Pitch Perfect 2

Pitch Perfect 2 (2015) by Elizabeth Banks

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Waiting for this movie has been torture. Watching trailers and clips has been torture. Two and a half years of torture. And then it came out and I’m not in Berlin anymore and can’t get my hands on an original copy and have to watch it in German – worst TORTURE!

pitchperfect2.5I’m over this now. So let’s look at what it’s about:

The Barden Bellas (among them Anna Kendrick, Brittany Snow, Ester Dean and Alexis Knapp are banned from competing on a collegiate level because of a mishap involving the president of the U.S. and Fat Amy’s (Rebel Wilson) vagina. But since they’re reigning national champions (for the third time in a row), they are invited to the World Championship. If they win it, future generations of Bellas can compete again. But the competition is great and the reigning World Champions, an intimidating German team, are not going to give up their title without a fight. Gay things happen and the Bellas win.

Sorry for the spoiler, but you didn’t actually think they wouldn’t, right?

Is this movie as good as the first one? No. Is it bad? No, far from it, actually. It’s a lot of fun; it is pitchperfect2.7 pitchperfect2.4entertaining and well-timed. Love the music. But there are a couple of things that are off. Namely, why are the Trebles still in the big picture? Why is Beca still with Jesse (well, I think they’re together despite the fact that their relationship feels like an awkward brother and sister-thing)? Why did they have to make every other Bella a one-line joke (honestly, most fanfictions have better character development)? And why does Chloe behave like Aubrey at times (minus the throw-up)?

I’ll be writing about these things on my other blog. I’ll probably write about PP quite a bit again. But here and now, let me tell you: just seeing the Bellas together again, is heart-warming. I missed these girls; most of all Beca Mitchell who is still a lovely, sometimes awkward character who can be a dick sometimes. The music numbers are great, even those who are over the top. You can see that the actresses worked their butts off and it still looks effortlessly in the end. The chemistry is still there. Not just between Beca and Chloe – which is, of course, the heart piece of the Bellas as a group – but between Amy and Aubrey, between Stacie and Cynthia Rose and Jessica and Ashley. They brought most beloved characters back for the sequel, and I honestly only missed Donald, because the Trebles lost all their cool without him.

So, yeah, I enjoyed Pitch Perfect 2 – not so much the German version, and let me also add how pitchperfect2.2embarrassing it is for every German to have a group called DAS Sound Machine, when it is grammatically incorrect and you could hear it repeated and whispered throughout the theater whenever someone says it on screen. It could have been better, yes, but, oh boy, it could have been so much worse!

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Les Misérables

Les Misérables (2012) by Tom Hooper

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Finally, Les Mis opened in Germany! Finally, I watched it!

You might think that this has been a livelong dream of mine, that I could think of nothing else while waiting for it to happen, that I was thrilled by the choices of actors – or devastated. But you would be wrong. I knew very little of Les Misßerables before, and I don’t feel that I know a lot more now. Sure, the plot is fairly clear now, some quotes that I may have heard before make sense – but I have never read the novel by Victor Hugo, I haven’t seen a version of the musical before now.

lesmis4And still, when people started talking about it on the blogosphere, I became intrigued and I wanted to see it – even more so when I heard that Helena Bonham Carter would be in it, singing once again as she had already done on Sweeney Todd the Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Anne Hathaway? Can she sing? Russell Crowe? Can HE sing? Hugh Jackman? Awesome, he can sing! The list of cast just got better and better and then I waited, patiently. Until yesterday:

The year is 1815, Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) has spent 19 years in prison, five for stealing a loaf of bread, 14 more because he tried to escape. Now he’s on parole and he’s given the chance to better himself. But he can’t do that while still wearing the stigma of a con – so, he makes his former self disappear and builds a new identity. One, that becomes mayor of some city and a respected businessman. At his factory works a young woman by the name of Fantine (Anne Hathaway) who is dismissed by Valjean’s foreman after finding out that she has an illegitimate child.

Fantine takes to the street while Valjean has to face his past in the figure of lesmis2Javert (Russell Crowe) who was a guard at prison and recognizes the man. Valjean finds Fantine and takes her to the hospital where she dies after Valjean promises her to find her daughter, Cosette, and care for her. He does but has to flee with the small girl (Isabelle Allen) because Javert is after him again. Nine years later in Paris, Valjean and Cosette (Amanda Seyfried) live in hiding. Cosette falls in love with a young revolutionist, Marius (Eddie Redmayne) and Javert once again enters their lives. Trying to escape they are caught up in the machinisms of a revolution and everybody has choices to make, debts to pay.

