Tag Archives: Songs

FX TV REVIEW: FOSSE / VERDON (2019)

FX TV REVIEW: FOSSE / VERDON (2019)

Developed by Steven Levenson and Thomas Kailbased on Fosse by Sam Wasson

Executive Producers: Steven Levenson, Thomas Kail, Joel Fields, Lin-Manuel Miranda, George Stelzner, Sam Rockwell, Michelle Williams

Producers: Erica Kay, Kate Sullivan, Brad Carpenter

Directors: Thomas Kail, Adam Bernstein, Jessica Yu, Minkie Spiro etc.

Writers: Steven Levenson, Thomas Kail, Deborah Cahn, Tracey Scott Wilson, Charlotte Stouldt, Ike Holter, Joel Fields

Main Cast: Sam Rockwell, Michelle Williams, Norbert Leo Butz, Margaret Qualley, Nate Corddry, Paul Reiser, Jake Lacy, Susan Misner, Peter Scolari, Kelli Barrett, Evan Handler and many more.

Original Network: FX – UK Network: BBC

No. of Episodes: 8

**MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS**

I’m not a massive fan of musical shows or films as a genre. However, when the subject material or narrative connects with me, or the craft of song and dance transcends the form I will enjoy them. Thus, musicals I have seen and enjoyed on stage in the last few years include the brilliant Gypsy, Funny Girl, and Company. On the other hand, I could not stand Hamilton, despite the incredible talent involved in the production. Ironically, Hamilton director, Thomas Kail, is a major driving force behind this adaptation of Sam Wasson’s book about Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon.

On the cinema screen the likes of: The Wizard of Oz (1939), Singing in the Rain (1952), Grease (1978), Moulin Rouge (2001), Chicago (2002), are just a few great examples of the genre I liked. But, the best and most exceptional musical I have seen in terms of form, style and subject matter is the Bob Fosse directed, Cabaret (1972). It’s not just a great musical, but it’s also a incredible piece of cinema. It oozes dark class in the musical set-pieces, ambiguous and fractured characterisation, sleazy sexuality and the thematic political subtext of pre-World War II Germany.

The making of Cabaret (1972) is one of the many creative events featured in Fosse/Verdon (2019). As the title suggests, it is an extensive biographical television drama about legendary director and choreographer Bob Fosse (Sam Rockwell) and the genius dancer, Gwen Verdon (Michelle Williams). Both their artistic and personal lives were entwined from the time they met on the Broadway musical Damn Yankees in 1955, to the moment of his death in 1987.

If you’re interested in musicals and the work of Fosse and Verdon then you will absolutely love this warts and all biopic. We get extensive rehearsal, on stage, on screen and edit room scenes showing Fosse and Verdon’s creative process. Songs and dance numbers from Cabaret, Sweet Charity, All That Jazz, Pippin, Chicago and many more, feature heavily in the play and fantastic soundtrack. Further, both Fosse and Verdon, were dancers from a very young age and we therefore get scenes from their formative years paying their dues in dives and flop-houses.

We also get the heavy drama of Fosse and Verdon’s marriage battles. The former being a pill-popping workaholic and womaniser was the biggest issue in their relationship. His constant affairs and narcissistic tantrums took their toll eventually. Indeed, Fosse, while an amazing creative force, is quite despicable in his lecherous use of the casting couch and exploitation of his position and power. Perhaps, even more could have been done to critique his negative acts, especially in light of the #MeToo gender issues relevant today. However, there is no aggressive damnation of his actions, but rather agnostic reflection and acceptance that this was prevalent masculine behaviour for the era.

Sam Rockwell as Fosse is outstanding. He conveys the sadness of a junkie, haunted by a dysfunctional and abusive childhood. Yet, where his work is concerned his energy and obsession is non-stop and formidable. This, in no small part, is down to his constant amphetamine abuse; something which would lead to mental and physical health issues. Similarly, Michelle Williams is incredible as Gwen Verdon. She inhabits this classy performer with an energy and drive, but also a fighting spirit when clashing with Fosse creatively and matrimonially. She is more his match than his muse though. Indeed, Verdon, is his equal and deserves to share many of his plaudits and awards. They ultimately would push each other to greater heights and achievements.

