Les Misérables (2012)

Film reviews are subjective. I tend to rate films not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Les Misérables (2012) from Universal Pictures
Rated PG-13. Drama, Musical, Romance, War/Epic
3 Academy Awards, including Best Supporting Actress

Description (from the film case): Set against the backdrop of 19th Century France, Les Misérables tells the story of ex-prisoner Jean Valjean [Hugh Jackman], hunted for decades by the ruthless policeman Javert [Russell Crowe], after he breaks parole. When Valjean agrees to care for factory worker Fantine’s [Anne Hathaway] young daughter, Cosette, their lives change forever.

My thoughts: “Fight. Dream. Hope. Love.” Yes, exactly–ditto to what the film’s tagline says.

Les Misérables is a wonderful achievement and the film that solidified Hathaway’s spot on my favorite actresses list. When she, an agonized Fantine, sings “I Dreamed a Dream,” oh, it isn’t just the way she sings it but how she is right afterward: drained, silent, blank, as if she hasn’t (or has?) just wailed her whole tortured soul out to a world that can’t hear her. There’s pretty much no way she wouldn’t have won an Oscar for that role. And Jackman is absolutely amazing as Valjean, both in his fierce moments and in his quiet ones. I hear tell Jackman even fasted from water to give wandering, weary Valjean’s skin its wasted look toward the beginning of the film. (Nope, it isn’t just a film makeup job making Valjean look like that.)

This is the only movie I’ve ever gone out to see as soon as it released, and if I could’ve stood up to sing along during “Red and Black” and “Do You Hear the People Sing?” in the theater, I would have. (But, alas, the people sitting behind me might have had something to say about that, and I didn’t know the words to the songs yet, anyway.) The film also compelled me to finally get around to reading Victor Hugo’s classic novel. I’ve not finished it yet, as it’s an unabridged version and I’m reading it in between other books, but I’m instantly right “there” every time I pick it up, and I already suspect it will end up on my list of all-time favorite reads.

______________________

 

The Lion King (1994)

Film reviews are subjective. I tend to rate films not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

The Lion King (1994) from Walt Disney Pictures
Rated G. Animated, Drama, Royalty, Musical
2 Academy Awards: Best Music, Original Song and Original Score

Five Gold Stars

My thoughts: “You are more than what you have become. You must take your place in the Circle of Life.”

As one of the great triumphs in an ended era of animated feature films, The Lion King tells the story of Simba, an adventurous young lion prince destined to become king after his noble father, Mufasa. However, Simba’s uncle Scar (not just a one-dimensional cartoony “bad guy” but a deftly crafted villain, in my book) is dead set on having the throne for himself. Speaking compellingly on multiple levels, to the young and old, The Lion King is fun and funny, simple and complex, tragic and majestic, with catchy and unforgettable songs as well as an Academy Award-winning score by Hans Zimmer, my favorite composer in film.

___________________________

 

Easter Parade (1948)

Film reviews are subjective. I tend to rate films not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Easter Parade (1948) from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Not Rated. Drama, Romance, Musical
Academy Award: Best Scoring of a Musical Picture

Description (from the film case): Strolling along 5th Avenue or going on the bum as “A Couple of Swells,” Judy Garland [as Hannah Brown] and Fred Astaire [as Don Hewes] lead a parade of music (17 Irving Berlin tunes and an Academy Award-winning adaptation score arranged by Johnny Green and Roger Edens) and gotta-dance fun in this never-ending delight co-starring Ann Miller and Peter Lawford. Don’t let this colorful Easter Parade pass you by!

My thoughts:

The happiest musical ever made
is Irving Berlin’s
Easter Parade.

So heralds the film’s tagline. I wouldn’t know if it’s the happiest musical ever in history, but I must be the happiest girl in the world whenever I watch it. My first time seeing it was also my first time seeing Astaire in a film from beginning to end, and what absolute genius: an actor, a singer, a dancer, even a drummer. Garland is charming as Hannah, and one of Hannah’s numbers with Don, “When the Midnight Choo-Choo Leaves for Alabam’,” gets me on my feet most every time. Oh, and Ann Miller’s fantasti-tap to “Shakin’ the Blues Away” is something to see.

And not to worry! The movie isn’t so busy having everyone singing and dancing around that it forgets to tell a story, as the storyline about love and show business is an entertaining one with wonderfully played characters.

“Oh, I could write a sonnet
“about your Easter bonnet
“and of the guy I’m taking to the Easter Parade!”

(Nice touch to have Hannah sing the signature song to Don, instead of the other way around.)

________________________

Nope, I can’t resist posting this number. All aboard for Alabam’!

 

A Walk to Remember (2002)

Film reviews are subjective. I tend to rate films not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

A Walk to Remember (2002) from Warner Bros.
Rated PG. Drama, Romance, Musical Performance

1/2

Description (from the film case): Love brings together what peer pressure and lifestyles seek to keep apart in this inspirational coming-of-age story based on a bestseller by Nicholas Sparks and directed by Adam Shankman. Mandy Moore plays Jamie, a preacher’s daughter whose self-confidence doesn’t depend on the opinions of others. Shane West plays Landon, who’s skating through high school on looks and bravado. But when events thrust him into Jamie’s world, he begins an unexpected journey he’ll never forget. Trust. Hope. Goals. Faith. Unconditional love. They’re the remarkable steps to a life changed–and of A Walk to Remember.

My thoughts: Yes, there are rare occasions when this lifelong bookworm enjoys a film more than the book it’s based on. Sparks’s novel was a nice read to me overall, but it didn’t have a profound, lasting impact on me like the film did and does. West and Moore really add compelling flesh and blood to Landon and Jamie, and I usually have a tear or two during a few scenes in the movie, including the Spring Play when Jamie sings “Only Hope.”

Now, for fellow faith film viewers: know that the filmmakers weren’t out to make this a “Christian film,” so even though some of the characters are Christians, viewers shouldn’t approach this movie like one in the Christian film genre. The themes of love, hope, and faith in this movie are powerful regardless, for people who believe in love, hope, and faith in life.

My corresponding reading: A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks.

_____________________