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Der Rosenkavalier (1985)
A finely-acted version of Strauss' most famous opera directed by Brian Large
Strauss was not fond of the tenor singing voice and and therefore, the romantic "male" lead is Anne Howells in the "trouser" role of Octavian (Count Rofrano). The opening scene showing "his" romantic relations with "The Marshallin" can be startling to modern eyes, to say the least.
But this production belongs to Kiri Te Kanawa as the dignified Marschallin who poignantly realizes the passage of time and the impermanence of her relationship with the much younger Octavian, and the aptly-named Baron Ochs of Lerchenau is the fine Danish basso, Aage Haugland. Barbara Bonney was Sophie the female romantic lead, a role she played in two different productions, the other starring Felicity Lott.
Brian Large directed this most finely-acted and excellently sung made for TV production from Covent Garden with impressive scenery and props befitting the Royal Opera House.
The final Act 3 showing the comeuppance of Ochs ends with the final most affecting trio with the Marschallin and love duet between Octavian and Sophie and finally the young black page Mohammed's retrieval of Sophie's dropped handkerchief at the very end.
It must be said that the famous waltzes are an anachronism for 1740 when the action is supposed to take place.
The Sound of Music (1965)
Plummer was right in the first place when he called it "The Sound of Mucus"!
Such an extraordinarily popular film and as sickly-sweet as a tub of molasses!! And in its treatment of the rise of the Nazis, it is as false as these stories go.
I'm not opposed to good musicals but if you want to see a more honest one on the rise of the Nazis, there is always "Cabaret" which is, admittedly, not as easy to watch as this piece of you-know-what! I won't go into the historical accuracy of the film but George Trapp was really a confirmed anti-Nazi and Maria was actually a novice in an Abbey. But the denouement was really made up of whole cloth in order to keep up the suspense.
The opening title song has the line about "a lark who is learning to pray". Really, I though a lark was only a singing bird and not a potential church congregant! And even Peggy Wood who played the Mother Abbess could barely stand performing the song "Climb every Mountain" (even if her voice was dubbed.) All of the other songs were equally unbearable with generally poor reasons for being where they were.
Okay, much of the scenery was lovely but what a pity about how the performers stepped in front of it.!!
A ghost film with an unbeatable cast!
Although the title role is played by Roland Young, the rest of the cast is made up of other quite famous stars and supporting actors and actresses of the period.
Among the others is Cary Grant (no less) as George Kirby and Constance Bennett as his wife Marion, Arthur Lake,only a little pre-Dagwood Bumstead, Billie Burke (post-Ziegfeld but slightly pre-Wizard of Oz), the gravel-voiced Eugene Palette (("No son of mine", he even says something like it in the film.) Alan Mowbray (Hollywood's idea of a butler), Hedda Hopper as a society lady, an uncredited Hoagy Carmichael at the beginning of the film at the piano of course, and lots of others.
The ghostly special effects are quite wonderful for the period and the Thorne Smith-based plot keeps things moving along nicely.
Who could ask for anything more?
Sherlock: The Abominable Bride (2016)
The Abominable Snow-Job!
As a non-fan of this overly clever series, I can only say that they should have been on their better behavior in the semi-historic version of Conan Doyle. But, no, we are instead "treated" to "mind palaces", "Wronged women" and, in some of the episodes of this series, references to "Jim" Moriarity (an overly familiar way of describing Doyle's "Napoleon of Crime". Please have some respect!)
After racing through the original meeting of Holmes and Watson and the preparation and background for this episode, I have been left with my my own "mind palace" reeling to the point of begging for mercy from the attack of too much information.
Ultimately, this boils down to a feminist viewpoint of the Conan Doyle characters which Doyle probably never thought of and if you are still perplexed, I recommend the Wikipedia article on this particular episode under its title:
A brilliant and funny farce!
Clifton Webb at his most stuff-shirtish is the life of this takeoff on swashbucklers and television commercials. Even today these eerily seem to foreshadow the commercials still shown (only usually in color.) with their pointless animations and annoying voices uttering gross exaggerations.
Ginger Rogers, here without Fred Astaire, proves herself quite a good farceuse as Webb's nemesis, Anne Francis is good as Webb's daughter and Jeffrey Hunter, some years before playing Jesus in "King of Kings" (also known humorously as "I was a Teenage Jesus" because of his youthful looks, even if he was close to the right age) played opposite Miss Francis.
Other reliable character players included Elsa Lanchester, Fred Clark and Ray Collins.
The film was brilliantly directed by Claude Binyon from his own sharp script based on a story by John D. Weaver.
The Little Ark (1972)
memorable but flawed
I don't remember how long ago I saw this but I certainly found it memorable.
Theodore Bikel played the Captain of the "little ark" and, as I recall, he was one of those actors who let his makeup do much of his work! Otherwise, I recall, maybe unfairly, how hammy he could be.