The supporting cast, including the magnetic Margaret Qualley as dancer, Anne Reiking, and Norbert Leo Butz portraying writer, Paddy Chayefsky are excellent. Also, the talent and look of the era is convincingly evoked on and off the stage. The cavalcade of dance numbers are superbly mounted and the editing perfectly reflects the fractured nature of the characters’ show business lives. Lastly, the jigsaw structure, which zigs and zags from the characters’ past to Fosse’s final days, charting triumph and adversity, complements the complexity of the characters.

Thus, overall, this works as an honest analysis of a flawed genius and his equally talented dance and life partner. It is highly recommended for those drawn to the darker side of creative artistry and personal relationships. But the question remains: should the work of Fosse be re-evaluated, especially in light of his extremely sexual and sexist behaviour? Is there a statute of limitation for genius and all that jazz? The Primetime Emmy awards panel do not seem concerned given Fosse/Verdon (2019) has received seven major nominations at time of writing. All of which it stands a great chance of winning!

Mark: 9 out of 11

A STAR IS BORN (2018): OSCAR BINGO #1 & CINEMA REVIEW

A STAR IS BORN (2018): OSCAR BINGO AND FILM REVIEW

Directed by: Bradley Cooper

Produced by: Bill Gerber, Jon Peters, Bradley Cooper, Todd Phillips, Lynette Howell Taylor

Screenplay by: Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper, Will Fetters

Based on: A Star Is Born by William A. Wellman, Robert Carson, Dorothy Parker, Alan Campbell

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Andrew Dice Clay, Dave Chappelle, Sam Elliott

Cinematography: Matthew Libatique

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When a star is born others will die. Some will fade. Some will collapse. Some will burn bright like the sun before vanishing. That is the cycle of life and the narrative of this standard film classic. Yet, if you’re going to cover an old traditional then you’ve got to be confident you’re going to do it justice. It could be considered an easy track to lay down by replicating a story done three times before, however, if you get it wrong and play a bum note then you’ve ruined the song. Safe to say that writer, director and star Bradley Cooper has thrown his heart and soul into this story and with on-screen partner Lady Gaga, and an incredible production team, they’ve collectively knocked it out of the park. For this review I’d like to play a bit of Oscar bingo and consider the merits of the film along with the players award chances.

BEST FILM CHANCES: 8 out of 10

This is a film about dreams: living, broken and dying dreams. It’s a beautifully timeless tale of two people who fall in love but their trajectories veer in opposite directions. Bradley Cooper is Jackson Maine: a successful rock star still selling out stadiums and seemingly with everything positive on the outside. Inside though he’s crumbling; he suffers from tinnitus, alcoholism and the inner demons of a broken family past that drugs, booze, music and his long-suffering brother, portrayed by the excellent Sam Elliott, cannot block out. When a chance meeting with a bar singer occurs, sparks fly with Ally, as she suddenly brings a burst of light and hope into his life. While she is insecure off-stage she nails it on-stage; not surprising as she is portrayed by pop mega-star Lady Gaga. The two fall in love but the path of romance, while powerful on and off stage for a while, ultimately struggles with both his addiction and Ally’s subsequent pop success. Given the familiarity of the story the ‘Best Film’ chances could be slightly hampered in regard to originality. But overall it has the feel of both an epic and powerful love story combined with some tragically intimate moments that will make it one of the front runners when the nominations come out.

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BEST DIRECTOR CHANCES: 7 out of 10

While this is his is directorial debut, Bradley Cooper has infused the story with an energy, immediacy and intimacy akin to that of a veteran filmmaker. The on-stage scenes put you at the heart of the gigs, while his sterling performance and that of Lady Gaga’s absolutely soar. There is a core reliability of emotion in so many memorable scenes, from the humour of Ally’s father and his chauffeur circle of friends, to the happy times of Ally and Jackson in love, and the more tempestuous boozy periods. Cooper’s helming is consistent and it is clearly a labour of love as he successfully melds romance, tragedy and backstage musical in an impressively directed story.

