Category Archives: Musical Drama

Torch Song-1953

Torch Song-1953

Director Charles Walters

Starring Joan Crawford, Michael Wilding, Gig Young

Scott’s Review #1,402

Reviewed September 25, 2023

Grade: B

Since I’m a huge fan of legendary Hollywood Actress Joan Crawford I’ll willingly watch any film of hers, both quality films and mediocre offerings.

Her style, confidence, clothes, makeup, and yes, those eyebrows capture me every time I see her. She’s also a damned good actor.

Torch Song (1953) is a film made when her career was waning despite just scoring an Oscar nomination the year before for Sudden Fear (1952). She would find more success in the 1960s with Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1963).

The film is fun to watch because it reportedly best captures her true personality in a role that is realistic to who she was. Faye Dunaway even studied the role closely before she portrayed the star in 1981’s cult classic Mommie Dearest.

The story is about a talented and demanding Broadway star named Jenny Stewart played by Crawford. She is used to snapping her fingers and having her every whim catered to without question. She rewrites scenes and fires talent for shows she stars in if she deems them beneath her.

One day she meets her blind rehearsal pianist Tye Graham (Michael Wilding) and finds herself attracted to him. At first, clashing over his refusal to put up with her bullshit she comes to realize she admires him.

The feeling is mutual and the lovebirds tenderly nurture their budding relationship.

I’m not sure if non-Crawford fans would appreciate or enjoy Torch Song as much as we die-hards would. The story is basic with few if any twists and turns and it’s not hard to imagine that Jenny and Tye will wind up together.

Torch Song was famously spoofed by comedienne Carol Burnett in the 1970s on her television show when she replicates a dress rehearsal scene from the film in a hilarious fashion.

But Crawford is devilish and fierce in the film. She prances confidently in each scene wearing getups as outlandish as a haughty yellow nightgown with high-heeled slippers and a garish scene from the production wearing  ‘black face’!

When she yanks off her wig revealing her messy red hair, black face, and wide emotion-infused eyes as she desperately watches Tye exit the auditorium it rivals any scary scene from a horror film.

Jenny is the star as much as Crawford is and one deliciously wonders if she had the same ferocious clout as the fictitious character did. We’ll have to ask the cast if any of them are still alive.

Crawford’s singing voice was dubbed by India Adams and she lip-syncs to the recording Adams originally made for Cyd Charisse in a number discarded from the 1953 film, The Band Wagon.

When she belts out emotional numbers like ‘Two-Faced Woman the comic relief is unintentional. Adams sounds nothing like Crawford which makes the dubbing glaring and nearly pitiful. Crawford had a decent voice and sang the songs only available on the home video release.

Oddly, actress Marjorie Rambeau who played Crawford’s mother received an Oscar nomination for the role. Her performance is adequate but not Academy Award-worthy.

This must have irritated Ms. Crawford who wasn’t known for being a gracious co-star. She must have felt usurped.

Crawford seamlessly carries the film from beginning to end credits like the seasoned professional she always was. She pokes and prods her co-stars and chews up the scenery like nobody’s business.

Deserving of mention is actor Michael Wilding since he equals Crawford in performance. He never appears outshined or swallowed whole during a scene instead relaying good chemistry with her.

A mediocre storyline in Torch Song (1953) is made better by the mixture of the competitive Broadway lifestyle and the star playing a ferocious and seasoned veteran.

Oscar Nominations: Best Supporting Actress-Marjorie Rambeau

Une Chambre en Ville-1982

Une Chambre en Ville-1982

Director Jacques Demy 

Starring Dominique Sanda, Michel Piccoli

Scott’s Review #1,397

Reviewed September 10, 2023

Grade: A

Une Chambre en Ville (also known as A Room in Town) is a 1982 French musical drama film written and directed by Jacques Demy, with music by Michel Colombier, and starring Dominique Sanda, Danielle Darrieux, and Michel Piccoli.

Those familiar with Demy’s other works like The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) and The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967) will be aware that his preferred genre is the musical drama and in Une Chambre en Ville, the dialogue is entirely sung.

And those unfamiliar with his work are recommended to give his films a chance. They are flavorful and offer exceptional production design to say nothing of other ingredients.

I liken the film to be most similar to The Umbrellas of Cherbourg because the story involves two people destined to be together but who are thwarted by many obstacles threatening to ruin their happiness.

Demy creates a distinct Shakespearean Romeo and Juliet final ending in the best of possible ways.

The story is set during a workers’ strike in Nantes, France in 1955. A steelworker named Francois (Richard Berry) has a fling with the married daughter Edith (Dominique Sanda) of his widowed landlady, Margo (Danielle Darrieux).

His girlfriend Violette (Fabienne Guyon), who works in a shop and lives with her mother, wants to get married but he is unwilling, partly because they have no money and nowhere to live.

Oh, and he also has met Edith.

On the street, François is accosted by Edith who is a beautiful woman who wears only a fur coat and has decided to take up part-time prostitution to pay bills. Her husband owns a struggling television shop.

The two have a blissful night together in a cheap hotel and fall madly in love.

Une Chambre en Ville is at first jarring because the dialogue is in the form of a song. But after merely a few minutes I became invested and enamored with the characters. This occurs when Francois and Margo ‘discuss’ the strike and even though she is upper-class she supports the workers.

They quickly bond.

Before this though, the tone is set with black-and-white cinematography of the workers’ strike that quickly turns to color. My hunch is that Demy wanted to promote the seriousness of the situation and alert the audience that they were not watching a rosy musical with tap-along tunes.

There’s a message of pain, struggle, and depression which doesn’t make the film a downer either.

As with Demy’s other films, the art direction and set designs are gorgeous. The director has a talent for introducing the most fragrant colors like red, yellow, blue, and green, that are powerful and enshroud the characters in pizazz and vibrancy.

The set highlights are Margo’s apartment drizzling with red color and contemporary patterns and furniture and Edith’s husband’s television shop. The greenish hue reveals a tacky yet sophisticated French style. These and other sets are superior efforts.

The main attraction is Francois and Edith and I was smitten with them almost immediately. Some may think this is odd because basically, Francois dumps his nice girlfriend for a sexy prostitute who flashes her naked body to him and then beds him.

Nonetheless, I became enraptured. They make ‘love at first sight’ seem believable and possible. The thing to remember is they are both wounded by their circumstances and are reaching for their desires out of desperation.

The finale of Une Chambre en Ville is dazzling but painful to watch. I alluded to a Romeo and Juliet catastrophe and this is no joke as the star-crossed lovers meet a dire ending.

I won’t spoil the fun by revealing what happens.

Jacques Demy creates a film made in 1982 that feels nothing like a 1982 film as we are believably transported to 1955.

Une Chambre en Ville holds up as well as Demy’s films made two decades earlier and he proves none of his creativity and romantic dramatics have waned.

Camelot-1967

Camelot-1967

Director Joshua Logan

Starring Richard Harris, Vanessa Redgrave, Franco Nero

Scott’s Review #1,370

Reviewed June 21, 2023

Grade: A-

Camelot (1967) is an adaptation of the well-known Broadway spectacle that explores the creation of the Knights of the Roundtable. It’s medieval times and King Arthur is the main character.

Original stage stars Richard Burton and Julie Andrews declined participation which is unfortunate but their replacements played by Richard Burton and Vanessa Redgrave are more than adequate in the main roles.

At an epic length of nearly three hours, not every moment is the edge of your seat and some lagging exists but the film does justice to the stage production only with a big budget to add extravagance.

The setting and experience are pure magic and not only because of the far-removed time either. The Shakespearean elements are strong as royalty and entitlement mesh with scheming, jealousy, and dangerous romance.

This makes for some juicy soap opera drama.

After the arranged marriage of Arthur (Harris) and Guinevere (Redgrave), the king gathers the noble knights of the realm to his Round Table. The dashing Lancelot (Franco Nero) joins but soon finds himself in love with Guinevere.

When Arthur’s illegitimate and conniving son, Mordred (David Hemmings), reappears in the kingdom and exposes the secret lovers, Arthur finds himself trapped by his own rules into taking action against his wife and closest friend.

There are some dull moments to face at epic length, especially in the first half. I tuned out once or twice but then was whisked back to the dramatic events.

The great moments are truly great with enough punch to pack a wallop emotionally speaking.

During a sequence when Lancelot is challenged to a game of jousting with some knights events turn deadly and one knight, Sir Dinadan, is critically injured. Horrified Lancelot pleads for Sir Dinadan to live, and as he lays hands on him, Dinadan miraculously recovers.

The scene is fraught with emotion as a powerful moment occurs between the men. It’s also pivotal to the storyline because it links Lancelot with Guenevere and sets off a romantic chain of events.

Guenevere is so overwhelmed and humbled that her feelings for Lancelot begin to change. Despite his vows of celibacy, Lancelot falls in love with Guenevere.

More than one song is lovely in Camelot and as the course of the production went on I yearned for more musical numbers.

My favorites are the coy  “The Lusty Month of May” appearing when Guinevere and the women frolic and gather flowers to celebrate the coming of spring. Later, Lancelot and Guenevere sing of their forbidden love and how wrong life has all gone in ‘I Loved You Once In Silence’.

The lovers in the eyes of the law are to be punished so they are aware they are not long for this world.

Visually, Camelot is a spectacle and rich with style and pizazz. Whimsical colors and a ton of vibrant and fragrant flowers appear regularly amid fields of greens and forests of trees.

The castles and battlefields also lend support to gothic structures and masculine power that perfectly balances the exquisiteness of other aspects.