The two children (Philip Frame and Geneviève Ambas) who are rescued from the church tower, were very good as I recall and the final scene with the Academy Award nominated choral song by the Karlins ("Come Follow, Follow Me".) was very upbeat as the kids are taken off to school to resume their lives after the tragedy. What preceded it, which showed bodies of drowned victims of the actual historical flood, though, was anything but upbeat, leading many at the time to wonder what audience the film was intended for.
If you get a chance to see this, I would certainly recommend it for mature audiences, but I think it's too horrific for children.
The Sorcerer's Apprentice (2010)
a big shrug!
from a "Merlinian" of sorts:
OK, only because of my narrated Symphony no. 1 (Idylls of the King about King Arthur) on You Tube in which Merlin is a character.
Both Nic Cage and Jay Baruchel ham it up predictably with the latter in the Mickey Mouse role; See the broom sequence with its brief quotation from Paul Dukas' composition of the same name. (He doesn't really outact Mickey though!) Alfred Molina, an admirable man in real life is the effective baddie here.
The acting is mostly non-existent but what does anyone expect from a Disney film since the Disneys specialize in often very pretty teenagers of both genders who can't act. (The main heroine also is strictly generic.) The plot throughout is far-fetched but this is also expected under the same circumstances!
You will go out humming the special effects!
history hollywoodized a la Spielberg
I recently saw this film on the tube and I have little doubt it would have been better on the large screen.
Yes, Daniel was all they say. He certainly did his research including getting the Lincoln voice just right (Those who insist that Abe should be portrayed as a booming bass-baritone ought to do their own research!) and completely inhabited the part. Sally Field, who has been criticized for being too histrionic in all her portrayals is here playing a histrionic part and could hardly have done it differently. And she too didn't just fly-in her part. (ow!)
I really, really liked her! (Sorry, couldn't resist!)
The other parts were all carefully cast.
Tony Kushner's script was properly inspirational and John Williams' score evoked every musical Americana cliché he could get his hands on especially Copland's "A Lincoln Portrait".
Mr. Spielberg and Mr. Kushner's script often falsified the facts at times in order to build the suspense for the13th Amendment voting scene. If I remember, one state voted yea in fact (Massachusetts?) but in this film they voted nay.
The final scene was rather perfunctory, even if necessary, but I won't say what it was in order to avoid giving the ending away.;-)
But, for me, the main interest of the film was the light it shed on present-day politics with a direct parallel between the machinations Lincoln had to go through to get the Amendment passed and the current administration has to go through to get anything done at all. And the same criticism being leveled against both presidents about their "exceeding their authority"!
Whose Line Is It Anyway? (2013)
beating a dead horse?
I wanted to like this new series based on the venerable old programs which are still quite hilarious both in the British and later American incarnations with Drew Carey.
Alas, Aisha Tyler doesn't yet fit in but she may never fit in. She overdoes her reactions and the men of the program, used to "giving it to the host" for instance Wayne Brady's mock sexual advances to Drew Carey are not duplicated so far on this incarnation. Nor are they ever likely to be, no doubt due to political correctness!
Sorry, the chemistry is not there. I don't understand why Aisha can't use her normal voice instead of that affected loud sing-song delivery she insists on. Maybe if she relaxed more she would do better.
Go to YouTube instead and watch the old clips which are the real thing.
additional comments added 9/16/16:
I think that maybe they are finding better ways for the long-time familiar players to interact with Ms. Tyler and she seems to be giving up her affected delivery which never worked. Speaking of her supposed Trans-sexuality for comedic purposes works for the present and if that can be related to her supposed "bossiness" I think they might succeed where they didn't before!
Carnegie Hall (1947)
often brilliant music performances but rather awful drama
The dramatic part of the film is really rather dismal. When you have the mother in the cast played by a woman (Marsha Hunt, a later victim of the Hollywood blacklist, still alive at 95!) who, in real life was younger than her "son" (William Prince), it strains credibility even with Miss Hunt's "old" makeup.
And the usual device of the hero's desire to play "modern"-music-rather-than-classical device is one that surely had whiskers even then! See "The Jazz Singer" for example. In this case, he wants to perform with the rather wooden singer, band leader and trumpeter Vaughn Monroe.
Mr. Prince's character, Tony Salerno finally gets his predicable "big chance" at the end of the film when he "conducts", "plays" his own composition with trumpeter Harry James. It isn't clear who really wrote the music from the listed credits but the anonymity of the author is quite understandable. (Charles Previn?) And none of the other composers suffers from the competition, I have to say.
However, the actual musical performances are as well done as possible with Rubenstein and Heifetz at somewhere near their peaks even with Rubenstein's inevitable Polonaise in Ab (Chopin). And their interactions with the actors is also very well done with, for example, Pinza's "prima donna" temper tantrum about his costume probably not exaggerated at all.
Walter Damrosch's association with the actual opening of Carnegie Hall at which Tchaikovsky also conducted is another welcome reminder of the authenticity of the film as well as the actual hall being used rather than a studio fake and that right after its 1940's renovation.
Though my last piano teacher, Nadia Reisenberg was also in the film in an ensemble, I turned it on too late to see her.
A unique film for the music even with the cringe-making back story!