When Hamilton first came to the stage in 2015, I was adamant that I wouldn’t jump on the bandwagon. I mean, everyone was banging on about this musical and how amazing it was. How different and inspiring. It didn’t help that my interest in American history is basically non-existent. But, for whatever reason, I stubbornly avoided it. Until one day when I decided to listen to the soundtrack. I don’t know why I decided it was the day but I was on my way to a job interview. I wasn’t really paying attention on the way there but I was hooked by the time I got home. I couldn’t stop listening to it and I’ve not been able to stop since. Most of my top songs on Spotify for 2019 were from Hamilton. My top artist for last year was Hamilton. It’s become my go-to album and works for any mood. When I’m tired, sad, happy, bored, or just facing a long day of work. Hamilton would always be the perfect thing to sort me out. So, when it was announced that the West End run in 2019 was being lengthened, I knew I had to get tickets. Seeing it live was one of the best theatre experiences I’ve ever had. And I’ve had some great ones.
To accompany my review of the latest Pixar film earlier this week, I was going to watch Coco. That would have meant buying a copy or renting it on Amazon. As I’m about to get a Disney+ subscription later this month, I decided that it was stupid to spend more money on it. So, I decided to go with something about fantasy creatures instead. I’d never seen Trolls but I bloody love that Justin Timberlake song. It’s the kind of irritating pop song that you know you shouldn’t like but you can’t help it. I just get swept away in it’s happy and upbeat melody. Plus, I do have a general love of Justin Timberlake. And I might like Anna Kendrick but I can’t really tell. She’s one of those irritatingly perfect human beings that I kind of love but am also incredibly jealous of. She’s kind of perfect and just reminds me of how imperfect I am.
After the success of my audiobook on Sunday, I decided it was a great idea to try another one to get me out of my slump. This is the audiobook that had me go back to Audible recently. Not only do I love H.G. Wells but I really love Jeff Wayne’s music. Speaking of, I’m still extremely bitter about a pub quiz question regarding this album. It was something like “which book was the subject of an album during the 1970s?” or something like that. Obviously, I knew the answer but my friend’s dad would not listen. In the end, he answered Wuthering Heights because of Kate Bush. I was so mad and I’ve never quite let it go. A classic case of mansplaining gone wrong. Anyway, there was another reason that I was so keen to listen to this Audible Original: Michael Sheen. God, I love that man. I have done for years. Since I was about 16 in fact. He’s lovely. His face is lovely and, more importantly for an audiobook, his voice is lovely. Also, quite fitting for him to be taking the role that was originally given to Richard Burton, right? So, I was all set to enjoy this and to be able to knock off another book this week. This audiobook thing might be the key to getting my numbers up.
I was determined that I wasn’t going to like The Greatest Showman. The reason? A friend of mine said, with complete confidence, that he thought I’d love it. Now, anyone who read my review of Dunkirk will remember, I’m really stubborn. So, I decided that I couldn’t let him be right. Then, I went to a wedding. At this wedding, the DJ played the title song from this film. It seemed like a weird choice but whatever. The point was, a little girl was alone on the dancefloor performing the shit out it. She was dancing, singing, and giving it her all. It was the funniest, sweetest, and weirdest thing I’ve ever seen. Obviously, we all clapped when she was done but, as you’d expect, that only encouraged her. So, she kept trying to get the same attention for the rest of the night. Unfortunately, I was one of the only people paying any attention to her. I mean how could you not? She was hypnotic. However, it did mean she was performing to me for most of the time and it scared the shit out of me. You don’t know fear until you have a 7-year-old girl staring into your soul whilst singing popular songs. Still, I got over the experience and was left with a strange desire to finally watch the film. That’s how haunting that girl’s performance was.
I have a certain love for Elton John. I definitely grew up listening to his music and, because I’m not one for change, have continued to listen to him as I grew up. I remember us having the ‘Candle in the Wing’ CD single that was released in honour of Princess Diana. ‘Candle in the Wind’ is a decent song but that wasn’t the song I was interested in. The CD also featured ‘Something About the Way You Look Tonight’ and I loved that song so much that I would play it on repeat. I still love that song because he sounds incredible. But I’m getting off-topic. What I’m trying to say is, I was excited about the release of this film even before I’d seen any of the trailers. When they came out, it only made it worse. Taron Egerton was perfectly cast and the whole thing looked fucking insane. The perfect antidote to the tame Bohemian Rhapsody. This really looked like the kind of biopic that Elton John would want. It was loud, over-the-top, and brutally honest. Yet, as most films do these days, its release came and went without me doing anything about it. Although, actually I was supposed to see it with a work friend but then I selfishly got another job and it became a nightmare to organise. This weekend I decided it was time.