This more than makes up for any drudgery the story might have. It’s nice to sit back and be fulfilled by the cinematic beauty. Especially keeping in mind the romance that is at the heart of the picture.

So when the story drags one can merely enjoy the visuals and escape for a moment.

Also impressive is the story of friendship and how two male friends can be torn apart over the affections of a woman.

Camelot (1967) is an epic of behemoth length and requires patience to sit through. Some parts flat-out drag. But the daring and compelling triangle between the three leads parlays the experience into an above-average thrill ride most of the time.

Oscar Nominations: 4 wins-Best Art Direction (won), Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design (won), Best Costume Design (won), Best Original Song Score or Adaptation Score (won), Best Sound

The Phantom of the Opera-2004

The Phantom of the Opera-2004

Director Joel Schumacher

Starring Gerard Butler, Emmy Rossum, Patrick Wilson

Scott’s Review #1,336

Reviewed January 23, 2023

Grade: A-

Having been fortunate enough to see the legendary Broadway production of The Phantom of the Opera makes any film version impossible to usurp compared to the live stage show.

The lights, the sets, the booming music, the dreaded chandelier, and presumably phenomenal acting all make for an unforgettable experience.

Since we are talking film, the cinematic version of The Phantom of the Opera (2004) is breathtaking and nearly twenty years late to the game, I should be scolded for having not seen it earlier like when it was initially released.

It’s based on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1986 musical of the same name, which in turn is based on the 1910 French novel Le Fantôme de l’Opéra by Gaston Leroux.

Critics were not kind to the film though most audiences liked it so I almost didn’t see it save for my hubby renting it and encouraging us to watch it.

I am glad I did because this film encompasses a feast of riches.

I wonder aloud if the fact that it was directed by Joel Schumacher who created the dreadfully bad Batman & Robin, made seven years earlier in 1997 influenced bad reviews. After all, nobody likes their superhero movies butchered and payback’s a bitch after all.

For the novice fan, the summary is as follows. Gerard Butler stars as the disfigured, reclusive Phantom who roams beneath the Paris Opera and takes budding star Christine (Emmy Rossum) under his wing.

But as he falls for her, she finds love with handsome and porcelain-like Raoul, played by Patrick Wilson, leaving the Phantom none too pleased.

If nothing else, and there is something else, the film is a spectacle. Gorgeous Parisian sophistication drips from the screen in nearly every scene from the gloomy catacombs to the enthralling opera stage.

The costumes reek of French style, glamour, and texture, and the principle cast is easy on the eyes, to say the least.

These treats are merely a warmup to the astounding and professional art direction, making the winter sequences dreamlike and gothic, capturing the tone perfectly.

This encapsulates the dire story sequence and aids in the viewer feeling the pain of the Phantom.

The all-too-familiar numbers are modernized in just the right places especially “The Music of the Night” which could have been played on popular radio stations. The lively “Masquerade” parlays into the lovely “The Phantom of the Opera” duet between the Phantom and Christine in his ugly lair.

I didn’t feel the chemistry between Rossum and Wilson the same way I did between Butler and Rossum and maybe that’s the point. Wilson doesn’t have much to work with since the character isn’t the main attraction.

I never wanted Christine to ride off into the unknown with Raoul but ached for the pain that the Phantom felt for Christine’s kindness.

As much as I like Wilson the actor I champion the casting of Rossum (unknown at this time) and Butler who is the top draw in the talent department.

His loud and colorful musical numbers enrapture me as a viewer and grip me with his pain. The passion and magnificence are on full display. Butler is my favorite actor.

Minnie Driver is perfect as the spoiled diva, and the supporting cast, including veteran Simon Callow, gives the cast further credibility.

I was transported to another world while watching The Phantom of the Opera (2004) by the sheer extravagance of what was on the screen. Schumacher more than deserves top accolades and respect for his production.

Oscar Nominations: Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Original Song-“Learn To Be Lonely”

Elvis-2022

Elvis-2022

Director-Baz Luhrmann

Starring Austin Butler, Tom Hanks

Scott’s Review #1,299

Reviewed September 16, 2022

Grade: B+

Once I knew that Australia’s own Baz Luhrmann was directing the new film Elvis (2022) I immediately formulated an expectation of what the film-watching experience would be like. I anticipated a certain type of filmmaking, an auteur artist merging fast-paced music videos with a dramatic biopic into a film.

Other Luhrmann offerings like Moulin Rouge (2001) and The Great Gatsby (2013) infuse contemporary musical elements and are highly visual and stylistic. I knew what I was going to get and was prepared for it.

Elvis is no different and Luhrmann’s style is an unconventional risk not for everybody.

I mostly enjoyed the film but did not quite love it either, seeing both the good and the not-as-good.

At two hours and thirty-nine minutes, it goes on way too long.

Perhaps contradicting this point is that Elvis does get better as it goes along, at first feeling jarring, overwhelming, and all over the place with rapid editing and very quick camera work.

A Dramamine is suggested until one is comfortable with the sudden bursts of turbulence. I semi-joke but there is a period of sinking into Luhrmann’s style that is necessary especially if never having seen one of them.

The film explores the life and music of Elvis Presley (Austin Butler), and his complicated relationship with his opportunist manager, Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks), and his wife Priscilla (Oliva De Jonge). The story delves into the singer’s rise to fame and the evolving cultural landscape in the United States during the 1950s and 1960s.

Like many films, the events start much later than the main story, in this case, 1997. Parker is on his deathbed and ruminates about how he first met Elvis and made him into a legendary icon.

Much of the film takes place in glitzy Las Vegas where Elvis had a long-term residency though it’s worth noting that the star’s working-class roots and an impoverished upbringing in a mostly black neighborhood were a tremendous influence on his music.

The Vegas setting applies a sparkling veneer mixed with a downtrodden feeling of isolation, especially in scenes that show Elvis’s million-dollar penthouse view of Sin City. The star frequently pulls all the black curtains to reside in solitude.

Butler starts slow but ends up doing a fabulous job of portraying the iconic star, no easy feat. At first, I had difficulty buying the actor as Elvis but as time went on he becomes more immersed in the role.

The best scenes hands down occur during the performances. The sheer rawness of his act and the famous wiggle that left fans dizzy with eroticism are compelling and authentic to say nothing of titillating.

The young actor exudes charisma much as the real-life star does and this is most evident on the stage. The dramatic scenes don’t work as well and Luhrmann strangely skims over the controversial weight gain years, the 1970s, that Elvis experienced.

I expected Butler to don a fat suit but there was none of this.

This miss can almost be forgiven when a heart-wrenching final performance of ‘Unchained Melody’ by the real Elvis is showcased. The number is fraught with emotion and tenderness that left me feeling sympathy.

Hanks is good as the slimy and curmudgeonly manager but I never felt sympathy for the character. If the film can be believed, he ruined Elvis as much as brought him success, but Hanks never made me forgive the man. I also wasn’t interested in his backstory.

It will be hard-pressed to ever make me enjoy Hanks more than in his Oscar-winning back-to-back turns in Philadelphia (1993) and Forrest Gump (1994), his two best roles.

Elvis, the film, does better when it serves as a musical performance rather than a biography. Sure, the drug use and the disputes with family and manager are dramatic but it’s the performances of ‘All Shook Up, ‘Unchained Melody’, and ‘Can’t Help Falling Into Love’ that win me over.

In pure Luhrmann form, many of the familiar songs are done in different tempos and interpretations but that’s part of the fun.

Comparisons to recent musical biographies like Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) and Rocketman (2019) are fair.

Elvis (2022) is not as good as those films but it’s above average and succeeds when it entertains and shows how the star’s determination and grit pulled through outside influences.

Oscar Nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor-Austin Butler, Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, Best Film Editing, Best Sound, Best Costume Design, Best Makeup, and Hairstyling

42nd Street-1933

42nd Street-1933

Director Lloyd Bacon

Starring Warner Baxter, Ruby Keeler, Bebe Daniels

Scott’s Review #1,281

Reviewed July 28, 2022

Grade: A-

Whenever I am fortunate enough to watch a film made in the 1930s I am reminded of the vast nature of cinema and how far it’s blossomed.

Filmmakers could do unique things back then having very little of what filmmakers have in the modern day for technology’s sake.

I’ve heard it said that films of the 1930s are dated and dusty, the acting style is different, and the musical scores always have a standard sound. I find them like little presents beckoning to be opened to escape to another time, long ago.

The famous musical 42nd Street (1933) is a Broadway stalwart since the beginning of time, seemingly. This is a falsehood since a stage adaption of the film debuted on Broadway in only 1980, winning two Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

Director Lloyd Bacon creates a slow and steady build to set the drama properly. The final thirty-five or forty minutes culminate in a lavish and fascinating extravaganza of the gala show opening.

All in all, events transpire in a brisk one hour and twenty-nine minutes. If I’m honest, I could have done with another ten minutes of the merriment-laden conclusion.

I giggled with delight at the professionalism inhabiting unique cinematography sequences like a camera rolling through a dozen spread legs to land on a handsome young couple’s face.

In a timely fashion, the Great Depression Era is the focus and props go to all involved for placing a focus on this dastardly time with an escapist show.

Revered and impatient Broadway director Julian Marsh (Warner Baxter) has fallen on hard times like the rest of the United States. He is warned by his doctor to take care of his health but his finances are dire.

He launches an ambitious musical as a final production before his retirement. The lead actress, bitchy Dorothy Brock (Bebe Daniels), is torn between two men, the show’s rich financer, Abner Dillon (Guy Kibbee), and struggling actor Pat Denning (George Brent).