The story isn’t the greatest part of it, and I’m not even sure if it’s Hugo’s doing or simply the script of even the musical version, but there are certainly a few questions that are left unanswered, a little too many coincidences happening. But these probably shouldn’t even be mentioned in the light of a fantastic cast lesmis3giving a breathtaking performance. Yes, they can all sing and they do. And while they’re all really wonderful, it is Anne Hathaway who blows everyone else out of the water. Oscar-worthy performance? Abso-fucking-lutely (pardon my French, and the pun)! There are no words to discribe her intensity. She makes the audience feel lost with her, makes everyone want to reach out and protect her. She is the face that has been ruined, not by her own doing but by others judging her. She should have lived where others died but she doesn’t. She dies and the audience cries for her.

Luckily, they bring Anne Hathaway back for the grand finale because by then you have missed her – not because it had all turned boring and lame by now but simply because she was THAT good.

Whoelse was good? Well, you guessed it: Helena Bonham Carter. It doesn’t really matter what she does, she does it all fabulously. And the weight of not letting the whole show drudge into misery and sorrow lay heavy on her and Sacha Baron Cohen’s shoulders and they pulled it off and making it look effortlessly.

I’m mentioning these two actresses but I should mention everyone involved. lesmis9The cast was fabulous. I think I was most surprised by the role of Javert. It would have been easy to have him being the villain, somebody who doesn’t care. But Javert does care. He really believes that Valjean belongs in prison, that he’s a dangerous man. He also believes in the system, in the law, and that’s exactly why he must fail in the end – because the system fails him. He is confronted with the question of right and wrong and must admit to himself that he has been wrong all along, because he has put himself on the wrong side. I feel, that his is really the most complex of roles, more so than Valjean’s, because Valjean has the opportunity to redeem himself – Javert doesn’t. And Crowe is really great at protraying this.

There’s another interpretation that lends itself to these two characters, of course. It feels a little like a love story between the two men. None of them seems to have any other romantic linkages but one is always following the other, watching for him. Yes, there’s antagonism but there’s also honor and a sense of one coin with two sides. One is Valjean, the other Javert (their names are eerily similar with the prominant Vj/Jv sounds in them). It’s really a kind of symbioses that binds them, they cannot let go, they cannot carry on.

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There is so much in the story, there’s so much in the songs, there are emotions and thoughts. I will watch it again and listen to the soundtrack and maybe even read the novel – hopefully it will all make sense at some point, or at least the things that I found a little lacking in the plot. It was the only thing that lacked anything really, as this was a brilliant movie. Now go see, if you haven’t already.

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As part of an obsession: Camp

Camp (2003) by Todd Graff

camp1You may have noticed a slight change in the look of my blog, the header is different. This has something to do with my current obsessions: Pitch Perfect and everything Anna Kendrick. And when you’re obsessed you make poor choices – one was watching this movie.

Camp is about just that – in both meanings of the word. A summer camp full of music enthusiasts meet to hone their talents in acting, singing, and dancing. And these kids are certainly talented. But the story that is being told has little to do with what goes on on the stage. Vlad (Daniel Letterle) is kind of an oddity: he’s straight and he still likes to flirt with his gay roommate Michael (Robin de Jesus) sometimes. Michael is thrown because Vlad is cute but also very active with the ladies in the camp – especially Ellen (Joanna Chilcoat) who has some insecurities of her own and is coincidentally Michael’s best friend.

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There are other kids as well, of course. One is Fritzi (Anna Kendrick) and Fritzi has a crush on Jill (Alana Allen). But Jill is a bitch and uses Fritzi as her personal doormat until the younger girl cracks and starts to sabotage the pretty girl who gets all the good parts just because of her looks.

The problem I had with this is rather simple: why make a movie with multiple queer characters, that is called Camp of all things, and then make the biggest part of it about the budding romance between Vlad and Ellen? There was potential there and it was certainly hinted at. But Vlad’s bisexuality never really materialized, he’s more of a tease than an experimental guy. And the makers took the conventional way out. Another thing: while the gay male teens are positively (if stereotypically) portrayed, the lesbian (if we can call Fritzi that) gets the weirdo treatment and then turns mean… certainly, she is talented but look at that temper! Oh, please. Her sexuality is more of a fetishized wet dream than part of her personality.

camp2The acting all around wasn’t as good as it could have been but the story is the major let down of this movie. While it is willing to promote queerness in teens it still pushes heteronormativity down our throats via its two main protagonists and when even Michael jumps onto the bandwagon (if only for one night) things get a little out of hand. There’s an ambiguity at work here that makes me admit: yes, these are kids, their sexualities aren’t set into stone, experiementing is a healthy thing… and I certainly agree with this take, however, it seems that the queer teens are lured into straight experiments more than the straight teen into gay experiementing. The ambiguity is actually a double-standard.

