#297- A Night at the Opera

Quick recap: It’s nothing but hijinks with the Marx Brothers! This time they get in on a money making scheme involving the opera.

Someone should’ve clued them in

Fun (?) fact: Producer Irving Thalberg made the mistake of leaving the Marx brothers in his office for several hours while he went to various meetings. When he returned, he found Harpo, Chico and Groucho completely naked and roasting potatoes in his office. Defeated, he sat down, ate one of the potatoes and never did that again.

Groucho, Chico, Harpo

My thoughts: The other day, my 7 year old told me in no uncertain terms that he hated black and white movies. My husband had shown him The Day the Earth Stood Still several months ago and according to him, it was super boring. Like any good parent in this situation, I went about trying to prove my child wrong- if it was the last thing I did.

My initial plan was to start playing A Night at the Opera and as soon as my kid became restless or started terrorizing the cats, I would turn it off. Then I would note how long he had made it and that would be the deciding factor in how I reviewed this movie. I didn’t account for the fact that he would absolutely fall in love with the film. He seemed bored at first ( Groucho was his least favorite) but anytime Harpo appeared, everything was good. Some of my kid’s favorite scenes:

Groucho ordering all that food for the stowaways

Everyone piling into the cabin

Harpo actually playing the harp

Harpo playing the trombone with a violin bow

And on and on and on. My son ate it up! It didn’t matter that there was barely a plot or that there were a few slow numbers we could’ve done without, the comedy more than made up for it. Had I watched the movie alone, the curmudgeon in me probably would’ve given it just a couple of points. Seeing this through fresh eyes made me appreciate it so much more. I think what astounds me most is how there are so many tv shows and movies marketed to kids nowadays but sometimes it’s the simple stuff they love the most. And Harpo.

Final review: 5/5

Up next: Once Upon a Time in the West

 

 

 

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#226- Amadeus

Thank you to Josh for recommending the movie, thus ensuring that I have ‘Marriage of Figaro’ stuck in my head for many days to come .

Quick recap: The incredibly sad story of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, as told by the guy who hated him most.

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Fun (?) fact: Director Milos Forman didn’t even bother having the actors use an accent in the movie because he wanted them to focus on their characters. It almost makes me feel bad to think about all the things I said about Tom Cruise and his lack of accent in the movie Valkyrie. Almost.

 

My thoughts: Of course I loved Amadeus. I may not get the point of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? , but I’m not a complete monster. Then again, I also uploaded a video of the Bloodhound Gang, so let’s just say I break even and move on.

The very first thing I did after finishing the movie was head over to Wikipedia to see how much of Amadeus was true and it turns out- it’s actually rather accurate. Of course there are scenes that probably didn’t take place, but seeing as how the movie is about a guy who lived over two hundred years ago, it’s a little difficult to pin facts down. Most scholars believe that Salieri didn’t really hate Mozart all that much, although they certainly weren’t BFFs or anything. It’s this detail that keeps me from embracing the film completely, although I certainly understand the reasoning of having a villain. Man versus Himself is much harder to portray on film, even though it is closer to the truth. Mozart was a genius and he knew it, and I think that’s what ultimately did him in- that he saw the genius in himself when others didn’t. I mean, he was celebrated while he was alive, but he also died penniless and was buried in a pauper’s grave. As for Salieri, the film does an excellent job painting him as a villain, but also someone that, although it is uncomfortable, we can relate to as an audience. Jealousy is an ugly thing and also something we all wrestle with.

What I loved most about the film, I think, was the way the music was woven into different scenes. Not only did I get to see snippets of some of his operas but I was also able to experience the music as it related to who he was. I’m by no means a genius composer (or AM I?) but I am consumed by music from the time I get up until I go to sleep and sometimes even while I sleep. The music I listen to is not a hobby, it is who I am. I have a playlist on Spotify that if you listen to it chronologically, it tells a story of me and all that has happened the past few years. In Amadeus, Mozart gets so obsessed with Requiem that it almost kills him. He didn’t just compose the music, he WAS the music and the two could never be separated.