Meanwhile, aspiring young performer Peggy Sawyer (Ruby Keeler) is hoping for her big break. She is completely green and impressionable but humorously looks similar to Dorothy, right down to their curled hairstyle.

It’s easy to see what direction the plot is going in but instead of an All About Eve (1950) theater story of one actress scheming for the role of another actress, events happen organically.

The first portion of 42nd Street is all well and good. We get snippets of the women traversing amongst their male admirers and Julian becoming more and more frustrated with the incompetent talent but I kept hoping events would finally take off.

The romantic triangles and irritated threats to fire the cast almost get repetitive until the spectacular second act.

When the company is reduced to the opening in Philadelphia, the dregs of society to them, instead of the bright lights of New York City, 42nd Street becomes a different type of film.

A magical and marvelous escapade of leggy performances and astounding costumes and song and dance numbers emerge onto the big screen before my delighted eyes. It is startlingly like watching the production in real time.

The cherry on top was watching the petrified Peggy fill in for the injured Dorothy. Instead of the women continuing their feud, the older Dorothy gives Peggy a pep talk about how much the crowd wants to like her, and she has no reason to be nervous.

She’s got it and Dorothy’s got her back.

The moment is filled with sweetness as the veteran passes the baton to the upstart. Dorothy’s words resonated with me as any entertainer, public speaker, or anyone else can take her advice to heart.

The musical numbers are cheery and robust led by the toe-thumping title track which I continue to hum along to whilst writing this review.

A gripe is that, according to legend, Julian is a gay character but there is never a moment where the film implies this. A pleasant jolt would have been for him to at least flirt with a cast member.

Old fashioned has rarely felt better because 42nd Street (1933) provides enough flash and dance, and razzle-dazzle, to make its audience harken back to the good old days of classic cinema.

There are even some words of wisdom to embrace.

Oscar Nominations: Best Picture, Best Sound

A Star Is Born-1976

A Star Is Born-1976

Director Frank Pierson

Starring Barbra Streisand, Kris Kristofferson

Scott’s Review #1,276

Reviewed July 13, 2022

Grade: B

Four incarnations of A Star Is Born: 1937, 1954, 1976, and 2018 have been created. Strangely enough, the most recent film starring Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga is worlds above the others, though I haven’t yet seen the 1937 version.

The fourth time is rarely the charm in film remakes.

The focus of this review, however, is largely on the 1976 film starring Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. A hit movie at the time, and nonetheless despised by some, the film is perfectly fine though it bears multiple repeatings that it’s inferior to the 2018 film.

There is no question about that.

Amazingly, it was nominated for four Academy Awards and deservedly won for Best Song. The other nominations are generous.

Watching A Star Is Born circa 2022 the 1976 rendition suffers severely from a dated tone mostly because of the jaw-droppingly hideous perm hairdo worn by Streisand.

Did somebody think it was flattering in 1976?

The chemistry between Streisand and Kristofferson starts tepid but increases in intensity as the film plods along. The ending is underwhelming and I expected more emotional pizazz than I was given, leaving me with almost a ‘so what’ reaction to a devastating turn of events.

Until that is, Barbra sings her heart out in one unbroken, gut-wrenching shot of seven or eight minutes.

For those unfamiliar, the story surrounds John Norman Howard (Kristofferson), a troubled rock star on the decline, frequently indulging in excessive drugs and drinking and trying to write hit records.

He drunkenly wanders into a club one night and watches aspiring singer Esther Hoffman (Streisand) perform and is instantly smitten. The two begin dating, and soon John lets Esther take the spotlight during his concerts.

However, even as Esther finds fame and success with her singing, John continues his downward spiral.

Let’s face it. The main draw is who is playing the lead roles in a film like A Star Is Born. To make a love story work there must be sizzling chemistry so that the audience is invested in the romance. Streisand commands the center stage and her singing is the selling point.

Otherwise, Ms. Streisand suffers another bout of miscasting as she did in 1969’s Hello, Dolly. She’s simply too talented and established to be believable as an aspiring singer.

Her singing saves the film.

The gorgeous song “Evergreen” is a quite powerful moment and great strength. Without it, the film would have felt lacking and mediocre. The tune rises the overall experience up a notch.

The chemistry is merely the warm-up act. It’s ho-hum until a smoldering bathtub scene occurs where John and Esther soap each other down and fall madly between the sheets for a night of passion.

It’s Streisand’s sexiest scene and the romance takes off.

Back to Streisand’s vocals, the scene is preceded by a gorgeous songwriting sequence between John and Esther at the piano where they craft a new song. As they collaborate, the connection and bond between the characters are birthed.

Those are the romantic highlights.

Otherwise, the scene where John becomes infatuated with Esther holds no appeal since he is drinking and arguing with another patron and barely has time to notice her. This was thankfully changed in the 2018 version when John was mesmerized by the rising talent.

Additionally, when John invites Esther to his concert and she watches from backstage it goes nowhere. In the 2018 version, he drags her out to perform with him and it’s a moment. 

Some films are best reviewed on their own merits but what great fun to compare renditions of the same film because, why not?

The supporting characters have little to do except for an impressive turn by Gary Busey as John’s drug-pushing manager.

There is little reason to watch A Star Is Born (1976) more than once, or at most twice to confirm that the film lacks a bit. It’s not terrible but hardly memorable unless the desire is to giggle over an incredibly bad 1970s hairstyle by one of the greatest divas.

Then, move on to the outstanding Cooper/Gaga 2018 version.

Oscar Nominations: 1 win-Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, Best Original Song-“Evergreen” (won), Best Sound

Quadrophenia-1979

Quadrophenia-1979

Director Franc Roddam

Starring Phil Daniels, Leslie Ash, Sting

Scott’s Review #1,269

Reviewed June 23, 2022

Grade: A-

Fans of the British rock band, The Who will perhaps be mystified by the film Quadrophenia (1979). More specifically, The Who and fans of the exceptional oddity-filled musical film Tommy (1975) will be surprised and somewhat disappointed that Quadrophenia is not patterned after Tommy.

I was uneasy when I realized that very few of the songs from the groundbreaking album of the same name would not be incorporated and that the band themselves would not be appearing.

But that apprehension was short-lived.

Instead, Quadrophenia the film quickly grasped me for the storyline alone and makes up for the lack of music with a gripping tale of teenage angst and conflict amid the streets of London.

Reportedly, the story is at least somewhat derived from the life of Who member Pete Townshend and the concept behind Quadrophenia in the album is the same in the film.

To classify Quadrophenia as a musical or musical drama (I decided to do both) is most generous because that only enhances the fact that it almost isn’t either one. But since it is based on the album and was co-written by Townsend, I decided to throw caution to the wind.

An insecure and angry London youth, Jimmy Cooper (Phil Daniels) escapes the dullness of his mailroom job and the chilliness of London and joins the Mods, a sharply dressed gang constantly feuding with their rivals, the Rockers.

When the Mods and Rockers clash in the coastal town of Brighton, England, it leads to both trouble and an encounter with the lovely Steph (Leslie Ash) whom Jimmy has become smitten with over encounters at the grocery store where she works.

Returning to London and his life of drudgery, Jimmy, who aspires to be like handsome and charismatic Mod leader Ace Face (Sting), becomes even more disillusioned and longs to return to Brighton.

Quadrophenia the film is exceptional because it gets the mood of the lead character right and the audience will undoubtedly respond in turn. He feels that his life is going nowhere and most people can relate in some way to being stuck in first gear or reverse and unable to get out of the mud.

In Jimmy’s mind, his parents are assholes and the girl he longs for is out of his league and therefore out of reach. It’s typical adolescence 101. All he needs are the pimples and a bad hairstyle and he encompasses what it feels like to be a teenager.

This may sound comical but anyone remembering youth will undoubtedly find a glimmer of pain and panic.

Filmmaker, Franc Roddam gets it right.

The best part of the film occurs in the final fifteen minutes when finally and blessedly superior songs by The Who commence, most notably the astounding Love, Reign O’er Me.

In addition to the brilliance of the actual song is the way it’s included. As the camera provides a birds-eye view of the stunning cliffs as Jimmy rides recklessly on his scooter it’s a perilous scene with hints of danger.

Will he crash and burn?

Finally, the scooter is seen crashing over the cliff-top, which is where the film begins with Jimmy walking back against a sunset backdrop. It’s unclear what happens to Jimmy and interpretation can be used.

It raised Quadrophenia from a very good film to an exceptional one.

Another treasured Who song, The Real Me, is included early on amongst the title credits. Other songs appear but are either shortened and/or different versions of what’s expected.

Sometimes fun and comic, other times showing the ugliness of gloomy London and the pains of growing up, Quadrophenia (1979) excels at reminding its audience what it’s like to be restless and unhappy.

Life usually changes for the better but the film is an important reminder of feelings at that age.

Dear Evan Hansen-2021

Dear Evan Hansen-2021

Director-Stephen Chbosky

Starring Ben Platt, Kaitlyn Dever, Amy Adams

Scott’s Review #1,258

Reviewed May 25, 2022

Grade: A-

From the very first scene, Dear Evan Hansen (2021) grabbed me by the collar and never let me go. Providing an emotional wallop that mixes perfectly with meaningful and catchy pop songs the film is one that nearly everyone can relate to.

The oftentimes painful world of teenage angst is the central storyline and the dangerous and unfortunately too timely pandemic of mental illness is examined in heartwrenching form.

