Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Les Misérables

I've seen Les Misérables on Broadway, at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia, at several high schools, on PBS in concert from Royal Albert Hall (10th Anniversary), and in the movie theater in concert from O2 Arrena (25th Anniversary).  It's without question that I love the show.  I saw the 2012 film on Christmas morning.  There are no words I can use, no praise I can lavish, that can sufficiently describe how remarkable it was.  

Yes, it has some minor faults.  There was Thénardier as the only character with a French accent.  Perhaps it was to help him pretend to be more upper crust in a sea of British accents, but it was out of place.  The singing wasn't always perfect.  So what!  If a voice cracked or a note was a bit sour, it made the characters more human and their emotions (and those of the actors themselves) very real.  It's one thing to play a role, and another to LIVE the role.  I think that's what lifted Les Misérables to a different level.  Every actor in the film seemed invested in his or her character and became that character.

I expected an outstanding performance from multi-talented Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean and was overwhelmed with its power.  As far as I'm concerned, he more than deserves every best actor award that is given for 2012.  The same can be said for Anne Hathaway as Fantine.  I could feel every bit of emotional and physical pain that she endured.  I was leery of Russell Crowe as Javert, but his performance was honest and nuanced.  He did not dissapoint, even in his final scene.  Amanda Seyfried and Eddie Redmayne were excellent as Cosette and Marius, and Samantha Barks reprised her stand-out appearance as Éponine from the 25th Anniversary concert.  The child actors, Daniel Huttlestone as Gavroche and Isabelle Allen as the young Cosette, delivered strong performances.  Even Sacha Baron Cohen (in spite of the French accent) and Helena Bonham Carter made the Thénardiers more human and less irritatingly cartoonish than in the stage and concert productions I've seen.  A special and moving performance was that of Colm Wilkinson, who played Valjean on Broadway, in the role of the Bishop.

There was magic in the theater from the opening scene through the finale.  The cinematography was above and beyond.  It was part of what made this film so special.  Unlike the stage production, the cameras were able to focus on details that are missing from a live performance and added to the depth of the story.  You are there with men being worked to death in the opening.  You watch the barricade, which is just there as an integral part of the scenery on stage, being built and see where it fits in the city.  The sewer scene becomes horrific.  I was wondering how they would handle the finale, and I won't spoil it with any details.  Suffice that it was perfect.

I've seen several films that took me to a different plane or had me crying for days, even years, after watching them.  What took me by surprise with this one is that I looked up and actually thanked the Almighty for giving me the experience of  Les Misérables.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

I was among the folks watching The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey at midnight.  Was it worth staying up most of the night?  Sure, if you are a midnight movie geek.  It was a good film; it kept me awake; and I'm already waiting for the next one.  Was I moved to tears?  No.  Will I see it again?  Possibly, but I'm not rushing.  Was it worth seeing it in 3D?  Not necessarily, but then I'm not much of a fan of the format.  It was only by accident that I even chose the 3D screening.

Ian McKellen IS Gandalf, and his performance was flawless.  Martin Freeman was excellent as Bilbo.  Andy Serkis (and the visual arts geniuses behind the scenes) always amazes as Gollum.  I simply didn't find myself invested in the dwarves, who were the remaining main characters.  They were OK, but not memorable.  At least it was good to see, even if briefly, Elijah Wood as Frodo, Hugo Weaving as Elrond, Cate Blanchett as Galadriel, Christopher Lee as Saruman, and Ian Holm as the older Bilbo.

I will admit that I've never read any of Tolkien's books.  I tried reading "The Hobbit" in college, when everyone else was reading it, but got quickly bored with it and didn't get very far.  I did listen to the audiobook a few years ago, but don't remember being excited or even much about it.  I wanted to enjoy the film as much as "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, but the story just doesn't click with me like the trilogy did.  Perhaps if you read and enjoyed the book, you will get more out of the movie.