Tag: dancing


And Then We Danced

February 7th, 2020 — 2:02am

***

AND THEN WE DANCED-sp

This was the Swedish Oscar entry for best film. It is the brainchild of writer-director, Levan Akin, who is telling a story about dancers in Georgia, formerly part of the Soviet Union, which is his native country. The film introduces the viewer to a very particular style of dancing, which we learned is practically a national sport in Georgia. We meet our main character, Merab (Levan Gelbakhiani), as he is auditioning for a professional Georgia Dance Company. He meets Irakli (Bachi Valishvili), who is also trying out for a position in the dance company. They ultimately are attracted to each other and have a forbidden sexual affair. The storyline gives us a glimpse into Georgian culture and particularly, the struggle of the main characters. The dancing although unique to our eye is nevertheless quite powerful. Although, we could appreciate the tensions between the various protagonists and their families, the film was unnecessarily long in trying to depict the societal pressures again gay individuals. We watched several characters as they grapple with and ultimately come to terms with who they really are, which while enlightening and poignant was just overly drawn-out.(2020)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Foreign

La La Land

December 12th, 2016 — 6:41am

screen-shot-2016-12-11-at-7-02-19-pm*****

La La Land – rm

This movie makes the statement that Los Angeles is where dreams are made and are broken and yet it is the city where anything can happen. This is a movie in the tradition of Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Cyd Charisse and reflects so many great musicals of the past that have come across the silver screen.

Emma Stone is Mia, a young woman who works in a coffee shop on a big movie lot and aspires to be an actress. So many times she seems to be just one audition callback away from starting on the road to her dreams. Ryan Gosling is Sebastian, a musician who masterfully plays piano and keyboard and could be a great modern musician but he really favors old-fashioned jazz. He would prefer the music that was played in small clubs in days gone bye where each session was a creative story onto itself.

This movie is filled with  great music. The characters break into dance and song quite spontaneously and, believe it or not, there is nothing that seems unnatural as they glide or tap across the screen singing and swaying with each other. Despite some stereotypical dialogue, you will get drawn into the storyline quite easily. We can just about guarantee that while at times you may not be sure if you are watching a dream unfold, the story will touch you and probably bring tears to your eyes.

Stone and Gosling have certainly mastered the song and dance. Great credit for this movie goes to director/writer Damien Chazelle (known for his direction of the movie “Whiplash”). The photography was magnificent and very skillfully directed by cinematographer, Linus Sandgren. Credit for the songs and original score goes to Justin Hurwitz with lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. Don’t miss the opening sequence. It shows LA at its best and worst, and what seemed to be one of the longest, continuous, complicated takes in movie history (there probably was some editing here but it didn’t look like it to us). This movie deserves the Oscar hype that it is getting. Don’t miss it. (2016)

 

Comment » | 5 Stars, Musical

Zoot Suit

August 1st, 2015 — 7:02pm

****Screen Shot 2015-08-01 at 10.35.21 AM

Zoot Suit – nf

This 34-year-old movie reminds us of the unforgettable classic Westside Story and the more recent movie, Fruitvale Station. It is based on an actual 1940s Los Angeles murder trial. It involves a group of Mexican American young men who were tried and sentenced to San Quentin Prison for a crime they never committed. The film is directed by Luis Valdez and stars his younger brother, Daniel Valdez, as Henry Reyna, the group leader. The Valdez brothers in real life happened to come from Mexican immigrant families. Daniel also directed the great music, which is an important part of this production along with the wonderful dancing. The music of course is decidedly a Latin blend that fits in well with the intriguing dramatic story. It features an imaginary character, El Pachuco, who is in the mind of Henry Reyna. He is magnificently played as a Zoot Suit wearing devilish persona by Edward James Olmos, who proves himself to be a great dancer and singer, as well as a fine actor. There is another familiar face in the cast who you will recognize, and that is Tyne Daly who plays Alice Bloomfield, who is a young woman working with the team trying to set the innocent people free. This 1981 film about the 1940s could have been ripped from today’s headlines as we see accusations of police brutality and controversial trials. It is a refreshingly different film that is worth seeing on Netflix (1981).

