Monday, February 6, 2017

Music and Lyrics

Year 9, Day 37 - 2/6/17 - Movie #2,537

BEFORE: So far this February, I've had a nice little pattern going - each day there are two main stars for a film, and then one carries over to the next.  Jason Sudeikis & Alison Brie led to Brie & Leslie Mann, followed by Mann & Cameron Diaz, then Diaz & Ashton Kutcher, then Kutcher & Brittany Murphy, Murphy & Drew Barrymore, and now Barrymore & Hugh Grant.  This will lead to Hugh Grant and someone else tomorrow, and this pattern will take me through to the weekend before it breaks down.  I came up with this sequence a few months ago, even though I only had about half of the films, and the in-between films I added along the way, or watched them online.  But I do love putting chains together like this. 

But since February started, thanks to TCM's Oscar programming and a list of about 20 films that I'm TRYING to add to the list, I haven't made any progress on the watchlist, which is stuck at 134 films.  I'm afraid that if I put off adding these films any longer, the premium channels will stop running them, and I'll miss my chance to see them.  So for the next two weeks, it's going to be one film added for every film I watch, until I can catch up a bit.  Then I can go back to chipping away at the list, with one film added for every two I watch.  

And speaking of TCM, here's their schedule for tomorrow, February 7: 
7:45 AM Destination Tokyo (1943)
10:15 AM The Dirty Dozen (1967)
1:00 PM The Divorcee (1930)
2:30 PM Doctor Zhivago (1965)
6:00 PM Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1932)
8:00 PM Dreamgirls (2006)
10:30 PM Fame (1980)
1:00 AM Fanny (1961)
3:30 AM Far From the Madding Crowd (1967)

I've seen five out of tomorrow's nine: "Destination Tokyo", "The Dirty Dozen", "Doctor Zhivago", "Dreamgirls" and "Fame".  I've got a version of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" on the list, but it's the Spencer Tracy version, and TCM's running the Fredric March version.  So I move up to 35 seen out of 72, still just a shade under 50%. 

THE PLOT: A washed-up singer is given a couple days to compose a chart-topping hit for an aspiring teen sensation. Though he's never written a decent lyric in his life, he sparks with an offbeat younger woman with a flair for words. 

AFTER: I rather enjoyed this film, for once it seems there was a Hollywood romantic comedy that didn't forget to be charming.  Or maybe it's just that I watched so many rom-coms last week that had people pranking each other and acting otherwise horrible toward each other, while allegedly being "in love" that this film looked really well-intentioned by comparison, I don't know.  

By now, I think I've figured out the formula. The closest that Hollywood can get to depicting true love on film - because if you think about it, love is a concept that just can't be seen on film, so a film sort of has to dance all around it, and hope that the audience can see what's invisible in the middle of that dance - is by showing two people who are thrown together at random (more or less) and then through them spending time together, they eventually realize that each can help the other with their problems, and each can improve the other, so after some difficulties, they realize that they're stronger together than apart.  I acknowledge the formula, yet somehow I feel that relationships in the real world are simultaneously both more and less complicated than this. 

But such as it is, films need to operate under these constrictions, because it's a medium of sights and sounds, and not emotions.  So people in movies have to tell us what love is about, or in this case, sing about it.  Or write songs about it.  We've got a man and a woman, check, and he's a washed-up pop star from an 80's band named Pop! whose ex-musical partner is WAY more famous than he is (his name is Alex Fletcher, but it might as well be Andrew Schmidgely...) but he makes a decent living on the revival circuit, playing at state fairs and amusement parks.  And he meets this woman, Sophie, in a very random way - she takes over the freelance job that involves watering his plants, because I guess that's a thing, where famous people can't water their own plants for some reason.  

But she happens to be there when he's working with a lyricist - he's under deadline to write a song for this hot young musical artist (who's totally not Shakira, OK, because her name's Cora, or is it Kora...) who's put him on a two-week deadline to write her a hit.  I think you'll find that most great songs were written on deadline, because we know how lazy songwriters can get, so if there's no deadline, nothing ever gets done.  And Sophie just happens to blurt out an appropriate rhyme that finishes a verse the way Alex likes, so that's it, the professional lyricist is out the door, and someone who's never written a song before is his new writing partner, probably because she's quirky and attractive and, well, that's the formula.  

Their need for each other is symbolized by the way a composer needs a lyricist, and vice versa.  Because a lyricist without a composer is just a poet, and everybody hates poets, at least while they're still alive.  Alex shows Sophie how easy it is to write a song by turning random phrases that she says into song lyrics - but this raises a NITPICK POINT, because if he has this ability, why can't he work with other people, or just crib phrases from the news and turn them into songs?  It's not like her speech patterns are all that different from other people's, right?  

But I'm prepared to give this movie the benefit of the doubt and say that the formula works here, these two people who needed each other, even if they don't know it at first, they meet cute and find they can help each other with their problems.  Her problems are a bit more serious than songwriting, I can't even get into them here, but somehow working with and sleeping with a washed-up pop star gives her the confidence to face them.  So I guess things all work out in the end, as you might expect from a Hollywood romance. 

Extra points for Hugh Grant performing on piano and singing for real, and he's not bad - and for whoever wrote "Meaningless Kiss", a song that couldn't sound more like Wham's "Careless Whisper" even if it tried. 

Also starring Hugh Grant (last seen in "The Man from U.N.C.L.E."), Brad Garrett (last heard in "Night at the Museum 3"), Kristen Johnston, Campbell Scott (last seen in "The Amazing Spider-Man 2"), Scott Porter (last seen in "The To Do List"), Haley Bennett (last seen in "The Equalizer"), Matthew Morrison (last seen in "Dan in Real Life"), Jason Antoon, Aasif Mandvi (last seen in "The Internship"), with a cameo from Zak Orth (last seen in "They Came Together"). 

RATING: 6 out of 10 weight-loss centers  

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