A word to Anna Kendrick: she was amazing. Her role isn’t very big but her character is certainly the most memorable and I was blown away by her performance of Ladies Who Lunch from Sondheim’s Company – the man makes a guest appearance as himself by the way. You should check it out on youtube, it’s a killer. The movie is not, though.

Star Camp / Camp

Pitch Perfect

Pitch Perfect (2012) by Jason Moore

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(Okay, I decided to do this new thing – snapping pics of my tix and posting them with the review [these are only this year’s Pitch Perfect-tickets; I have another one from last year]; just for fun, y’know. And yeah, I’m aware that’s an ugly background, it’s my carpet; I will try to find a new one.)

As you can see, I haven’t been to the movies lately – money is hard to come by these days. But I didn’t want the world to end without having watched Pitch Perfect, so, this was the first movie since July I indulged in (I’m not especially sad to have missed most of summer’s blockbusters). As so many others I watched the trailer and just knew it was good – and for once, I am able to say that I was not disappointed by the product that was put out.

Is the story innovative – hell no! But who cares:

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Beca (Anna Kendrick) is pressured by her father (John Benjamin Hickey) to attend college although she would much rather move to L.A. to become a DJ. Her roommate Kimmy Jin (Jinhee Joung) hates her, and the only person paying any attention to her is this guy Jesse (Skylar Astin) who obviously just wants to get into her pants. Campus has four a cappella groups, among them the all-boys Treblemakers and the all-girls Barden Bellas. They are declared enemies but as life – or Shakespeare (Romeo and Juliet much?) – has it, Beca ends up with the Bellas, while Jesse joins the Treblemakers. Hilarious ensues, the girls get their shit together and finally win the nationals, everybody wins – and Jesse gets into Beca’s pants (it is indicated, fortunately, we only see them kiss).

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As I said, the story isn’t really innovative, the love story’s kinda boring but it’s not the center of attention which is good. The main attraction is young people singing a capella and trying to be cool doing it. Yes, it leans heavily on Glee but it also makes fun of the show (the shower scene with Beca and Chloe wasn’t only hilarious, it was professedly gay – and a female rip-off of all the times the gleeks sang in the shower).

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Anna Kendrick is a wonderful lead, she is talented, she is captivating, she rocks this movie – and so does her cleavage (and if you tell me you weren’t as distracted by it as I was you’re lying). And then there’s Rebel Wilson playing Fat Amy. How do I explain Rebel Wilson – she is flawless… if you haven’t seen her in anything yet make sure you watch her in Pitch Perfect – she rules this movie, she is badass, and I am saying this with the utmost respect for her and all her abilities. She’s funny.

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With so many women packed into one group, gay ensues. I wasn’t entirely happy with the obviously gay character Cynthia Rose (Ester Dean) (and it wasn’t a surprise that with all the white girls in the Bellas, she was one of the few women of color) but then there was the chemistry between Anna Kendrick and Brittany Snow. And it’s not just about the shower scene, the first time these two meet, Snow is eye-sexing Kendrick so obviously that even I saw it. And it wasn’t the only time either. With all the things being said between these two during the movie, I actually scratched my head at the end of it when Beca kissed Jesse – I had quite comfortably leaned back into my head-canon and assumed that the two girls would end up together. Well, Hollywood says no and all the fans start writing BeChloe fanfiction.

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Update: I have now watched it four times and that’s only at the movies – and it still rocks. I’m actually rather obsessed with it and count myself as one of those fans who write BeChloe fanfic… what can I say: I love those awesome nerds.

Back to TV: Glee

It has been some time since  I first wrote about Glee and I may not be as undevidedly positive about it anymore. But I still like it a lot and I especially liked it today (living in Germany has its drawbacks especially when it comes to TV, let me tell you). I like how tv can emotionally drain you and Tuesday’s episode of “Glee” did just that: it drained me. Or more acurately this face

broke my heart.

Y’know, I never liked Santana much. Sure, she is hot, and her story line with Brittany was always a lesbian highlight, still… Santana, too bitchy, too typically bi-curious. And then she came out as “don’t put a label on me” and it just got to me.

