June 20, 2013
Written by Mark Schumann, Father of Three
Friday, 28 December 2012 11:28
Each week, the Reel Dad checks the nutritional value of a movie — new or classic — to help you choose what to watch. This week’s pick is the new film version of the stage musical Les Misérables.
For everyone who loves the musical Les Misérables on stage, the wait for its transfer to the screen is over and the verdict is in. This magnificent movie beautifully honors the original novel by Victor Hugo, celebrates the splendor of the stage production and reinvents the musical film for a new generation. This is a must-see of the holiday season.
From its dramatic opening moments, we know we are about to experience something special. Director Tom Hooper carefully retains the narrative and approach of the stage musical while expanding its visual impact. We find ourselves in 19th-Century France where a man decides to break parole after serving years in prison for stealing bread to feed his family. Rather than let his past define his future, he boldly reinvents himself to become a successful factory owner; rather than only take care of himself, he refreshes his soul by promising a former worker that he will raise her daughter as his own. But life gets complicated when a police inspector endlessly pursues him and a revolution begins to dominate his country.
On the page, Hugo uses this broad collection of characters and situations to paint a compelling picture of personal and political oppression; on stage, creators Claude-Michel Sconberg and Alain Boubil artfully consolidate the broad narrative into an accessible sequence of situations. They strategically minimize the spoken work to enable the characters to primarily express themselves through song. Director Hooper is smart enough to rethink what worked on stage for the visual medium at the same time he stays true to the essence of the stage piece. And by having his actors sing “live” before the cameras — rather than lip-synch to pre-recorded music tracks — he creates an authenticity of interpretation that has been lost in the musical performances of MTV and Glee.
It’s no surprise this creative choice is capturing attention. Hooper was brave. In the early years of Hollywood — when most musical performers were from the Broadway stage — most movies were shot “live” with actors and actresses singing from take to take. But the Hollywood wizards soon discovered they could achieve better sound quality — and take less risk wearing out a performer’s vocal chords — if they pre-recorded the vocals and, instead, simply had the cast “mouth” the words.
But Hooper knows that, when a show relies on its songs to sell its story, an audience must believe in the authenticity of the words. So when Hugh Jackman, in a dynamic performance as the honorable Jean Valjean, expresses his pain through song, we feel the intensity of the performance; when Anne Hathaway, breathtaking as Fantine, articulates the humiliation life delivers, we do not feel we are watching a singer deliver a number as much as we are experiencing a journey into a character’s soul. What Hooper may sacrifice in artistic quality in the vocals he more than achieves in the magic of the portrayals. Les Misérables would not be the same film if the actors performed. The film works because they live the words in the songs. And Hooper frames them in a visual experience that thrills from opening to close.
Anyone who loves movie musicals will consider this movie thrilling; anyone who loves the stage show will be thrilled by its care and creativity. Thanks to Tom Hooper’s creative choices, Les Misérables delivers a great time at the movies as well as the hope that the musical movie will continue to progress as a unique art form.
* Content: High. The rich characters of the Victor Hugo novel are beautifully portrayed in a moving movie experience.
* Entertainment: High. The choices that director Tom Hooper makes enhance the power of the piece as well as the authenticity of the performances.
* Message: High. The fundamentals of Jean Valjean devotion to his world, and the lessons he learns through his life, reach out to all of us.
* Relevance: High. Any opportunity to be so entertained and moved by a film is always relevant to what we experience each day.
* Opportunity for Dialogue: High. Your children should be fascinated by the production as well as touched by the characters.
Les Misérables is rated PG-13 for “suggestive and sexual material, violence and thematic elements”. The film runs 157 minutes.
5 Popcorn Buckets
What’s on your family’s movie menu this week? Choosing what films to offer is a lot like planning what meals to serve: You want to savor something you will enjoy at the same time you nourish the mind, heart and body. These nutritional movies are available this week on cable for you and your family.
As you prepare for the New Year celebration, take a moment this weekend to share two classic movies with your family. Here is what’s available on cable.
For any American citizen, the opportunity to serve on a jury is an obligation and a privilege. The essence of our judicial system is the promise that anyone charged with a crime has the right to a trial by a jury of their peers. And, to fill those panels, millions of people volunteer each day.
Any of us who have been served with a jury summons take to the court a range of reactions. While we may understand the reasons we should serve, and would want to be fairly treated ourselves if we were accused, we are too aware of the inconvenience an assignment can create. And, no matter how important we may consider the obligation, we can’t help but think of all the other things that we could be doing while sitting in the court and deliberation room.
12 Angry Men, no matter how dated the film may look and feel, tells a story as timeless and universal as any challenge that people can face. We are placed into the middle of a courtroom where a man is accused of a violent crime. The members of the jury are anxious to come to a quick decision about his fate. They have, after all, their own lives to manage. Only one man, the lone holdout, believes that perhaps the others are moving to quickly to come to a decision. And that there is chance, if only a small one, that the accused may be innocent.
What makes 12 Angry Men so meaningful to share is how it teaches the basics of the judicial system which remain much the same despite the years since the film was produced. It also inspires us to stand up for what we believe, despite the criticism we may hear, and do what we know is right. Because if we don’t stand up for what is right, we have no assurance that anyone else will. 12 Angry Men airs on Turner Classic Movies at 10:15 am Sunday.
During this season of joy, it can be worthwhile to wonder what causes people to hate. We can only imagine why some choose to attack and why, based on that bias, they choose to be cruel and destructive. That’s why, since people began to gather in theaters to watch performances, writers have begged people to understand that, beneath the color of our skin or the beliefs we may hold, we are all people who can learn to understand each other.
William Shakespeare, a landmark playwright in English literature, explores these themes of bias and hatred with his timeless romantic drama, Romeo and Juliet. He introduces two families, the Montagues and the Capulets, whose private war makes it difficult for two children of the families, Romeo and Juliet, to pursue a relationship. From their tragedy, a society learns how hatred can divide and kill. This story was a unique choice, in the 1950s, to be adapted to the Broadway musical stage as West Side Story. In this telling, the dueling families become Puerto Ricans settling in New York City at odds with the locals. By focusing the story on the youth, set against a backdrop of tense conflict, Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim and Arthur Laurents teach the need for understanding and patience.
With the journey to Hollywood, West Side Story emerges as an even clearer look at the damage that racial hatred can create. Directors Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins use the language of dance to add depth to the original story and characters. Wise, with his use of the camera during the dramatic sequences, brings an authenticity to the confrontations that reinforce the fundamental tragedy. On film, the threats by the rival gangs add intensity to the hopes of the potentially doomed lovers. And even though its setting, language and clothing may seem woefully out of date, the heart of its story is timeless.
Unlike many movie musicals, West Side Story ages well. Perhaps it’s because the story is so universal, or the dance so compelling. Maybe it’s because Wise perfectly preserves the time period in his visual approach. No matter the reason, West Side Story feels fresh. And contributing to the ageless quality is, certainly, the incredible Bernstein and Sondheim score. Rarely does each song in a musical emerge so clearly from character at a specific moment of emotional need, giving the musical a reason to sing, and rarely has dance so seamlessly integrate into the visuals and sounds. Set your video recorder for Saturday at 2 a.m., Turner Classic Movies, to share this classic with your family.
Serving nutritious movies can be as easy as turning on the television. And be sure, as you watch together, to share what you observe, question and consider. Watching movies together can prompt valuable family discussions.
|< Prev||Next >|
The requested URL /components/com_nklf/tent.php was not found on this server.