As most of you know, I spend a lot of my free time reading. That doesn’t mean however, that I don’t have a reasonable film and TV collection so I thought it might be nice if I took you through it. Whereas with books I’m comfortable spending $8 or so on a book about which I’m not 100% sure, as films and TV series cost between $20 and $50 I am a lot choosier about what I add to my collections.
My movie collection can be roughly divided into three categories: musicals (yes, I am a closet Andrew Lloyd Webber fan – so what?) great dramas with excellent scripts and acting and finally fun family movies.
In terms of musicals I have:
Alegria. This is one of the Montreal based Cirque du Soleil’s shows. If you have not seen CdS before, you really should check them out. There are no animals involved, just incredible human acrobatics with stunning production values and visuals. Fun fact; the founder of Cirque du Soleil, Guy Laliberte, became Canada’s first space tourist.
Cats. This is a filming of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical about, well, cats. Thin on plot, some catchy tunes, but wonderful choreography. It is lovely to see Elaine Paige in what became one of her defining roles.
Chess in Concert. Broadway veterans Idina Menzel, Adam Pascal and Kerry Ellis star in the Benny/Bjorn/Tim Rice musical about chess, love and politics. A highlight of this production is Josh Groban’s rendition of Anthem – he’s not too hard on the eye either!
Evita. Oliver Stone’s production of ALW’s musical about the Argentinian First Lady starring Madonna, who is actually incredibly good in the role. She is ably supported by Jonathan Pryce as Peron and Antonio Banderas as Che.
Into The Woods. Through Digital Theatre I procured Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre’s production of Sondheim’s fairytale based musical. Personally, I prefer the original Broadway version with Bernadette Peters and Joanna Gleeson. It does make me a little nervous for the upcoming movie version with Meryl Streep as the Witch and Johnny Depp as the Wolf. While I believe both actors can sing reasonably well, from what I’ve seen, often experienced Broadway vets do better at these sorts of things – witness the recent Sound of Music revival.
Les Miserables. I have both the 25th anniversary concert version starring Alfie Boe and Norm Lucas as Valjean and Javert and the recent Hollywood film production with an Oscar nominated Hugh Jackman and Oscar winner Anne Hathaway. I have the 10th Anniversary concert with Colm Wilkinson and Philip Quast on order. None of these productions is perfect. For me perfection would be Alfie’s or Colm’s Valjean, Norm’s Javert, Hathaway’s Fantine and Eddie Redmayne’s Marius. For those of you who know of my deep and abiding adoration of musical star and original Marius Michael Ball (apologies to my husband) it says a lot for Redmayne’s interpretation of Empty Chairs that he could push Michael from the cast list.
Mamma Mia! I have the movie version of the Bjorn/Benny show with Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan and Colin Firth. This movie is worth watching purely for the post credits scene of Streep, Brosnan, Firth and company having a great time hamming it up in 70s latex to Waterloo. And of course to have a good sing along to the old ABBA classics.
Mary Poppins. Julie Andrews. A classic. Enough said.
Notre Dame de Paris. For those of you not familiar with this one, this is a French musical based on The Hunchback of Notre Dame. There are some wonderful songs beautifully interpreted by a talented cast. The set is deliberately sparse, but the director has been incredibly creative in how it is used. A must-see scene is Les Cloches which is Quasimodo’s love song/“I want” song about his beloved bells. You can see a snippet on YouTube.
Phantom of the Opera. Once again I have both the Joel Schumacher movie (best forgotten) and the 25th anniversary with Sierra Boggess and Ramin Karimloo. It’s a good performance – Karimloo is a little sketchy in places – but Boggess is lovely as Christine. Of particular note is Wendy Ferguson’s fantastic Carlotta – Ferguson stepped in at the last minute when the actress scheduled to play the role came down with a bad throat infection.
Following on from Phantom, I have the video of the Australian production of Love Never Dies, the sequel to PotO starring Anna Byrne as Christine and Ben Lewis as the Phantom. This show was critically panned in London, and although the production seen on the video has been revamped, it still didn’t do very well. Personally I enjoyed it very much – I felt it was one of the more beautiful of Lloyd Webber’s scores.