Dear Evan Hansen has a relevance that I found to be powerful and profound leaving me not soon forgetful of the experience.

I had never seen the hugely popular Broadway stage version so I only had a limited understanding of what the story was about going in. Still, as much as the subject matter is of great importance the film’s follow-through is what is tremendous and emotional with superb acting all around.

Tony, Grammy, and Emmy Award winner Ben Platt reprises his stage role as the anxious, isolated high schooler named Evan Hansen who craves companionship and understanding. He suffers the same quandary that many fellow teenagers face in a world rendered impersonal and heartless. He tries to survive the pressures and the chaos of the social-media age.

Lonely, he meets a young man named Connor Murphy (Colton Ryan) who is as wounded as Evan is. They have an odd first (and only) exchange after which Connor steals a therapy assignment of Evan’s, a letter to himself. Soon after, Connor commits suicide and his parents, played by Amy Adams and Danny Pino assume the boys were best friends.

Evan lies about the events to spare Connor’s parents which ultimately leads to events spiraling out of control.

I’m well aware of the outpouring of negative reviews that have been hurled at the film and I don’t understand nor agree with any of them.

My hunch is that the stage version may have been even more powerful because it’s a live production and the raw emotion is right there but the film does right by it.

Sure, Platt looks older than a teenager. The actor was twenty-seven years old when he filmed Dear Evan Hansen and a mere twenty-two or so when it appeared on Broadway but so what? With talent as superior as he is why cast a movie star?

I didn’t hear anyone complain when Olivia Newton-John played the iconic role of Sandy, a seventeen-year-old in Grease (1978) at the ripe old age of thirty.

Sometimes a suspension of disbelief is required.

Platt is a terrific casting choice and encompasses the role of Evan completely. He is shockingly good in dramatic scenes or when he comically fumbles over his words. His dramatic voice perfectly infuses the production’s most recognizable number You Will Be Found.

Besides, there are big stars in Dear Evan Hansen. Amy Adams plays the emotionally drained but hopeful Cynthia Murphy, blessed with affluence at the price of losing a son. Julianne Moore plays the haggard nurse and financially struggling mother of Evan.

Both are fabulous.

The film is directed by Stephen Chbosky who is responsible for the terrific and sorely underappreciated film adaptation of the novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012) which he also wrote. He knows how to tell a coming-of-age story.

There are a couple of foul balls to be aware of but the emotion to be felt far exceeds these pesky matters.

The film occasionally overplays its casting with the inclusion of a few stock characters like the Indian technology wizard and the perky, straight-A student with the same problems as everyone else, but the characters don’t have enough to do to make them bothersome.

The chemistry between Platt and Kaitlyn Dever as the romantic interest is only tepid but I didn’t watch this film for the teen romance.

I could not disagree with the torrent of negative reviews for Dear Evan Hansen (2021) more and urge anyone reading this review to take in the film and be prepared for a tearjerker that feels authentic and justified in its existence.

West Side Story-2021

West Side Story-2021

Director-Steven Spielberg

Starring-Ansel Elgort, Rachel Zegler, Ariana DeBose

Scott’s Review #1,207

Reviewed December 12, 2021

Grade: A

I salivated when the news broke that a reboot of the brilliant 1961 film West Side Story, itself based on a Broadway musical, was being planned. I was cautiously optimistic when I heard Steven Spielberg would direct the production. Nothing personal against Mr. Spielberg but there have been some misses with musical adaptations over the years.

Does anyone remember Cats (2019)? I know, we are all trying to forget it.

Nonetheless, my anticipation was sidelined temporarily due to the hated Covid-19 pandemic but art always perseveres and the release of the new West Side Story was changed from December 2020 to December 2021.

Finally, the moment had arrived and I was even fortunate enough to score members-only sneak preview tickets to an early screening at my local art theater.

Hooray!

West Side Story (2021) is a brilliant adaptation and does not disappoint in the least providing entertainment and authenticity for miles. It’s bombastic and enthralling mixing romance with some quite brutal fight scenes. The delightful songs “Maria”, “America”, “Tonight”, “I Feel Pretty”, and my personal favorite “Somewhere” are all included and are like new gifts for fans to greedily unwrap.

This may be the best effort yet by Spielberg (I never thought he’d top 1993’s Schindler’s List) as he recreates a musical spectacle that will surely entice viewers back to the cinemas.

The reboot has life, artistry, and expressionism breathing fresh energy into the production. In some ways, it’s superior to the 1961 version.

Despite being created in the late 1950s there is a timeliness to it. Racism sadly still exists in America and we have much work to do to unite as one if we ever do. This may feel hopeless but the message of the film is one of love and unity providing hints of hopefulness.

How timely and how much needed this film is.

The film has a deeper sentiment because of the recent death of Stephen Sondheim, the masterful composer, and lyricist who reinvented the American musical. He worked in tandem with Leonard Bernstein on most of these songs.

For those unfamiliar let me summarize the plot of the film.

Love, at first sight, strikes when young Tony (Ansel Elgort) spots Maria (Rachel Zegler) at a high school dance in 1957 New York City. Forbidden to have anything to do with each other except to hate each other, their immediate romance helps to fuel the fire between the warring Jets and Sharks- two rival gangs vying for control of the streets.

Things go from tense to terrible when street fights between the gangs lead to mayhem, misunderstandings, and death.

The film is crafted exceptionally well from a visual and cinematic perspective. From the opening sequence when the gangs stumble amongst the ruins of a decrepit west side lot there are intriguing shadows and shapes and high camera shots. These continue throughout the film when the flawless choreography of the dance scene takes center stage.

Speilberg corrects missteps that the 1961 version made which brought a wide smile to my face. The Puerto Rican characters that makeup half the cast are played by Hispanic actors. The big mistake the original film made was casting caucasian actors passing for Puerto Rican.

The chemistry between Richard Baymer (original Tony) and Natalie Wood (original Maria) was lacking but it explodes off the screen from the first moment that Elgort and Zegler appear together.

Rita Morena, familiar to West Side Story fans with her portrayal of Anita in the 1961 version returns in the role of Valentina who runs Doc’s general store and is assumed to be the widow of Doc. It is explained that Valentina, Puerto Rican, married a white man. Morena’s role is much bigger than I thought and she performs a magnificent and teary version of “Somewhere”.

The casting is flawless. Standouts are Elgort (Tony), Ziegler (Maria), Ariana DeBose (Anita), David Alvarez (Bernardo), and Mike Faist (Riff) but the entire company performs flawlessly and effortlessly.

The character of Anybodys, a tomboy in the original is cast with a transgender actor, Iris Menas, which provides rich diversity and inclusion.

West Side Story (2021) is an instant classic that I can’t wait to see again and again and again. I’ll never waver in my love and devotion to the original version but the new version is an exceptional achievement in authenticity, style, and pizazz that will assuredly remind viewers why they love the cinema so much.

It certainly reminded me.

Oscar Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director-Steven Spielberg, Best Supporting Actress-Ariana DeBose (won), Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, Best Sound

Show Boat-1951

Show Boat-1951

Director George Sidney

Starring Ava Gardner, Robert Sterling, Kathryn Grayson

Scott’s Review #1,177

Reviewed September 14, 2021

Grade: A-

Show Boat (1951) is a liberal-slanted musical centering around racism. It mixes comedy and drama well while remembering it is meant to entertain audiences. But it never loses sight of the important message it’s portraying.

Ava Gardner, who stars, never looked more beautiful.

The picture is based on the 1927 stage musical of the same name by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II, and the 1926 novel by Edna Ferber. The vibrant colors and sentimental songs combined with a very Southern flair make it a winner.

Kern and Hammerstein provide the score for this adaptation of their Broadway hit which adds oodles of authenticity.

My favorite song is the devastatingly poignant and haunting tune, “Old Man River” which is reprised at the end of Show Boat.

Julie LaVerne (Gardner) and Steve Baker (Sterling) are successfully married entertainers who are forced to leave the showboat Cotton Blossom when it becomes known that Julie is of mixed race.

Meanwhile, the captain’s daughter Magnolia (Kathryn Grayson) and gambler Gaylord Ravenal (Howard Keel) take over the act, fall in love, marry, and leave the boat for Chicago. There, they live off his gambling earnings, which dry up fast.

The ending of the film is not happy.

I love the tone of the film. It is a very big-budget production and it shows. Each number is belted out with gusto at the risk of feeling too uptight or stagey but regardless I fell for it hook, line, and sinker.

The grandness of the numbers was what got me and never so evident is it with Julie’s big number “Bill”, a very emotional song.

Her other famous number, “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man” isn’t so bad either.

In a perfect world the powers that be would have cast a black actress for authenticity’s sake. Someone like Dorothy Dandridge comes to mind and as wonderful as Gardner is this point gnawed at me throughout. The actress is caucasian though it could almost be the belief that she is of mixed race.

Nonetheless, Gardner also doesn’t sing her songs. Instead, they are sung by Annette Warren. I’m betting this is why she didn’t receive an Oscar nomination.

But, Show Boat isn’t all about Gardner. Showcasing a spectacular cast of black and white actors leads like Grayson and Keel are fabulous. I cared about their character’s trials and tribulations the most and ruminated about how much I found Grayson to resemble the legendary Judy Garland.

Supporting players like William Warfield as Joe simply must be mentioned. His rendition of “Old Man River” moved me. A bass-baritone singer and actor he makes the number quite simply and by far the best moment, both musically and pictorially, in the film.

I could watch this scene on replay.

And Agnes Moorehead as Parthy Hawks or the resident bitch provides delicious comedy, intended or unintended.

