Beauty and the Beast

Having given up on the concept of chronology in blogposting, I thought today I’d post on going to see the new live-action Beauty and the Beast film with spouse B and daughter T last week while we were in Missouri to visit T.

I remember going to see the animated Disney film with daughter E, who would have been about five years old at the time, with T being too young for movies. I was impressed with the beauty of the animation in the opening sequence and knew that we would buy and watch the video many, many times. We later had the soundtrack of the Broadway version. I was very interested in how this new, live-action film would fit into the Disney history with these other versions.

I was impressed with the new film. What I most appreciated was the addition of depth of characterization and backstory. Maurice, Belle’s father, is portrayed in a much fuller and more poignant way, set up by a new song near the beginning of the movie. We also learn more about Belle’s mother and about the prince’s parents, which makes the plot flow more easily.

I appreciated the new songs, which brought more emotion to the story, and which gave us an opportunity to hear the glorious voice of Audra McDonald.  I thought that Emma Watson did a good job as Belle and that her singing served the characterization well. I also liked the richness of the orchestration and the chorus numbers.

All in all, I liked this version of the story because it is more human – which is the moral of the story.

Hidden Figures

Yesterday, B, E, T, and I went to see the film Hidden Figures. We all loved it.

Hidden Figures is based on the story of a group of African-American women who were “computers” in the early days of the US  space program. That is computers, as in those who carry out mathematical computations.

As sometimes happens, there are some connections between aspects of the film and our area and family. B, early in his career, worked for Link Flight Simulation, which made simulators for NASA. He then went to work for IBM, which, like Link, was founded in our area. IBM plays a role in the film, with a 1961 computer filling a large room. IBM used to have a museum in Endicott which had components from that era, as well as equipment, such as time clocks from IBM’s early years.

The film shows the rampant sexism and racism that the women faced in segregated Virginia. It was sobering for B and me, being reminded that this was happening in our lifetime, although we were only toddlers at the time and living in rural New England, which was neither segregated nor diverse at the time.

It was also sobering for all of us to realize that, as far as our country has come on matters of race and sex, there is still quite a distance to go to reach real equality and equity.

The long and fruitful careers of the main characters in the film are encouraging to all the younger women who follow, despite the obstacles that they still face. Thank you to everyone involved in making the film for bringing this important story to all of us.
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Rogue One

Today, the four of us took the time to go to the movies, as it is the last day of vacation for B and E.

We went to see the latest movie in the Star Wars franchise, Rogue One.

I admit that I was tired by the violence, especially after sitting through twenty minutes of violent previews before the movie started, but at least it took place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

My favorite character was Baze Malbus, played by Wen Jiang. I appreciated his relationship with The Force.

What appealed to me most was the music, based on the original Start Wars themes by John Williams. I felt that, if I closed my eyes, I could have followed much of the action on screen by hearing the soundtrack.

The most poignant moment was hearing the single word spoken by Carrie Fisher, who passed away last week, followed the next day by her mother, Debbie Reynolds.

Tomorrow, our time will be somewhat more structured, with B off to work, probably before it even gets light in these short, winter days, and E working from home for her employer in Hawai’i.

I’m not sure what I will be doing, but I hope to make time for a JusJoJan post.
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Fantastic Beasts

One of the characters in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them says that he knows he is not dreaming because he doesn’t have that good an imagination.

We are all fortunate that Joanne Rowling does have that good an imagination, which she shares with millions of people around the world.

We finally got to see this film, which is based in the travels of British wizard Newt Scamander, this morning and enjoyed it very much.

The visual effects are stunning, especially of the various “fantastic beasts.” Eddie Redmayne embodies Newt and I look forward to seeing him in the follow-on films.

Like most of Rowling’s work, the film deals with universal themes, among them, environmental and endangered species protection, the use and misuse of law and government, social inclusion/exclusion, abuse of power, abuse and neglect of children, and the greater power of love and friendship.

It’s not just a tale of magic.

Moana

Today, I went to see the newest Disney film, Moana. I have been looking forward to it and was not disappointed.

Moana is a Polynesian girl who is the daughter of a chief. Although the island where Moana lives is fictional, her story draws on the cultural heritage of various Polynesian islands.

I don’t want to give away the story, but it resonated with me. Both of my daughters have lived in Hawai’i and respect the native cultural traditions. Daughter T, with whom I saw the film, is especially close to the plants of the islands and was happy to see many she recognized. I could relate to the epic voyage of the heroic wayfarer and the special relationship between a wise grandmother and her questioning granddaughter. I appreciated the feminine energy and the ethic of care of and for the community.

The animation was beautiful. I especially enjoyed the ocean, which is its own character in a way. There were also a lot of great moments involving hair, which is particularly difficult to render well in animation.

As often happens, there is a bonus scene at the very end of the credits, so try to stay.

 

Florence Foster Jenkins

A family friend when I was a child often said, “Well, bless her heart,” whenever someone did something well-meaning or wholeheartedly.

Meryl Streep discussing Florence Foster Jenkins, whom she portrays in the new film of the same name, says that people at the time had one of two reactions to hearing Florence sing, either “bless her” or laughter.

Both of these are shown in the film.

Florence was a piano prodigy as a child, who lost her ability to play due to a physical condition. She continued to love music and, in adulthood. became an important musical philanthropist in New York City.

Florence liked to sing with heart and emotion. What she didn’t realize was that her physical malady had adversely affected both her ability to sing on pitch and her recognition that she was not singing on pitch. In order not to hurt her, her husband and her friends protected her from finding out the truth.

I love Meryl Streep’s work. She always brings depth into her portrayals as she does here. As a singer myself, although a choral soprano rather than a coloratura who can toss off the “Queen of the Night” aria at the drop of a hat, I was amazed at Streep’s ability to sing as Florence did – almost, but not quite up to the pitch.

On Fandango, the movie is listed as both a comedy and a drama. While there are moments of laughter, I can’t think of the film as a comedy. I think it is better characterized as a reflection on the power of music, service, friendship, and love in the face of adversity.

Florence, bless your heart. Meryl, thank you for bringing this powerful story to us.

“Who you gonna call?”

On Saturday, B, T, and I went to see Ghostbusters. It was a lot of fun!

B and I are very familiar with the 1984 film and appreciated all the cameos of actors from that version, as well as the dedication to the late Harold Ramis.  There are also a bunch of clever lines and visuals that hark back to the earlier version.

I really appreciated the new script, which gives the characters more scientific and technical cred, as well as backstories of why they are interested in the paranormal. I also appreciate the lack of smarminess; I was always bothered by Bill Murray’s skirtchasing. While Chris Hemsworth’s character as the office receptionist/model is there to be eye candy, he is treated in a light-hearted, rather than exploitative, way. The fun extends into the credits, so make sure you stay. Bonus: there is a sequel set-up in a short scene at the very end.

The special effects are impressive. We saw a showing in 2D. I’m not sure that I want to imagine what 3D would be like…

Two of my favorite performances were Kate McKinnon as engineering whiz Jillian and Leslie Jones as NYC native and expert Patty. So much fun to watch!

Some people feel that they have to choose between liking the 1984 version or the 2016 version. Why choose? It is perfectly acceptable to like them both.