Oscar Nominee

 

This was back in high school. Geoff Hoyle played Zazu in the original Broadway cast of the Lion King and the guy with the umbrella is Oscar nominee David Strathairn. Mr. “Good Night and Good Luck.” Strathairn was doing The Tempest at A.C.T. at the time and my good friend Ariel and I got a chance to spend some time backstage because we had teachers in the production. Ah yes, and Strathairn visited our school.

 

Today at work, Jeff (my boss, who is also a film fanatic) gave me the new 2-Disc Special Edition of “All the President’s Men” thanking me for the great work I’ve been doing lately. He and I had a discussion about some of the films that influenced me and I told him that this particular film ranks high on the list. As a matter of fact, I just finished watching it and I must blog about it soon.

 

He knew I didn’t have the new edition so he surprised me and left it in my box with a note saying “a companion piece to Murrow. Great Job at work. Good Night and Good Luck, Enrico!”

 

I’m blessed. Not just because I have a kick-ass boss, but free DVDs as perks?

 

A film major can’t complain.

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Confessions From An Aspiring Filmmaker

 

  1. You love/hate Tarantino. Either that or you’re just jealous that a former video store clerk has made a living ripping off old movies and making them cool again.
  2. You’re inspired by music. Any music because it helps you edit the “scene in your head.”
  3. In any phase of production, when all else fails, you steal from the French New Wave.
  4. You know what the word toy-etic means thanks to George Lucas.
  5. Full screen DVDs give you a headache.
  6. You curse the weather because production or not, it will always be against you.
  7. You respect the Harry Potter movies moreso than the books because of ‘its sheer cinematic craft.’
  8. You’ve heard every excuse an actor can give you about not memorizing their lines.
  9. You’re the only one who watches the Special Features on a DVD.
  10. You can go to a movie alone.
  11. You get the M. Night Shyamalan American Express commercial because you’ve been in a restaurant before and thought the same thing.

  12. You’re tired of M. Night Shyamalan.
  13. You wish you can write an ending in your next screenplay as clever as M. Night Shyamalan but then you remember reason number 12.
  14. Like it or not, Spielberg is still the man.
  15. During productions, you can go on without eating or sleeping but when you’re on hiatus, you complain that you never eat or get any sleep . . .
  16. You’re money goes to DVDs because you honestly believe they’re your textbooks.
  17. You watch a music video and you say to yourself, “hell, I could have directed that!”
  18. You hate to admit that even after cinematography and lighting classes, you still for the life of you can’t read a friggin’ light meter. This is why you have a DP because then you can just tell him to ‘bump it up,’ or ‘bring it down’ and he’ll know exactly what you mean.
  19. Or you skip the light meter/DP crap all together and be your own DP because you know you’ll just end up arguing with that DP anyway.
  20. You know the phone number to your local film commission by heart.
  21. MovieFone is on your speed dial, too.
  22. Yes, you pull the director card when you have to and enjoy uttering the words, “but I’m the director and I said so.”
  23. Half the time, you’ll second guess you ever said that.
  24. You have a favorite film composer.
  25. You don’t believe in a project being finished. You’ll always find something you wish you can fix.
  26. You promise you’ll make more serious films come next project.
  27. You have the utmost respect for animation.
  28. You honestly believe that the title design can make or break your film.
  29. You’re always pitching. Either that or someone’s always pitching something at you.
  30. You always have a friend or relative who comes up to you and says “can I be in your movie?”
  31. You always have a friend or relative who comes up to you and says “what kind of movies do you make, porn?” then chuckles as if he/she was the first one ever to come up with that lame-ass joke.
  32. “Interesting” isn’t the compliment you’re looking for after a screening.
  33. No one will ever get your experiments in cinema but you. Not even you’re own cast and crew.
  34. You can tell a fake ‘smile and nod’ from an honest ‘smile and nod.’
  35. Despite the ups and downs, you can’t think of doing anything else for the rest of your life.

The New Age of the Movie Musical

 

The Dreams – Anika Noni Rose (“Caroline or Change”) as Lorrell, Beyonce Knowles (“Pink Panther”) as Deena and Jennifer Hudson (“American Idol”) as Effie in Dreamgirls

 

When was the last time you busted out into song to explain your emotions?