Christ, it’s hot. I know there are countries out there who consistently have much hotter weather than this but this is the UK. We’re not built for heat. Especially as my office has no air-con and we’ve been told we’re not allowed fans. It’s been so gross. To put it bluntly, I’m sticky. So, I need to get this sorted quickly and go for an icy shower. I’m a bookish person. We aren’t built for Summer. And I promise you, I hadn’t intended to start this post by talking about how sweaty I am. I had something planned and everything. But the heat has melted my brain. So, here we are. At least I can clarify something today. I don’t hate The Beatles. No matter what I may have suggested in my review of Yesterday, I actually enjoy listening to them every now and then. I just think we need to change the narrative that they’re the “greatest band of all time”. Maybe they’re the most popular band of all time but the greatest is a different story. Yesterday wasn’t a film. It was Richard Curtis trying to get Paul McCartney to notice him. It was weird and kind of sad. So, I thought it was time to review a film that actually does a decent job of using The Beatles as a basis for a film.
As you may know, I’ve been trying to go back and watch the films that I’ve already reviewed for 2019’s TBT section. Last week aside, I’ve been going through them in chronological order. Then I went rogue and watched a film that I wanted to. And the floodgates opened. There is no more order and the rule book is out the window. Maybe it’s because I know the next film coming up is one I’ve watched recently and don’t really want to go there again? Or maybe I’ve just got tired of setting myself these parameters for no reason? Either way, this week I had a craving to watch something random and I went through the films available on Prime and ended up here. Drawn in by Ewan McGregor’s face because, let’s be honest, the early 2000s were the peak time for his face. One year before Attack of the Clones and four years before the beardy goodness of Revenge of the Sith: Moulin Rouge is classic Ewan McGregor beauty. And he’s singing. I don’t know whether it’s the amount of Disney films I watched growing up but, for some reason, I’ve brought myself round to the idea that the ideal romantic partner is one who is an amazing singer. I feel like most people don’t see this as a vital ingredient to love but it is. It definitely is. So, let’s jump in.
Normally, I don’t like to take too much notice of critical ratings before I go and see a film. I prefer not to be affected by what other people think. But the mixed reaction to Bohemian Rhapsody did concern me before I saw it. All of my friends who’d seen it had aid it was worth watching, which went along with the majority of fan feedback. However, I couldn’t ignore the fact that so many critics were disappointed. This was one of those films that should have been guaranteed. A biopic of one of the greatest British rock bands with the talented Rami Malik playing the role of Freddie Mercury and directed by Bryan Singer. It should have been perfect but, as we know, the film making process was a huge struggle. Not only was Rami the last in a fairly long list of actors accepting to play Freddie but there were script problems and Singer was replaced by Dexter Fletcher at the last-minute. Singer was reportedly difficult to work with so was thrown off the project with about 3 weeks to go. Talk about drama behind the scenes, eh! So, with all that in mind, it felt like the critical response could have something to it. Meaning I went into this film kind of expecting the worst. But, considering it got a Best Picture nomination, I had to give it a go.
I’ve said it before and I will continue saying it until the day I die: Mamma Mia is the worst film ever made. I know it’s a contentious point because there are lots of terrible films that I’ve never seen and there are loads of people who bloody love this film. However, I fail to see any positives about the way that film was made and everything about it makes me angry. It’s terribly shot, terribly choreographed, terribly sung, terribly written, terribly acted… you get the idea. I hate it. There is one specific camera move during Meryl Streep’s performance of ‘Mamma Mia’ itself that really gets my goat. Meryl lies on the roof singing and the camera moves up and then, as Meryl waves her arms, crashes back down. It’s the worst shot I’ve ever seen. And then there’s the whole of ‘The Winner Takes It All’ where Meryl, I assume for lack of better direction, starts miming the lyrics as Bronhom stands completely helpless. It’s so fucking bad…. yet I find myself yearning to watch it every now and then. It’s like that second piece of cake at the end of a 3 course meal. You know you don’t want or need it. You know it’ll make you feel sick for the rest of the night. You know you’ll regret it for ages. Yet, you know you’re going to eat that fucking cake. Mamma Mia is that second piece of cake. I can’t just put it back in the fridge and walk away. I need something on which to focus my hatred. Which is why I always knew I’d go and see the second one at some point.
Last week the world lost a true icon. It was announced on 16th August that Aretha Franklin had died due to pancreatic cancer. Franklin was an undeniably sensational singer but she was so much more than that. She was the true Queen of Soul and defined soul in the Sixties. She was also an influential and powerful figure in history. Her songs became anthems for social change as women and African-Americans adopted them for their own. Just look at what she did to Otis Redding’s ‘Respect”: she made that song her own and gave women a rousing call for themselves. She was incredible. And I could easily go on and on talking about the massive impact that the singer made upon the world. I won’t, however, as there are bound to be better people out there doing just that right now. All I really know is, I loved Aretha Franklin. I think the first song I heard her sing was ‘I Say A Little Prayer’ and I adored it. She made it seem so effortless but, no matter how hard I tried (and believe me I tried) I could never replicate her skills. I just couldn’t believe how fantastic and powerful a singer she was. Everything else I heard just got better. But, no matter how much I love listening to her sing, there is one part of her career that sticks with me more than anything: her performances in the two Blues Brothers films.