Two weeks ago I had a blog entry about “Glee” planned. It was entirely Rachel’s fault, seeing her in flannel made me think about her sexuality and on how gay she really is. So I thought about how gay the show was and how gay every single one of the characters was and I actually made a gay-meter (no, I do not have any other hobbies, I fill my time with thinking about how gay tv show characters are… not really, only when I cannot sleep). And guess what, Santana actually scored lower than Rachel while Brittany was just topped by Kurt (I did not include Blaine since he’s not at McKinley). Well, I guess I was wrong about Santana…

Several times after having watched the episode this morning I have thought back on that heartbroken face and it actually made me incredibly sad. I never thought Santana could do that to me but I guess it is a credit to Naya Rivera’s acting skills and in moments like this I appreciate acting and the significance it has within culture – and that culture as thus has value in my life.

Glee is a great show. Maybe I am going to come back to it and write about it’s sociological value as comment on today’s (American) society but today I just want to say that it made me feel – as trivial as that may sound – and I am grateful to be able to hold on and cherish this (I get so sappy sometimes but I am sure you know what I am talking about).

It’s called a genre, dude: Musicals

The draft for this is almost one year old now but I always wanted to do it because, genres are a good way to categorize one’s likes and dislikes (there should, of course, always be exceptions to any rule), and also because I LOVE MUSICALS!

I am not even sure when it started. I have a feeling that Barbra Streisand had something to do with it, then again I loved Judy Garland before I even knew there was Barbra Streisand (and yes, my cd-collection looks very gay).

There always seems to have been musicals around. I remember watching “Grease” with the whole family on a Sunday afternoon. I remember getting up in the middle of the night because some channel or other showed a classic musical at 1 a.m. (and by classic, I mean a Warner Bros. from the 30s or an MGM from the 40s). I bought The Wizard of Oz on video after seeing it once on tv – it was one of my first videos ever (I still haven’t got it on DVD, though, shame on me).

What I like most about the genre is the inhibition with which the actors (singers, dancers) erupt into song and dance. By the way it is almost always taken for granted by everybody around that people should sing and dance on the street. I love musical numbers because they tell a story, they tell us how a person feels, they have an artificiality about them that is almost always sappy but heartfelt. And what great songs have been written by people like Rogers & Hammerstein, Harold Arlen, Irving Berlin, and, of course, Cole Porter. Don’t think, I don’t know more but these for me are the best (I hate men from Kiss Me Kate comes straight from the heart…).

(I just read that Kathryn Grayson died about a year ago. I bow to her talent, she made musicals colorful. I really loved her Katherine Minola.)

Strangely enough, I have only four musicals on dvd that I constantly watch and rewatch and they are not the classics one might suspect. I don’t know why these in particular, they are neither the best musicals ever nor are they very similar to each other. I enjoy them because they are fun, and trashy, and have great actors in them (some of them are not even good singers). They are not my favorites, they are just the ones I have around and cannot get around:

The music is good, the actors are good, the film is fun… and I love the message, especially in a world that sometimes denies that racism still exists or where it is just glossied over, this is important. But the main attractions of it are:

Exhibit A.

And exhibit B.

And then there’s:

And there is, of course, no question why I love this so much. It’s queer. It’s so 80s. It’s about AIDS (or HIV) and yes, I still think that’s an important topic and another one we should not be silent about. And it’s got lesbians in it (and it’s a bonus that they are played by Idina Menzel and Tracie Thoms.

And:

Oh, the music! It’s brilliant, though not conventional. And Johnny Depp has not the worst voice ever, and Helena Bonham Carter… well, she is one of my all-time favorite actresses, she’s simply devine in everything she does. I am fan.

And here’s a woman who can really wear those sun-glasses… the movie also has some other Potter-Alumni: Rickman and Timothy Spall. And it has in an absolutely insignificant role: Anthony Head (that’s Sir Giles to you!).

And last and probably least:

Yes, I am the one person you know that is over 17 and admits to having High School Musical on DVD (only the first on, mind you, the second was bullocks, though I will probably own the third one at some point).

It’s not really anyone in particular but I really like Sharpay (that girl’s got sass) and Taylor (she’s got all the brains of the group, how could I not love like her). Also, I like that the girls have already been together in The Suite Life of Zack & Cody (and no, there is absolutely nothing I feel embarrassed about having watched andam  sometimes still watching).

Musicals make people feel good. And, what is more important, it makes me feel good. Sometimes I pretend I live in a musical and sing along with my MP3-player but people tend to look at you somehow irritated when you do that… not that it stops me but… hey, it’s just music. I know, I am no Barbra Streisand but hell, Yentl is one of my favorites.

So, this is musicals (which has little to do with Bollywood and/or Andrew Lloyd Webber!). Sing and dance on!

