Dream (2014)
A Complete Delight
Certainly one of the best films ever made of a stage production. Julie Taymor's astonishing, magical production is infinitely fascinating with its fusion of world theatre traditions with riotous slapstick and acrobatics and stunning visual projections. There is too much to praise. It must be seen. Besides this, the four-camera film captures the arena stage perfectly. The beautiful stage direction is matched by astonishing film direction. Hugely beautiful and entertaining. It is impossible not to love this film.
King Charles III (2017)
Stunning, beautiful. A major work of art
This is an unbelievably stunning artistic accomplishment. It is a Shakespearean play not only with Shakespearean language, but Shakespearean construction. It is tense, dramatic and an utterly effective work of dramatic art. People who are concerned about the "truth" of this future projection should remind themselves that Shakespeare himself was concerned with dramatic truth, not historical truth. This production explores the dynamics of human relations, historical tensions and the ultimate questions about power, ambition, morality and all the humanistic dynamics that make for great drama. This is the most impressive production I have seen on television in many, many years. Everyone should see this and recognize it for the astonishing achievement it is.
Les Misérables (2012)
Great Actors, Poorly Trained Singers
I enjoyed seeing the film of Les Miserables, having seen the stage show several times. Film is hyper-real, so questions arise that never come up in the stage show. The events of the novel and the film take place during the 1832 June Rebellion not the First Revolution (1789-99) as many Americans might assume, but Hugo's novel was also influenced by the Revolution of 1948 which deposed Louis Philippe. Victor Hugo hated the monarchs of the time and the novel (and the show) exaggerates the bad social conditions of the time.
But the main problem for me was unfortunately the singing. The work is effectively an opera with almost no spoken dialogue. The music is a huge part of the emotional appeal of the work, and the actors--great as they are--make one of the great mistakes of singing. Rather than letting their voices convey emotion, they emote first, then sing. They obviously don't know the difference, and it is a very significant one. Since they were singing virtually a capella on the actual set of the movie under extremely strenuous physical conditions I can empathize with their limitations, but the director's method here, though bold, robbed the movie of much of its emotional impact.
Then there are some, like the great Russell Crowe, who sadly, just don't have the chops. Javer's fabulous "aria," "Stars" fell flat in Crowe's safe but bland rendition. Javer's enormous conviction sets up his later suicide, and Crowe couldn't bring it off. Sad.
Anne Hathaway grinds her way through "I Dreamed a Dream" and robs us of the emotion inherent in the music. Susan Boyle brought me to tears. Anne Hathaway made me admire her grit and physicality, but it was not her singing that created the much more limited emotional response I felt.
Hugh Jackman has the singing chops, but his big "aria," "Bring Him Home" is the graveyard of many stage Jean Valjeans. It is horribly high in tessatura, and Jackman was almost screaming to get out the high notes. The song says, "hear my prayer" and it was not a prayer, but a shout.
These are all great actors, but the direction was off-base here, and audiences who never saw the stage work will never know how affecting it can be if they only see the movie.
Jodaeiye Nader az Simin (2011)
This film won the best foreign language film for the Golden Globes. It blows just about everything this season out of the water. Don't, don't miss it. For all the hate-filled rhetoric spewed about Iran, this film should show the world, like so many other Iranian films, what brilliant artistry exists in this nation, what sensitive beautiful people Iranians are. Iranian actors have been honed and trained since the 1970's when the modern era of Iranian film began. The principal actors: Leila Hatami, Peyman Moaadi, Shahab Hosseini, Sareh Bayat, and Sarina Farhadi (the director's own daughter) are superb. From the first moments of the film you believe them and the truth of their existence. The stark intimacy of the film is stunning. The complicated plot is gripping and holds one's attention to the very end. It will also be fresh and novel for non-Iranian audiences. It is true in every instance to Iranian society and cultural life. Watch it and learn why American politicians have been misleading Americans about Iranian life.
200 American (2003)
Charming film on a shoestring
This film is pleasant and entertaining. It deals successfully with the emotional lives of its characters, and makes for a plausible and even affecting picture of the emotional life of its gay characters. Bravo to the straight actors in the film for their convincing commitment in gay roles. The essential plot line of the film was strong, but the film makers may have run out of ideas about how to spin it out, because there were scenes that were clearly filler, and one sub plot was just bizarre, coming out of left field. Because the actors were not paid, I got the feeling that some of the secondary performers (all quite talented) were indulged a bit--giving them more camera time than the film deserved. I sympathize, but more discipline in editing would have made a tighter production. Some of our biggest stars have had their cameos cut when they slowed the plot advancement of a film. There should be many more films like this that deal accurately with gay romance among people with decent normal lives--no pathologies or obsessions. Anyone, male or female, gay or straight can empathize with these characters.