Rent. This is the movie version of Jonathan Larson’s musical about a year in the life of a group of young people in New York living with the AIDS epidemic. While it’s not my favourite musical score, the cast here is top notch and the themes of the show are beautiful. It’s impossible not to be touched by the life affirming Life Support.
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Two words. Barn raising.
Sound of Music. The original Julie Andrews version not the recent Carrie Underwood revival. I have to feel sorry for Underwood – it was a tough ask to step into Julie Andrews’ shoes, and it didn’t help that Laura Benanti’s performance as Elsa, Maria’s rival for Stephen Moyer’s Captain von Trapp’s affections, was pitch perfect. It’s a sad day when you’d rather the Captain choose Elsa over Maria…
The final entry in the Musicals category is the classic West Side Story. Again, fantastic choreography, music and acting.
In terms of other movies in my collection, the common denominator is a strong script, whether original or adapted from a novel, performed by a well cast team of actors. For the great dramas category I present for your consideration:
The Queen. Helen Mirren deservedly won an Oscar for her portrayal of Her Majesty The Queen dealing with the aftermath of the death of Diana Princess of Wales. Peter Morgan’s script is surprisingly insightful given that nobody really knows what goes on behind the Palace doors, and of course Mirren gives a powerhouse performance.
The equation that royalty = Oscar gold is played out in the next submission; The King’s Speech directed by Tom Hooper starring Oscar winners Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush. This whole movie rests on the relationship between King George VI and Lionel Logue, his speech therapist, and both actors portray this expertly. The scene in which Firth finally gives his King’s Speech is one of my go-to feel good scenes in movies, brilliantly supported by Alexandre Desplat’s gorgeous score.
As a Jane Austen fan, I have movie adaptations of two of her works: Emma starring Gwyneth Paltrow and a particularly fine looking Jeremy Northam and Emma Thompson’s Sense and Sensibility. Both are excellent adaptations of the works.
In less overtly Oscar bait material but excellent nonetheless I have:
James Bond. I have Casino Royale and Skyfall. I have been enjoying Daniel Craig’s version of Bond. Of course as as I am a Scot, it’s treason to say anyone is better as Bond than Sean Connery, but Craig does come up there. He gives a very grounded performance, and his work with Judi Dench in Skyfall is excellent. However, I do try to pretend that Quantum of Solace doesn’t exist.
Harry Potter. I own the entire Harry Potter movie series from Philosopher’s Stone right through to Deathly Hallows Part II. This, ladies and gentlemen, is how you adapt a much loved book series. Steve Kloves, who worked closely with J.K. Rowling to develop most of the screenplays for the movies did a perfect job. The production designer has rendered Hogwarts beautifully and the cast is wonderful. it’s great to see see the young actors grow into their roles as they age through the movies. Original director Chris Columbus made a smart move, though, to anchor the movies with the creme de la creme of British acting, notably Richard Harris and Michael Gambon’s Dumbledore, Dame Maggie Smith’s McGonagall (I could watch her kick ass and take names as she does in Deathly Hallows Part II all day) and, of course, Alan Rickman’s Snape (“Always” <sniff>).
Another book adaption I loved was Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings. I have Fellowship, Towers and King all in the extended editions – of course – and continue to be amazed at how stunningly Middle Earth has been recreated in New Zealand. I wouldn’t say that every one of the cast assembled by Jackson was Oscar worthy talented, but what they were, was perfect for their individual roles. While the screenplay wasn’t perfect, the cast combined with the skill of Weta Workshop, the Kiwi landscape and a clear love of Tolkien’s work makes for unbeatable cinema.
I own The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and will probably purchase the next two films, but purely to complete my collection not because they are as great as the original trilogy.
Speaking of an original trilogy being better than sequels, that leads me nicely to the final entry in my catalogue. Star Wars, the original trilogy. I believe these three films will stand the test of time, having a strong narrative, good cast stellar visuals and a whole lot of heart.
Do you have any of these films in your collection? Have I missed any? Let me know in the comments!