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Final review: 5/5.

Up next: Oh, Voyager

 

#217- The Color of Pomegranates

Quick recap: Red. The color of pomegranates is red. And sometimes pink, but mostly red.

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I’ve seen a lot of life hacks about eating pomegranates, but this is a new one

Fun (?) fact: Director Sergei Parajanov once said that the American public didn’t understand his movie because people ‘are going to this picture as to a holiday.’

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Weirdest holiday ever.

My thoughts: The Color of Pomegranates is about the life of Armenian poet, Sayat-Nova. Despite being a a biographical film, there isn’t really a plot, or words, or characters or anything that would help me understand what I was watching at any point in time. So instead, I took everything at face value and came up with a few highlights to share with you about Sayat-Nova’s life:

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As a young boy, nothing made Sayat-Nova happier than dancing while his face was obscured with an instrument

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His real passion, as we will see throughout this film, was holding stuff

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From his angsty teenage years

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Sayat-Nova cared about his studies and finally got accepted into a university that specialized in professional pomegranate eating

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Sadly, Sayat-Nova died. His many friends attended the funeral

Now, it could be that director Sergei Parajanov put everything in here as a symbol, but as a stupid American who doesn’t appreciate good film, I wouldn’t know better.

Final review: 1/5. Supposedly this is a gorgeous film with a ton of meaning, but it went WAY over my head.

Up next: Detour

 

 

#139- Farewell, My Concubine

Quick recap: This is the story of two men, Douzi and Shitou, whose friendship spans over 50 years in China.

best friends, being bros, doing bro things

best friends, being bros, doing bro things

Fun (?) fact: This is going to be a big one, so be prepared:

Ready?

China banned this movie. I KNOW. Crazy right?!

showing young boys being beaten and tortured was cool for China, but not the homosexual vibes going on between the two characters

showing young boys being beaten and tortured was cool for China, but not the homosexual vibes going on with Douzi

My thoughts: You guys, opera is badass. Seriously. I know next to nothing about it, and what little I do know concerns Italian opera. I think I was aware that China had their own productions but I wasn’t aware how, well, badass it all was. Chinese opera has the same themes as opera around the world: love, death, war, but they have an added element of acrobatics, amazing feats of strength and stunning costumes. Watching Farewell, My Concubine makes me want to hunt down a show and watch it live because although the movie was good, it’s not the same as watching the real thing.

The plot is straightforward enough: two friends stay close for over 50 years. But oh my god, the things these two men went through. I don’t know if you are aware of this, but China has some really messed up history. At times, it felt like the director was going for melodrama, with one tragedy occurring after another, but then again Farewell, My Concubine takes place during a very turbulent time in China’s history. Although this story is fictional, I imagine most of what the movie portrays is something someone lived through at some point.

One thing that really captured my attention was the depth of the characters. Douzi is the main character, whose story starts with his mother abandoning him at the training headquarters for the Peking Opera. He is initially rejected because of an extra finger on his hand, but his mother chopped it off and walked away. The training was brutal, with boys constantly being beaten with swords and expected to be perfect. Douzi is strong, but feminine, and so is trained to perform the Dan (female) roles. Throughout the movie, he maintains his feminine personality, to the point of being overly dramatic, like many people thought homosexuals acted back in 1993. Shitou is the more masculine of the two, but very caring. He has a very short temper but somehow endless patience for Douzi. I really enjoyed not having to pick a protagonist and root for one person because everyone in this film had faults.

the story is that a king is defeated in war. All his soldiers abandon him, except for his horse and concubine. The concubine stands until the very end and then kills herself with his sword.

the story is that a king is defeated in war. All his soldiers abandon him, except for his horse and concubine. The concubine stands until the very end and then kills herself with his sword.

Final review: 5/5. Many of the scenes were very difficult to watch but I was engrossed the entire 3 hours and at the end, it felt like it was almost too short of a film

Up next: Tongues Untied