Some are critical that the 1936 film version is superior and provides a grittier feel and I am conscious of that. I’ve never seen it but the 1951 version does have that Technicolor grandness.

Maybe I’ll check it out for a one-day comparison.

For now, for a slice of southern flavored showboatin’ check out Show Boat (1951). With a summery flavor, dancing, and superior photography, it is a good old time.

Oscar Nominations: Best Cinematography, Color, Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture

Yentl-1983

Yentl-1983

Director Barbra Streisand

Starring Barbra Streisand, Mandy Patinkin

Scott’s Review #1,144

Reviewed May 20, 2021

Grade: B+

Feeling slightly dated nowadays, perhaps for the year it was made, Yentl (1983) is nonetheless a very good watch if only for Barbra’s performance, in multiple ways, alone.

Who else could I be talking about other than superstar Barbra Streisand?

Astounding is that she also directed the film, rare for a female to direct in those days. Even circa 2021, there have only been two women to win the coveted Best Director Oscar prize.

Mind-blowing. Streisand was snubbed in this category and was understandably miffed.

But I’ll get down from my soapbox.

Streisand plays the title role. Yentl is a bookish girl and daughter of a respected Talmud teacher who instructs her although she is female and not male. This is forbidden in their culture.

Her father dies leaving Yentl to her own devices and determinations.

She disguises herself as a boy to gain entry to a yeshiva and meets Avigdor (Mandy Patinkin), who she becomes fascinated by. But he only has eyes for Hadass (Amy Irving) whom he is supposed to marry.

This results in a triangle of sorts but not in the traditional sense. Hadass develops feelings for Anshel (really Streisand as Yentl in drag). After they marry (unconsummated) Anshel falls in love with Avigdor.

This may sound like a comedy rather than drama and it does contain a bit of each but the romantic interludes, misunderstandings, and misinterpretations are not the best parts of the film.

The main themes of faith and romance are center stage. Streisand may have had feminism on her mind with the film but I didn’t find this a major point except for Yentl refusing to marry a man.

She pretends to be a boy because females are repressed in the religion. A real win would have been Yentl embracing faith as she is, but for 1983 the message isn’t a bad one.

Still, we are supposed to want Yentl and Avigdor to live happily ever after but I never felt very much of a connection to the couple.

The best parts of Yentl are the musical score and the songs the audience is treated to. The highlight is the emotionally charged “Papa, Can You Hear Me?” which is a gorgeous moment for Yentl.

Yentl leaves Europe on a boat bound for the United States, where she hopes to lead a life with more freedom. With a smile on her face, she rises above and into a new day.

It’s a dynamic singing performance and rises the film above where it would have been without the number. It’s like the perfect culminating Streisand moment.

The romantic moments are unfulfilling and predictable, but the film is about Streisand and Streisand alone. As good as Patinkin and Irving are they take a backseat to the illustrious star. We never even get to see Patinkin sing.

I’m okay with this. I watched Yentl (1983) for the enormous talents of its star. Her singing, acting, and directing all make the film a worthwhile and engaging experience.

It’s not a great film and other Streisand films are better- I’m thinking of Funny Girl (1968) and Hello, Dolly (1969), but it’s way above average.

Oscar Nominations: 1 win-Best Supporting Actress-Amy Irving, Best Art Direction, Best Original Score (won), Best Original Song-“Papa, Can You Hear Me?”, “The Way He Makes Me Feel”

Fame-1980

Fame-1980

Director Alan Parker

Starring Irene Cara, Paul McCrane, Maureen Teefy

Scott’s Review #1,143

Reviewed May 18, 2021

Grade: A-

Fame (1980) is a teen high school musical drama centering around the trials and tribulations of gifted New York City kids. Anyone with musical, theatrical, or dance talent can relate to the film.

The rest of us can merely live vicariously through these kids and the potential careers that lie ahead of them wishing we had half of their talent and drive.

This is not your standard musical from the 1950s or 1960s and the pace is quite frenetic. Fasten your seatbelts because there is a lot packed in.

The film oozes with an upbeat musical score and the flavor of New York City, quite gritty and dangerous circa 1980. The now-legendary musical numbers where the cast dances together with faculty and strangers alike atop Manhattan taxi cabs are silly beyond belief but the title song by star Irene Cara is a danceable and hummable classic.

These scenes offset the muscular dramatic scenes with lightness and comedy, but in another way, they diminish the credibility of the serious moments.

Events get off to a chaotic start as we witness a mass of teenagers frenetically scrambling to remember audition lyrics and dance numbers as they vie for entry into the High School of Performing Arts, with free admission for only the cream of the crop.

The film chronicles the lucky lives from their auditions to their freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior years.

The main group features Montgomery MacNeil (Paul McCrane), a closeted gay male; Doris Finsecker (Maureen Teefy), a shy Jewish girl; Ralph Garci (Barry Miller), and Bruno Martelli (Lee Curreri) an aspiring keyboardist whose electronic equipment horrifies the conservative music teachers.

They align with Lisa Monroe (Laura Dean), Coco Hernandez (Irene Cara), and Leroy Johnson (Gene Anthony Ray) a gifted dancer who cannot read.

All have interesting backstories or problems to work through during their four years in school and this is the main appeal of the film. The dance numbers, of course, are fabulous too.

I immediately became enamored with sensitive Doris, whose mother’s (Tresa Hughes) emotions elicit viewer emotion simply with her own emotions. Her passion for her daughter and her talent is infectious.

Alan Parker, who directs Fame, offers extremely heavy topics that the students must face. It’s not all fun and dance. The youngsters grapple with issues such as homosexuality, abortion, interracial dating, class systems, attempted suicide, and illiteracy.

Their pain is readily offered to audiences who become entangled in their worlds.

A negative is that as much as the issues are brought to the forefront, the sheer number of them results in few resolutions.

On top of their unique struggles, the students must deal with the mundane pressures of adolescence like homework, heartbreak, and rejection. Their talent doesn’t make them any more special than anyone else in the growing-up department.

My favorite moments in Fame are the quiet ones. When Doris and Montgomery share a chat on the stairs that skirts around the talk of his absent mother I thought what a delightful couple they would make. Montgomery’s repressed sexuality slowly surfaces while Doris develops a crush on an older popular boy.

As if the heavy topics eventually subside, they don’t. As the student’s age and start to plan careers, Coco is lured by a man claiming to be a director only to realize he is a porn film “director”. He coaxes her into taking off her shirt and photographs her sobbing.

The scene is heartbreaking in its power.

The atmosphere of Fame also works well. There is a strong and suffocating feeling of heat and humidity. Anyone who has spent time in New York City during the summer months knows the stench and thickness of the stuffy weather.

I got the impression the school had no air conditioning as the running perspiration of the music teacher is evidence of.

A coming-of-age film that delivers hard-hitting messages only offset by the climactic dance-celebration numbers, Fame (1980) is a winner and gives teen angst its due.

This film ages well and stands the test of time.

Oscar Nominations: 2 wins-Best Original Screenplay, Best Original Score (won), Best Original Song-“Fame” (won), Out Here on My Own”, Best Film Editing, Best Sound

Across the Universe-2007

Across the Universe-2007

Director Julie Taymor

Starring Evan Rachel Wood, Jim Sturgess

Scott’s Review #1,057

Reviewed August 27, 2020

Grade: A

Across the Universe (2007) is a film that some will deem sappy or trite or classify as a cliched love story, and admittedly some of those elements exist. But the film offers so much more.

Truthfully, the romance genre is not usually for me, for those very reasons. Somehow the inclusion of The Beatles songs and the psychedelic backdrop of musical compositions makes the film beautiful, lovely, and charismatic.

The war effects and the healthy dose of chemistry by the lead actors make this a winner in my book.

I adore the pairing of lovebirds Lucy and Jude, played by Evan Rachel Wood and Jim Sturgess. The chemistry between them sizzles from the moment they appear together, though this takes a while to happen.

When it did, over a savory Thanksgiving meal and while bowling, I was hooked, and most audiences were too. The beauty is that we experience the characters separately first and get to know them well.

The love story is the meat and potatoes of Across the Universe. If the connection between Jude and Lucy were not there the film would not work.

This is far from merely a love story, though. That is only one facet. A hefty thirty-four Beatles compositions are included throughout the film, all strategically placed cleverly to match the scene.

For example, when Jude is working in a Liverpool shipyard in the 1960s, he reminisces about a girl he has loved and lost to the tune of “Girl”.

In a matching sequence, Lucy frets about her current boyfriend heading off to the Vietnam War while singing “Hold Me Tight”.

The 1960s period is brilliantly placed to add not only a clear juxtaposition to when the Beatles ruled the world but during a frightening time in world history when many young soldiers died needlessly during the ravaging war.

The mixture of the war, the songs, and the hybrid of live-action and animation provide a magical, other-worldly quality that is perfect. It provides a feeling of escapism to the deadly war. The visuals and the gorgeous colors are a complete contrast to the grey and dark war elements.

Julie Taymor takes an anti-war, activist stance created through the main characters when Jude and Lucy proclaim themselves revolutionaries. This occurs when the war hits home after Lucy’s brother is drafted. They sadly realize they may never see Daniel again, and they are right.

Taymor gives a personal touch to the characters and a political decision is made that shapes the film. I found the stance perfectly logical given the characters and their viewpoints, but some audience members could be turned off or feel slighted depending on their beliefs.

I love the point she makes that war is bad.