 

I mean, let’s face it, when you’re in a deep heated fight with your friend, do you really get so fed up that words fail you and you have nothing left to do but to just hit that high b flat and belt “AND I AM TELLLLING YOOOUUU!!! IAAAM NOT GOOOING!”

 

Movie musicals have always been a hard sell.

 

Long consider passe on all accounts, due to the unrealistic nature of busting out into song, film musicals tend to be a laborious experience – melodramatic and cheap, with melody and lyric sucking the reality that cinema tries to portray.

 

Hollywood’s trying their best to create a new golden age of film musicals starting with Moulin Rouge!, a movie that faithfully reminded us that MTV’s real roots came from movie musicals and that music videos are condensed, high-content, coma-inducing versions of just that: The McMusical. Then came 2002’s Best Picture winner Chicago, reinventing the genre and taking a near-flawless stage show and turning it into a near-flawless motion picture event. It didn’t hurt to have Oscar-caliber performances (especially Catherine Zeta-Jones who stole the damn show and won supporting actress for Velma Kelly, a role that only a handful of women can portray) and the glorious music of Kander & Ebb didn’t hurt either (not like the cheesy AM Gold collection Moulin Rouge! decided to peruse).

 

After the success of Chicago, it seems that movie musicals have found a place in film once again. TV networks have started producing acclaimed stage classics such as The Music Man and Once Upon a Mattress, and it didn’t take long for MTV to finally realize the connection between music videos and movie musicals with their foray into the genre. Since then we’ve been treated with at least one or two film musicals a year, with Phantom of the Opera, The Producers and Rent, three classic Tony-winning shows with wonderful ideals but handled by the wrong filmmakers. This year promises an even bigger leap into the genre. So far, Disney Channel has produced High School Musical, which has the distinction of being the number one soundtrack of the year so far and Disney Channel’s most watched original made-for-tv-movie.

 

Yet the biggest news to come out of this year as far as movie musicals are concerned is the film adaptation of the beloved stage show Dreamgirls. Loosely based on real life singing group, the Supremes, the show follows the rise and fall of a girl group through the decades, their trials and tribulations. Effie (Jennifer Hudson) is the original lead singer of the Dreamettes, who is slowly pushed into the background (and eventually out of the group) by the group’s manager Curtis Taylor (Jamie Foxx) and replaced by the prettier Deena (Beyonce Knowles) as the group gains celebrity by selling out.

 

The great thing about Dreamgirls is that I’ve always thought the show lends itself to a cinematic adaptation – not as a musical per se, but almost like a biopic, along the lines of Coal Miner’s Daughter, That Thing You Do!, Ray, or more recently, Walk the Line.

 

Musical biopics are a hot commodity in Hollywood. As a matter of fact, rumor has it that Rent‘s Jesse L. Martin will be starring in a biopic of Marvin Gaye (talk about casting of the century!) So if director Bill Condon is as wise as he’s been with a track record that includes Gods and Monsters and Kinsey, he’ll fashion the show along those lines. Dreamgirls is essentially a biographical musical and the tumultous pace of the show only lend itself to a strong cinematic adaptation. The characters are fascinating, the music is intoxicating, and the commentary the show has on the music industry is timely.

 

The music is also very accessible and radio-friendly to modern audiences. The show has produced now standard hits, particularly the R&B showstopper “I’m Not Going” which every diva knows the lyrics to and every Idol hopeful has probably sung to the disdain of prissy Simon Cowell. It’s a smart move to promote the music first before the movie and push it to the radios as early as two months prior to its holiday release. The soundtrack is being produced by today’s hottest producers in the music industry handling such talents as Alicia Keys, and Kelly Clarkson, and Condon has requested to update the sound to appeal to a younger audience.

 

It seems that Dreamgirls is poised to be a hit but that remains to be seen. The genre’s recent track record isn’t a strong one. Yet it doesn’t mean the movie musical is going to disappear anytime soon. Stephen Sondheim’s gothic tale of Sweeney Todd has been announced, attaching Sondheim’s first choices (and wise ones at that) with Tim Burton as director and Johnny Depp as ‘the demon barber of Fleet Street.’ There is rumor flying around of Into the Woods with a seriously interested Spielberg. There is OutKast’s hip-hop musical Idyllwild and the film version of Hairspray: The Musical.

 

The movie musical just might be back. Perhaps not at its height, but like Effie in Dreamgirls, they’re singing the same tune: “and I am telling you, I’m not going.”