Ginger Rogers & Fred Astaire

Eleanor Powell (we share a birthday)

Judy Garland & Gene Kelly

Bill Bojangles Robinson.

For me the best dancers Hollywood ever had…

Burlesque

Burlesque (2010) by Steve Antin

So, yesterday, as there was nothing else to do – despite the workload I would have to read for both my classes and my B.A.-thesis – I went to watch a movie. Earlier that day – despite mentioned workload – I relaxed with a DVD in our nice new media room at the institute, the DVD having been Itty Bitty Titty Committee and it was a blast since I actually got the references about feminism/lesbian feminism this time…

And what better way to end a day like that (a day that begun with me falling on my bum because of all the beautiful shining ice that graced the sidewalks and continued with Mark Twain…) with a musical. Okay, it wasn’t really a musical since I think one has to differentiate between movies where they just break out in song and dance in any given situation or where they sing and dance on a stage in the closer confines of the narrative. So Burlesque to me is rather a music movie than a musical (you can discuss that at home while I insert a picture of the reason I wanted to watch this movie).

Yes, friends and neighbors: I love Cher. Not only because I think she’s got an amazing voice but because she actually is a brilliant actress – and underrated as such. Unfortunately, I missed the Berlin premiere that took place just two days after The Tourist premiere and both Cher and Christina Aguilera were present (well, we had our Xmas Party that night, it was a close call though…).

While loving Cher, I never got any opinion to Christina Aguilera. She was the other girl that Madonna kissed at that Movie Awards Show. And yes, I actually like Britney Spears better, she has a higher entertainment factor. And I cannot say that watching Burlesque really improved my opinion of her. She is certainly not an actress but the story (her story within the movie) lacked substance as well. I mean, girl comes from hicktown, USA, to L.A. to become a singer and accidentily ends up in a burlesque club that takes her breath away and she wants to do nothing else but sing and dance there while falling in love with the bartender/song writer (Cam Gigandet) instead of a rediculously hansom (Eric Dane!) millionaire who is, of course, the villain who wants to buy the club from Cher…

Cher’s story line isn’t that much more interesting but since she is actually a great actress it is more believable than Aguilera’s. Also, the banter between her and her best (gay) friend Stanley Tucci (and I love him whether he plays the best gay friend of any gorgeous actress, or the cool straight father to Patricia Clarkson’s cool bisexual mother) is very entertaining – although it seemed I was the only one in the movie theater who thought so… everybody else seemed to enjoy the plot around Aguilera and her pretty boy better.

Not me. The songs were good but not very memorable. Christina Aguilera, of course, has a great voice although I enjoy Cher’s much more. What can I say, I am old fashioned that way. The cast was really good, besides Cher, Aguilera, Dane and Tucci, there was Peter Gallagher, Kristin Bell, Glee‘s lovely Dianna Agron (who unfortunately did not sing or dance in this one) and even James Brolin stopped by for a second (it wasn’t really more than a second but it is good to see a friendly face one sees so little of lately).

Well, the movie was not my new favorite musical, or anything but it was alright. The story could have been better and there could have been more numbers like that first one with Cher and her girls but it was okay.

Kate Hepburn said that sometimes the pictures to a movie are better than the movie they are from, this certainly holds true for the picture above…

Back to tv: Glee

Okay, I have to out myself – again: I love Glee! Yes, I am not only a dyke, I am a stereotypical musical-loving gay woman… And I also love teen-pretty-much-everything – drama, stupid comedy, films about cheerleaders, you name it, I have probably seen it (I have Bring It On on dvd, folks, I am not kidding!).

So, when I heard about Glee I was already hooked. And after I watched I was enchanted. Granted, nothing can ever replace the “greatest show on earth” (that’s Xena: Warrior Princess, of course!) but there’s always room for a new second favorite.

The mix of snarky social comment on high schools, the diversity of characters, and Sue Sylvester makes it just… well, gleeful. And it is also nice to have so many supporting actresses of Heroes combined.

I really love the characters, the music, the overall crazy musical-ness of it. Everybody is incredible talented, sing-wise, dance-wise, acting-wise. And then there is the absolutely incredible Jane Lynch:

Honestly, can this get any better? You should all check out this show ’cause as we all know: Musicals make happy! It’s like smile-therapy, you guys!

In case you wondered who I like best (besides Sue, that is): Quinn Fabray (Dianna Agron). Man, she’s a bitch… oh, and great quote: “The fact is that women still earn 70 cents to every dollar that a man does for doing the same job – that attitude starts in high school.” (from The Power of Madonna) Gotta love her!

So, get Glee-ed!