Twenty-five of the vocal tracks are performed by one or more of the six lead cast members. My favorite treasures are the new takes on classic songs, especially “Come Together” and “With a Little Help from My Friends” which are unusual and elegant.

When Daniel is killed in Vietnam and Detroit, a young boy is killed in the 1967 riot (combined “Let It Be”), the moment is sentimental and powerful.

A dry eye will not be left.

Locales such as Greenwich Village, and New York City show the creative artists who inhabit those streets. The riot-fueled streets of Detroit, Michigan are featured, and finally, the dirty and jungle-killing fields of Vietnam provide a diverse slate of experiences.

The love story and musical soundtrack provide exceptional emotion to an important and timeless film.

Across the Universe (2007) is artistic and inspirational.

Oscar Nominations: Best Costume Design

Cabaret-1972

Cabaret-1972

Director Bob Fosse

Starring Liza Minnelli, Michael York

Scott’s Review #975

Reviewed December 31, 2019

Grade: A

If not for the mighty and powerful The Godfather (1972) blocking its path (but who’s complaining?), Cabaret (1972), with eight academy award nominations, surely would have won Best Picture in its year of release.

The film thus has the dubious honor of receiving the most nominations of all time without whisking away the ultimate trophy, but no matter, the Oscars are not everything.

The production, acting, and story are inventive and envelope-pushing, both serious and fun, and proof that 1972 was one of the greatest years in cinema.

The story envelopes a circle of friends enjoying the decadence and jovial nature of the decade, although they have their struggles. Energetic Kit Kat Klub performer, Sally Bowles (Minnelli) takes a shine to British scribe, Brian (Michael York) when he moves into her boarding house.

Despite having night and day personalities, they become deeply bonded and best friends. Rich playboy baron, Maximilian (Helmut Griem) woos the pair with money and travel and beds each of them separately, eventually dumping them both.

In a supporting yet important subplot, Fritz Wendel (Fritz Wepper) is a German Jew passing himself off as a Protestant. He falls madly in love with Natalia (Marisa Berenson), a gorgeous and authentic German Jewish heiress.

Their love story is comic relief, but a dangerous aspect of the film given the foreboding political events. The safety of the cabaret serves as a haven while the outlandish Master of Ceremonies (Joel Grey) appears throughout the film performing risque numbers.

Adapted from the popular Broadway stage show, the musical drama is set in 1930s Berlin, and the story begins in 1931. Historians will realize that the decade of 1930s Germany was frightening, giving rise to the deadly and hated Nazi Party.

While the film never goes full-fledged dark, there are snippets of beatings and ridicule at the hands of the Nazis, powerful stuff and tough to take, especially given the Jewish religion of some of the principals.

Liza Minnelli has never had a better role as she simply becomes Sally. The character is vivacious, zesty, and emotional and Minnelli dives in head first and wins viewers’ hearts. Beneath her bubbly exterior Sally is wounded, yearning for love and peace of mind.

She pretends that she is close to her wealthy father, but this is far from the truth. The most powerful scene is when a pregnant Sally comes to terms with the heart-wrenching decision to abort the baby.

For both the time-period setting, the 1930s, and the year the film was made, 1972, the sexuality dynamic is powerful and worth a nod. Brian, openly bi-sexual, and at a different time certainly gay is a great character.

He beds Sally more out of friendship than anything else while delving into admiration (or lusting) for the suave and dashing Maximilian. The fact that his sexuality is embraced and explored is to be celebrated and respected. It’s also a damned interesting part of the film.

Of course, Cabaret being a musical, the performance numbers are superlative. With gorgeous choreography by the director, Bob Fosse, (and who would expect anything less from the seasoned artist), the sets and costumes are stylish.

The conclusion, featuring “Cabaret”, is done grandly as Sally performs on stage with precision and bombast. “Willkommen” and “Maybe This Time” are also dynamic favorites.

Cabaret (1972) is a spirited, intelligent experience, never glossing over the historical period, nor assuming viewers are too dumb to have a handle on those events.

The film plays best to smart audiences able to appreciate artistic merit and enjoy the robust musical numbers.

Carefully, the film is designed to never shy away from the crucial Nazi power that was creeping up and leading to a generation of despair and repercussions.

Oscar Nominations: 8 wins-Best Picture, Best Director-Bob Fosse (won), Best Actress-Liza Minnelli (won), Best Supporting Actor-Joel Grey (won), Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium, Best Scoring: Adaptation and Original Song Score (won), Best Sound (won), Best Art Direction (won), Best Cinematography (won), Best Film Editing (won)

A Star Is Born-2018

A Star Is Born-2018

Director-Bradley Cooper

Starring Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga

Scott’s Review #819

Reviewed October 10, 2018

Grade: A

On paper, by the time a film reaches its fourth remake (think- superhero franchises), there is a risk of either utter redundancy or a lack of interest (or both!).

Months before A Star Is Born was released to theaters a tremendous buzz emerged, particularly about the stars (Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga). Considering the latter had never starred in a film before, the word of mouth was surprising.

The hype can be believed as the film is a tremendous effort with something to offer everyone.

The story begins as a boozy country crooner, Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper), performs a sold-out show. He needs the aid of pills to take the stage and suffers from gradual hearing loss but is nonetheless a famous and popular star.

Following the concert, Jackson meets Ally (Lady Gaga), a waitress who moonlights singing French songs at a drag bar. They immediately bond as he encourages her to celebrate her talent despite her insecurities.

As events unfold the pair dive into a passionate romance as her career skyrockets while he deteriorates from drug and alcohol abuse.

On the surface, a film such as A Star Is Born runs the risk of being hokey, formulaic, or otherwise generic. The premise dictates as such- successful star meets insecure up and comer, romance ensues, and they face obstacles and internal conflict on the road to success.

Sounds like material custom-made for a Hallmark television movie or something lightweight, especially given the remake of a remake factor.

Instead, every element of A Star Is Born works perfectly. Of enormous praise is how Bradley Cooper both directs this film and has the central male role. He, as a director, incorporates some interesting camera shots, including a long shot of Ally walking down an alley, rehearsing a song for a performance.

Also, the numerous concert scenes are very well done. Impressive since this is Cooper’s directorial debut.

An enormous win for the film is the chemistry between Cooper and Gaga which is evident in the very first moments the two appear on screen together. Their chemistry is purely electric- almost magical as they rapidly bond and connect.

Their connection is not only physical but over their love of music and the artistry associated with creating good music. This bond is slowly tested as Ally’s career takes off and her manager steers her in a more pop-oriented direction, which infuriates Jackson.

Even through turmoil, the chemistry between the two actors is palpable in every scene.

My two favorite scenes include the scene in which Jackson and Ally first meet in the drag bar. The lovely French tune (Edit Piaf’s “La Vie en rose”) that she performs is cultural and rife with talent. As Jackson gazes at her from the bar there is amazement and pride in his gleaming eyes. He is immediately smitten with her talent and poise and this scene sets the tone for the film.

The second comes at the film’s conclusion, as Ally belts out the heartfelt “I’ll Never Love Again”. Performing to a subdued audience, the song is performed as a close-up of Ally to the tremendous visual effect.

The musical numbers are heartfelt and emotional without being sappy. From treasures such as “Shallow”, and “Maybe It’s Time” to the thunderous “Black Eyes” and pop-driven “Why Did You Do That?”, the soundtrack contains something for everyone.

Cooper, already an acting champ, astounds as he is so good, while Lady Gaga, a novice to film acting, looks like a pro. We believe her struggles, doubting her star potential as she is deemed “too ugly” to make it in the music business.

Gaga successfully showcases her pain, doubt, and eventual bombast at her sudden success.

Mention must be given to Sam Elliott, the veteran actor who gives a dynamic supporting turn as Bobby Maine, older brother, and manager of Jackson. Elliott does not have a showy role or a big emotional scene- he doesn’t need to. In the actor’s quiet way, he infuses the character with pent-up anger but with unconditional love and affection for his brother mixed in.

Harboring rage and turmoil for each other, the best scene between Elliott and Cooper comes towards the end of the film when Jackson admits his love for Bobby. The emotion is raw on the face of Elliott in this important scene.

A Star Is Born (2018) is a superlative remake and one for the ages. I can easily see this film, already a fan favorite, going down in the record books.

With a memorable musical soundtrack, wonderful acting and directing, and characters audiences can relate to, a classic in the making is not too difficult to imagine.

Oscar Nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor-Bradley Cooper, Best Actress-Lady Gaga, Best Supporting Actor-Sam Elliott, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Song-“Shallow” (won), Best Sound Mixing, Best Cinematography

Dreamgirls-2006

Dreamgirls-2006

Director Bill Condon

Starring Beyonce, Jennifer Hudson, Eddie Murphy

Scott’s Film Review #792

Reviewed July 20, 2018

Grade: A

Dreamgirls (2006) is a glossy show business-style drama with plenty of glitz and glamour. Adapted from the Broadway production of the same name, the story is loosely based on the trials and tribulations of The Supremes, a popular all-girl group from the 1960s.

Despite the film being heavily focused on the drama and tension between the characters, it boasts a wonderful soundtrack and fantastic acting- most notably newcomer Jennifer Hudson, who garnered a surprising Best Supporting Actress Oscar win for her role.

The film tells the story of the evolution of American R&B music during the 1960s and the 1970s- the action mainly taking place in Detroit, Michigan, where the genre began.

Taking center stage is the incarnation of a girl group called The Dreams, who are controlled by their manipulative record label executive.