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Musical

Jimmy’s Hall

June 18th, 2015 — 6:22pm

***Screen Shot 2015-06-18 at 9.34.06 AM

Jimmy’s Hall – sp

This is a touching film made by veteran director, Ken Loach who is mostly known for his acclaimed work in Europe, with a screenplay by Paul Laverty. It deals with an important part of Irish history with which most Americans are not very familar. It is based on a real character, Jimmy Gralton (Barry Ward) who was an idealistic Irish leader whose main claim to fame, was running Jimmy’s Hall in an obscure Irish  town, first in the 1920s and then 10 years later, in the 1930s. In this hall, (which was really a home or a cabin) men, women and children would gather to sing the popular music of the time and likewise do the popular dances, children would also sing and dance and learn history and some of the older boys would learn how to box. There would be lively discussions and a good time would be had by all. So what is wrong with this? Where is the conflict and where is the story? While we are not intimately familiar with Irish history and the film does not spell everything out to be crystal clear, we do know there was great turmoil in Ireland during this time period. In particular, the Catholic Church vividly depicted by Father Sheridan (Jim Norton) did not like the idea that people would dance and sing or even learn outside the auspices of the church. There was also a great economic and social upheaval notably between Ireland and Great Britain during this time as well as class warfare between the prosperous landowners and the workers. There was great dislike by many for socialism and of course for communism when that became an important issue. Jimmy was an idealist who spoke his mind which led to him being deported from Ireland without a trial or even any hearing. There is a sad love element as when Jimmy first returned, he is reunited with his old girlfriend, Oonagh (Simone Kirby) who is now happily married with children but still shares her simmering love for her old boyfriend. That is really the theme of the movie – so many unhappy people who are dealing with political and social issues which were much bigger than all of them. This is a well-done film but it never really breaks out. (2015)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Foreign, History

Mao’s Last Dancer

July 15th, 2011 — 8:34pm

****

Mao’s Last Dancer- nf – You get a lot for the price of your ticket in this movie. First there is an insight into the recent history of China where even after the death of Mao, the Chinese government tried to control the minds their people as well as their freedom and spirit. You also get some wonderful pieces of classical ballet choreographed by Australians Graeme Murphy and Janet Vernon. But most of all you get the true, very touching story of Li Cunxin based on his autobiography and an excellent screenplay by Jan Sardi. At age 11 he was plucked from his rural cold, snowy school to leave his peasant parents and 5 siblings in order  to live and study full time at a dance academy in Beijing. We follow him through three  actors who play him at various stages in his youth and finally to his portrayal as a young man by Chi Cao who himself is an accomplished dancer. Interestingly, Cao’s real life parents had been teachers of Li Cunxin.  Director Bruce Beresford switching back in forth to various time periods shows the development of this talented evolving dancer. After leaving his family to train  in Beijing, the next big event is as an 18 year old  when he is  invited on a cultural exchange to the Houston Ballet Academy by it’s director Ben Stevenson (Bruce Greenwood). There is culture shock as he had been brainwashed to believe that the US was quite the opposite of what he saw and experienced in 1980’s Houston Texas. There is romance, his recognition of his talent and his potential. Then there is  a confrontation with the long arm of China that is pulling him back there. Much of the film is actually shot in China as well as in Houston Texas. The scenes and the people in the rural village appear quite authentic. The story easily evokes tears and yet reminds us of an important lesson that is the theme of the movie and a line in it.,  Before You Can Fly You Have To Be Free .  (2010)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Biography, Drama, Musical

Black Swan

January 31st, 2011 — 5:34am

*****

Black Swan rm–  This movie is about ballet and there a good amount of ballet in it. It is also about competition, jealousy and the desire to be perfect. There is no better place for these feelings to be played out than when the decision is made for the lead role in the beautiful and powerful Swan Lake Ballet. In the background is the sweeping majestic music of Tchaikovsky which is brilliantly used  by the film’s music  composer Clint Mansell to capture the u underlying theme of the movie. The theme is one of losing touch with reality to the point of psychosis. This allows director Darren Aronofsky to skillfully turn this movie into a horror fantasy where you are never quite sure when Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) has fallen into the abyss of insanity. Once you are into the crevices of the unconscious, repressed sexual wishes are fair game to examine. Portman rises to the occasion in showing all aspects of the  inner self of her character as well as projecting magnificent graceful dancing skills. She well deserves the multiple nominations for best actress of the year which she is garnering. She is supported by an excellent cast which includes Barbara Hershey who plays her mother. The story by Andres Heinz and screenplay by Heinz, Mark Heyman and John McLaughlin along with the outstanding direction of Aronofsky with his technical staff provide a film you won’t be able to get out of your mind. Interestingly, the film ends  as did one of our favorite ballet movies, Red Shoes.(2010).

Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama

Gotta Dance

January 16th, 2010 — 1:19am

* * * *
Gotta Dance
– sp – When the New Jersey Nets Professional Basketball team decided that they wanted to include a senior dance group among their half time entertainment, they advertised that they were holding open auditions. Film Producer and documentary filmmaker Dori Berinstein saw the ad and grabbed her camera equipment and decided this was the subject of a film that she wanted to make. The rest is history. 11 women and one man ranging in age from the sixties to the eighties made the team. This documentary film is about these people, their individual stories and how they came together. It showed how it is never too late to do something you really love doing and do it well. It could have been anything, but in this case it was dancing and much to even the dancer’s surprise they were molded into a cohesive group with a main feature of hip hop dancing. The film maker skillfully weaved the dancer’s interesting personal vignettes with the story of their training to ultimately perform in front of 20,000 people in a packed arena. There were moments of suspense and moments where you could share their jubilation. The film succeeded not only in telling this unusual and inspiring story but also by appearing to touch the emotions of most of the audience who gave six members of the group who visited our screening a standing ovation. (2009)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Documentary, Musical

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