BEST ACTRESS CHANCES: 9 out of 10

Lady Gaga is a ridiculous name but it’s hard to forget. While not a massive fan of her pop persona she has released a plethora of songs catchier that the bubonic plague. I had only seen her acting before in a couple of things, notably American Horror Story: Hotel, but due to the hysterical style of that gruesome anthology it’s difficult to tell if she had much range. However, as the working class Ally, she infuses the character with a bright-eyed innocence and fiery passion that wins you over immediately. Her and Cooper’s chemistry is tremendous and very believable and those eyes; they just made me melt at times. Oh, and of course THAT voice. What a voice and what amazing interpretations of so many great songs. Lady Gaga will go very close to the Best Actress Oscar in my mind.

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BEST ACTOR CHANCES: 7 out of 10

Cooper directs himself very well and his quietly impactful performance both on and off stage really got me in the heart. The pathos and emotion he conveys in charting the collapse of a man crumbling from the inside out is very powerful. Cooper reminded me of a younger Jeff Bridges and indeed, Sam Elliott with his performance encapsulating a talented and pained artist who is never happier than when on stage. Off stage the demons are still there haunting him emotionally and physically. Being harsh, one could say the familiarity of the character – a grizzled alcoholic musician battling addiction – could go against his Oscar chances, but Cooper’s performance remains one of nuance and empathy.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: 8 out of 10

There are a couple of serious contenders here with Andrew Dice Clay giving a sly comedic turn as Ally’s protective father. Moreover, there’s the battle-born gravitas of Sam Elliott as Jackson’s long suffering road manager and brother. The scene where he puts his drunken brother to bed in order to stops him choking on his own vomit, protecting yet also reviled by this broken man, impacts greatly. Elliott just nails his role and the film could have benefitted even more from his presence throughout. Nonetheless, he steals those scenes he does inhabit and will certainly get nominated.

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BEST SONG CHANCES: 10 out of 10

Shallow will win the Best Oscar no doubt. When introduced acapella by Lady Gaga you only get a suggestion of its’ power. However, when she launches into it on stage it is an absolutely memorable and stand-out musical moment. The music throughout is linked powerfully to the emotion of the characters from Jason Isbell’s composition Maybe It’s Time to the final heartfelt song, I’ll Never Love Again, sang beautifully by Lady Gaga. Even the sly satirical digs at the soulless pop that Ally sings are done with skill. The juxtaposition of their plasticity versus the realness of the rock music delivered by Ally and Jackson creates another layer of musical depth in a consistently brilliant soundtrack.

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OVERALL

A Star Is Born (2018) is a great cinematic experience with every person involved in the production at the top of their game. The story is familiar but the performances, characterisation, direction and the songs all combine to create a very emotional and human journey. I’m not the greatest fan of musicals but this one had me hooked from start to finish and is a fine example of classic Hollywood genre storytelling at its best.

Mark: 9 out of 11

20 YEARS OF SOUTH PARK ­– TWENTY GREAT TV & MOVIE-BASED PARODIES!

20 YEARS OF SOUTH PARK ­– TWENTY GREAT TV & MOVIE-BASED PARODIES!

South Park, incredibly, has been going for 20 years now!  Yet, up until 2013 I had only watched a handful of episodes of the irreverent and scurrilous animated show. Since then, however, I have caught up and it has become one of my favourite ever TV programmes. As such any new season of Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s potty-mouthed satire is usually a highlight of my cultural year.

South Park is more than just a crude animated show now; it is a socio-political tour-de-force which spikes sacred cultural cows and pokes fun at the ridiculous nature of the world; the rich and famous; and the political and religious and social leaders who profess to run the place. It also features some wonderful, bizarre and astute characters who are utilised to reflect society and our modern and post-modern times.

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South Park featured on my blog a few times. My review of Season 19 can be found here:

Plus, my favourite episodes up to Season 17 can also be found HERE:

https://thecinemafix.com/2013/10/28/respect-my-authoritah-my-favourite-17-south-park-episodes-ever/

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Furthermore, to celebrate this legendary show I have listed twenty TV and movie inspired parodies that have featured over the years.

**CONTAINS SPOILERS**

24The Snuke – Season 11

South Park rip into general racial intolerance and over-the-top attitudes to terrorism as Hillary Clinton is found to have a snuke in her snizz!