A womanizer and creep, Curtis Taylor (Jamie Foxx), guides the girls to stardom, but beds both the beautiful Deena (Beyonce) and the talented yet overweight Effie White (Jennifer Hudson). This leads to conflict as Curtis decides that less talented Deena is more marketable and thus should be the central figure of the band.

With a stellar cast in tow, Dreamgirls contains a plethora of talent and a good history lesson to boot. The main draw in the acting department is the revelation of the talented Jennifer Hudson.

Winner of the talent show American Idol, many pooh pooed her film direction, apparently assuming she was a flash in the pan and a “reality television” star. The challenging role of Effie is perfectly suited for Hudson- brazen, pipes for days, and plenty of attitude.

Her acting aside, Hudson scorches through an unforgettable rendition of “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going”, which is assuredly what won her the Oscar.

Otherwise, the supporting cast is worthwhile and impressive is Beyonce in a pivotal role. Surely, the singer/actress faced her share of detractors, along with Hudson, but their chemistry is amazing and she nails all of her songs.

Eddie Murphy is a gem in the role mirrored after James Brown, James “Thunder” Early.  The role is perfect for Murphy- a far cry from his standard comedic roles that have grown stale over the years.

This role rejuvenates the actor’s credibility.

Dreamgirls does at times falter a bit with the drama, almost soap opera-like situations. A triangle develops between Effie, Curtis, and Deena, which leads to tension, bad blood, cattiness, and melodrama.

If the film were a standard drama this would undoubtedly make the film suffer from a tired script or generic writing.

But the musical numbers are so riveting that these flaws can be overlooked completely. The ritzy glamour and sparkles that erupt during “Dreamgirls” and “One Night Only” are wonderful fun and the songs are memorable leaving audiences humming along as they dance in the aisles.

The story has been told many times before. A dream of rising to musical stardom and the many trials and tribulations that go along with these hopes and desires.

Comparisons can be made to Chicago (2002), Valley of the Dolls (1967), or even Gypsy (1962), but the mostly black cast and the 1960s Motown theme is interesting, particularly as the Civil Rights movement of the time was upon us.

The film does not invest much time in politics, sticking mainly with drama and music, which may be a wise move to avoid too much of a message theme.

As the film concludes in 1975, Effie is reaffirmed as a meaningful member of The Dreams after her career has tanked and she has wound up on welfare.

A paternity twist is also thrown in for good measure, but the film has a clear “happily after ever” vibe to it which softens the film and keeps it more on the PG-13 level instead of going for darker themes.

Dreamgirls (2006) is a musical that is highly memorable for me because it made Jennifer Hudson a household name and confirms the talent and glory that she is rightfully due.

In subsequent years the star lost weight, softened her image a bit, and became, well, more generic. But thankfully we have a gorgeous performance to always appreciate her for.

Oscar Nominations: 2 wins-Best Supporting Actor-Eddie Murphy, Best Supporting Actress-Jennifer Hudson (won), Best Original Song-“Listen”, “Love You I Do”, “Patience”, Best Sound Mixing (won), Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design

La Vie en Rose-2007

La Vie en Rose-2007

Director Olivier Dahan

Starring Marion Cotillard

Scott’s Review #790

Reviewed July 18, 2018

Grade: A

As a true fan of French actress Marion Cotillard, La Vie en Rose (2007) is the tremendously talented lady’s finest role to date- and I would venture to say one of the best in film history.

She immerses herself into the pivotal role of singer Edith Piaf and churns out a breathtaking performance.

Besides the vehicle to showcase her acting chops, the film as a whole is lovely, offering the poignant life story of the troubled star, adding enough French zest to offer more than just a biography.

The way that the plot is constructed is quite interesting as the story of Edith Piaf is told in a non-linear fashion. The highly complex singer’s biography is recounted first telling elements of her childhood and concluding with events occurring shortly before her death.

Her childhood is difficult so she is raised by her grandmother in a bordello and discovered on the streets to begin her meteoric rise to acclaim. The events of the film are known to be fairly accurate making the song-stresses life story awe-inspiring.

The visual aspects and cinematography elements of La Vie en Rose are lovely.  With soft, muted tones, the film is rich with culture and has a wonderful French way about it.

Since the story commences in 1918 the period is fraught with a rich history including World War II and a lavish trip to New York City where Edit performs.

To say nothing of the lavish Parisian settings, the “look” of the film is enough reason to watch in wonderment.

Enough praise cannot be reaped upon Cotillard as Piaf and as enjoyable and profound as the film itself is, the casting of the French actress is both perfect and unimaginable to think of anyone else in the role.

As treasured a performance as Cotillard gives, the filmmakers wisely choose to leave Piaf’s actual voice in the musical numbers. Anyone else mimicking her would be unimaginable and frankly insulting. And an imitator would not have served the film well.

Regardless of the voice-overs, Cotillard delivers such a flawless and brave performance that it makes the film what it is. Piaf was known as a very difficult woman to deal with both personally and professionally, though there were many sympathetic qualities to her given her tough life.

Cotillard’s facial expressions and mannerisms perfectly mimic the star’s qualities so much so that the actress seemingly becomes the singer. The actress deservedly won the Best Actress Academy Award for her layered performance.

The final scene of the film is both profound and ghastly. A very ill Edith, looking haggard, clown-like with heavy makeup, decides to take the stage for the final time, aware that she is dying.

Refusing to cancel her show, she performs her well-known number, “Non, Je ne regrette rien”. She then exits the stage in a frail manner and dies shortly thereafter. She was the consummate professional and star until the moment of her death. This particular scene is a wonderful culmination of the film.

La Vie en Rose (2007) solely judged as a biopic is a very good piece of filmmaking that tells a graceful, sometimes moving story of incredible talent.

With a performance such as Cotillard’s the film goes to another level and the performance becomes the main event. The emotions and the characteristics the actress undertakes are astounding and go down as one of the finest depictions in cinematic history.

Oscar Nominations: 2 wins-Best Actress-Marion Cotillard (won), Best Makeup (won), Best Costume Design

Carmen Jones-1954

Carmen Jones-1954

Director Otto Preminger

Starring Dorothy Dandridge, Harry Belafonte

Scott’s Review #736

Reviewed April 3, 2018

Grade: B+

Quite taboo at the time of release (1954) because it featured an all-black cast with not a single white cast member, Carmen Jones is to be celebrated for their contribution to film history for this groundbreaking feat alone.

Directed by Otto Preminger (who ironically is Caucasian),  the film features legendary actress Dorothy Dandridge in a Marilyn Monroe-style performance worthy of the talents of the stars.

The film is a musical with an inevitable tragedy at the conclusion.

The 1954 feature is based on a 1943 stage production of the same name, which in turn is based on the music of the famous 1875 Georges Bizet production of Carmen. These facets add to the richness of the film as it is layered with good history, and the well-known tragic elements make the conclusion unsurprising.

Brazen and beautiful, Carmen is a seductress who works in a parachute factory in North Carolina during World War II. After trading fists with a co-worker, Carmen is jailed and assigned handsome Corporal Joe (Harry Belafonte) to escort her to the authorities.

While Carmen is not shy about setting her sights on the young man, his fiancee, virginal Cindy Lou, fumes with anger and schemes to keep her man. This results in a triangle, of sorts, as Carmen and Joe eventually fall madly in love, leaving poor Cindy Lou by the wayside, but their love faces hurdles.

The rather lighthearted first portion of the film, with coquettish humor mixed in, is offset by a much darker path the film then takes. As Carmen and Joe finally profess their love and share a night of passion, she leaves him in the middle of the night, unable to endure prison time.

This results in Joe being imprisoned as the couple ultimately cannot stay away from one another despite repeated obstacles to their happiness. An additional character, a boxer named Husky, with designs on Carmen, is introduced, complicating matters.

In sad form, much like the opera Carmen, the final scene is both devastating and startling, as Joe treads down a dark and gloomy path of destruction. The character of Joe is nuanced- at first a “nice guy”, the character is an example of complexity, and what a man will do for love.

The viewer is left to wonder what will become of Joe and how he could simply throw his life away performing an act in the heat of passion.

In 1954, what a profound and wonderful role for a female, let alone a black female. Typically cast in roles such as maids, waitresses, or even less glamorous parts, how wonderful for Dandridge to capture a challenging role of this caliber.

As she sinks her teeth into the meaty and flirtatious Carmen, she is a vixen all the way. Her pizzazz, her flare, and her singing and dancing performances made Dandridge a star and forever known as a groundbreaking talent.

Enough cannot be said of the great importance of the casting of all-black actors in Carmen Jones.  Monumental, of course, given the time of the film, the result is a film of importance to the black culture, showing that no longer did they need to only appear in “white films” as supporting players, but could carry a film on their own.

How profound and remarkable this was!

My only criticism of the film is undoubtedly a result of the progress made for both black actors and the way black characters are written- though there is still plenty more work to do.

At times it feels a shade on the dated side (in present times plenty of great roles for black actors) with a slightly grainy look to the filming.

Some of the acting from the supporting characters is also not the strongest, but liberties must be taken as Carmen Jones is a historical film.

Thanks to the genius and the funding of Preminger, who needed to produce the film independently due to lack of interest, the results are a film that has gone down in history as being worthy, edgy, and open-minded.

Wisely casting talented stars with great pipes, the film is a solid success.