BUCK ROGERS IN THE 21st CENTURY Go God Go XII – Season 10

The ever-impatient Cartman somehow freezes himself and wakes up in 2546 as a war wages between two atheist factions including futuristic talking Otters.

DOG THE BOUNTY HUNTERMiss Teacher Bangs a Boy – Season 10

Cartman becomes a hall monitor and the authoritah goes to his head; meting out Dog-style justice with hilarious consequences!

GODZILLA Mecha-Streisand – Season 1 + Season 14

Evil Streisand gets roasted with SP turning the diva into a Mecha-Godzilla-like monster who tortures people with her singing and monstrous demands.

GAME OF THRONES Black Friday/Song of Ass & Fire/Titties & Dragons – Season 17

HBO’s classic show was brilliantly parodied over three wonderful episodes. Here they satirize Black Friday hysteria as Cartman plots to get ahead in the PS4/XBOX one console war.

INCEPTION Insheeption – Season 11

Christopher Nolan’s mind-bending heist thriller gets slammed for the pseudo-intellectual plot which involves: Stan’s hoarding problem and a dark event in Mr Mackey’s childhood.

JAMES CAMERON – Raising the Bar – Season 16

This episode won an Emmy as it brilliantly made fun of egomaniac filmmaker Cameron, and the trailer-trash child monstrosity Honey Boo-Boo!

JERSEY SHORE – It’s a Jersey Thing – Season 14

Narcissistic New Jersey reality show “contestants” get the South Park treatment which also reveals a darker side to Kyle’s background. “Snooki wants smoosh-smoosh!”

LORD OF THE RINGSThe Return of Lord of the Rings to the Two Towers – Season 6

The kids go on a quest to return a video but are pursued by dark factions when a porno gets given to them by mistake. Butters as Gollum is just one of the stand-out elements here!

MEL GIBSON/PASSION OF THE CHRISTThe Passion of the Jew – Season 8

Gibson gets roasted to hell in this episode with enough chutzpah to offend everyone. Cartman goes uber-Nazi as Kyle’s interest in Judaism is explored in a typically crazy way.

ROB SCHNEIDER – The Biggest Douche in the Universe – Season 6

Z-movie actor Rob Schneider gets ripped apart in this episode which also slams “psychic” douche John Edward.  “Rob Schneider is the carrot!”

RUSSELL CROWE – The New Terrance and Philip Trailer – Season 6

Antipodean acting heavyweight Russell Crowe is shown to be an aggressive and drunk rover travelling round the world drinking and fighting everyone.

SCARFACEMedicinal Fried Chicken – Season 14

Randy takes advantage of a cancer “loophole” to grow enormous balls so he can smoke marijuana; while Cartman gets high too – but on his own KFC supply.

THE SHINING – A Nightmare on Face Time – Season 16

Randy opens up a Blockbuster store without taking into account the new-fangled online streaming sites. It’s not long before he becomes a haunted man!

SUPERHERO FILMS/COMICS – The Coon Trilogy – Season 14

Cartman is the Coon as he and his “friends” Mysterion, Mint-Berry Crunch, Iron Maiden etc. battle crime, then each other in a parody of comic-book and super-hero films.

SUPERNANNY Tsst – Season 10

The plethora of reality shows involving kids and pets deservedly get a pasting as Cartman’s mum calls in all kinds of ‘experts’ to try and tame her out-of-control son.

THE TERMINATORTrapper Keeper – Season 4

Cartman’s Dawson’s Creek uber-school folder becomes sentient and turns him into a monstrous cybernetic organism that wreaks havoc on the town.

TOM CRUISE – Trapped in the Closet – Season 9

Tom Cruise and Scientology get the scathing boot stuck into them, in an episode which is rarely seen in the UK but can be found online somewhere in cyber-space.

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TRONYou Have 0 Friends – Season 14

Battling the banality of social media and techno-fears has rarely been so fun, as Stan, in Tron-style, is somehow dragged into Facebook when he tries to quit it.

WORLD OF WARCRAFT – Make Love, Not Warcraft – Season 10

In one of the best episodes ever the boys all fall foul of an online ‘Reaper’ on Warcraft and set about defeating him with the help of Bengay and “having NO life”!