Oscar Nominations: Best Actress-Dorothy Dandridge, Best Scoring of a Musical Picture

Love and Mercy-2015

Love and Mercy-2015

Director-Bill Pohlad

Starring-John Cusack, Paul Dano

Scott’s Review #258

80017274

Reviewed July 17, 2015

Grade: B+

The life and times of the Beach Boys famous and troubled lead singer, Brian Wilson, is finally played out on the big screen (apparently many attempts were made to make a film) as Love and Mercy chronicles his difficult upbringing, unrivaled success, and his interesting life in later years, as he suffered from schizophrenia, traveled down a paranoid, nervous path, and was manipulated by a family friend who served as his doctor and main caregiver.

Thankfully, he weathered the storm in large part to his future wife, and remarkably, still performs and entertains in 2015. His musical career began in the 1960s.

The biopic features many of the well-known Beach Boys tunes to hum along to and to be entertained by, but is not a happy film, nor is it quite a downer either.

It is somewhere in the middle of the two. It is a telling of the life story of a rock star.

There is a risk in this- If the film is too sentimental it will fail. Love and Mercy do it correctly.

To be clear, the film is not a schmaltzy, sing-along, the trip down memory lane type of film for lighthearted film fans. Rather, it is dark, murky, troubling at times (the psychedelic scene when a young Brian is imagining different voices and noises in his head is rather frightening).

Wilson is played by two different actors, first in the 1960s and later in the 1980s.

Paul Dano stars as a young Wilson in the early stages of his career, filled with passion for life, art, and music, talented beyond belief, but clearly in the onset stages of paranoia, thanks in large part to his critical father, a demanding, angry man, quite possibly envious of Brian’s talents as a songwriter, who always wanted more from Brian.

Wilson’s father managed Brian and his brothers to success, but at a huge cost, and was ready to bail when the “next big thing” came along.

Miraculously, through conflict with his father and other members of the band, Wilson was able to complete the Beach Boys masterpiece, Pet Sounds, a groundbreaking album from the late 1960s. The film shows the struggles faced to achieve this success.

In later years John Cusack takes over the role of Brian. By this point in his life, he is damaged and he is a full-blown neurotic, insecure, and dependent on his psychotherapist, Dr. Landy, brilliantly played by Paul Giamatti. Landy has control of Wilson’s assets and will destroy anyone who interferes in this.

The scenes in which he screams at and berates a drugged-out Brian Wilson to create music are tough to stomach. When Wilson romances their future wife Melinda Ledbetter, played by Elizabeth Banks, she ultimately saves his life as she is determined to rescue Brian from the wicked abuse and adjust the toxic levels of medications he was kept on.

I left the movie theater unsure of the factual accuracy of the film and pondered the following questions. Did Brian’s wife swoop into his life and “save” him as neatly as the film explains? How instrumental was the maid in this process? Was the Wilson brothers’ father as much a monster as the movie portrayed him? Was Giamatti’s vicious psychotherapist role true to life or were the aforementioned aspects of Love and Mercy embellished ever so slightly for moviemaking magic?

One wonders, but from a film perspective, Love and Mercy works well as a work that takes risks, does not go for softness or niceness, and gives a character study that is quite admirable.

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: Best Supporting Male-Paul Dano

Whiplash-2014

Whiplash-2014

Director-Damien Chazelle

Starring-Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons

Scott’s Review #192

70299275

Reviewed November 13, 2014

Grade: A

Whiplash is a film about an aspiring nineteen-year-old Jazz drummer- Andrew Neyman, played by rising star Miles Teller (known for 2013’s indie teen drama The Spectacular Now), who is attending one of the most revered musical schools in the country, the Schaffer Conservatory in New York.

There, he is both mentored and terrorized by his intense and sometimes sadistic conductor- Terence Fletcher, portrayed by J.K. Simmons.

Andrew aspires to be the best drummer that he can be and worships Buddy Rich- a famous Jazz drummer from the 1930s and 1940s, who he constantly listens to and emulates.

While Andrew aspires to make the school orchestra that desperately needs a new drummer, he meets a cute girl, Nicole, at the concession stand of his favorite movie theater, and they bond.

Also in the mix is Andrew’s father, played by Paul Reiser. Once an aspiring writer, who never made it big, he struggles as a high school teacher. Andrew’s mother left the family when Andrew was just a toddler leaving just father and son.

The film mainly centers on the tumultuous relationship between Andrew and Terence and Andrew’s determination to be the best drummer in the world.

J.K. Simmons is simply mesmerizing in his role of Terence and this is wonderful to see as Simmons has struggled as a character actor for years. He gives a powerhouse performance and plows full steam ahead in his viciousness and extreme brutality towards the students, and on more than one occasion reduces a student to tears- if the tempo is not to his liking he shakes his clenched fist in disapproval.

The audience wonders if Terence is simply mean and sadistic or is tough on the students simply to make them work harder and achieve all that they are capable of.

Throughout most of the film, I wondered if I should hate this character or have sympathy towards him for wanting the students to excel. The sexuality of Fletcher is ambiguous.

He belittles and ridicules the students with fat jokes- he hatefully taunts an overweight student about Mars bars and happy meals, uses Irish digs, and inevitably gay slurs on other students, but is he hiding something in his personal life? Is he a closet case? His private life remains a mystery.

As brutal as Terence can be, there are moments of sensitivity that the character exhibits- he tearfully tells the orchestra a heartbreaking story of a former student, whom he admired, who recently died in a car accident.

In another scene, he warmly bonds with a friend’s young daughter.

As brilliant as Simmons is we must not forget to recognize the immense talent of Teller. The young actor does a fantastic job of portraying determination, drive, anger, and vengeance.

Andrew has a wonderful relationship with his dedicated father, a love/hate relationship with Terence, (are they bitter enemies or do they have the respect of a mentor/student?), and a sweet yet uneven relationship with Nicole. He successfully portrays a myriad of different emotions throughout the film.

Paul Reiser is wonderful in an overlooked and, quite frankly, thankless role as Andrew’s unsuccessful, yet forever faithful father.

Thankfully the film chose to center on the conductor/student dynamic and Andrew’s romantic relationship with Nicole did not take center stage and usurp the main point of the story, as I felt that the dynamic between the two was of lesser importance to the greater whole of the film.

The finale, an intense concert performance scene focusing on the intensity between Terence and Andrew, is superbly done. The close-up camera shots of the two added much to the climax of the film.

In fact, throughout Whiplash, extreme close-up shots of sweat and blood and intensity during performances and practices add to the overall rawness of the film.

Whiplash is an intense, sometimes brutal, assaulting experience, but what an amazing film it is.

Oscar Nominations: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor-J.K. Simmons (won), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Sound Mixing (won), Best Film Editing (won)

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: Best Feature, Best Director-Damien Chazelle, Best Supporting Male-J.K. Simmons (won), Best Editing (won)

A Star Is Born-1954

A Star is Born-1954

Director George Cukor

Starring Judy Garland, James Mason

Scott’s Review #175

995474

Reviewed September 25, 2014

Grade: B+

A Star Is Born was, at the time, considered Judy Garland’s much-touted comeback film and was very expensive for Warner Bros. to produce.

Garland delivers her finest career performance in my opinion (yes, even better than her portrayal of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz). The performance is multi-faceted and complex- it is comical, silly, poised, emotional, dramatic, and heartfelt.

Playing Esther Blodgett- later changed to Vicki Lester for more Hollywood potential, she is a struggling lounge singer who meets a successful actor, named Norman Maine, played wonderfully by James Mason.

Esther saves Norman from public humiliation at a function where he attempts to take the stage while inebriated.  They strike up a friendship and he convinces her to pursue films and, through a series of misunderstandings, she assumes he has ditched her.

Determined to become a star anyway, Esther forges her path to success on her own. Norman and Esther reconnect and Norman recognizes her talent and pursues her both professionally and romantically. They marry and she becomes a star while his career hits the skids, largely due to his alcoholism.

The talented Mason and Garland are at the forefront of the film and are the reasons for its success.

A few key scenes stand out to me as powerful or important- The scene involving a musical number over a dinner of sandwiches in their posh living room is wonderfully merry and light; a delivery boy who does not know who Norman is ruins the mood and causes jealousy to come to a head in his marriage to Esther.

Garland’s emotional scenes are excellent- especially the scene in her dressing room where she crumbles, realizing that Mason has hit rock bottom.

And the best scene of all is the Academy Awards scene where a drunken Norman causes a public spectacle as Esther receives her top honor, spoiling her night, and accidentally hitting her in the face in front of millions.

What a forgiving woman Esther is for staying with him and ultimately choosing him at the risk of ruining her career.

An interesting aspect of the story is that Garland’s character is not some ugly duckling that is transformed into Hollywood royalty- she has the talent already, she just needs a break, but is not down on her luck or starving- she makes a decent living with a touring band and she is torn about leaving them.

The musical numbers are inspiring and one is reminded why Garland is such a star as she belts them out of the park like nobody’s business, however, they do little to further the plot.

At times, more often the case in the first half, the film drags a bit, but the second half (post-intermission) is brilliant, and the ending is tragic yet heartwarming.

Will Esther’s career continue to flourish?

A major, major flaw with the film is the usage of still frames with dialogue overlapping due to lost footage. This makes following the story very tough and the continuity is affected. It also looks ridiculous and for the viewer to be captured by the story only to suddenly view a discolored still shot with audio is disappointing.

Surely, this can be corrected.

A Star Is Born (1954) is the perfect vehicle for Garland to return to her grand position among the Hollywood treasures.

Oscar Nominations: Best Actor-James Mason, Best Actress-Judy Garland, Best Scoring of a Musical Picture, Best Song-“The Man That Got Away”, Best Art Direction, Color, Best Costume Design, Color