Tag: music


Hearts Beat Loud

June 26th, 2018 — 10:54pm

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Hearts Beat Loud

There is something very special about a relationship between a father (Nick Offerman) and daughter (Kiersey Clemons) especially when it is a single dad who is raising his kid after the mother died at an early age. We meet such a duo just as the girl is getting ready to go away to college. There is another element which makes this relationship even more special and that is that the father and daughter make music together. They write, play, sing and edit their own songs. It is even more poignant since the deceased mom and dad were once a music duo themselves hoping to make it big. If you have ever seen the passion and joy that budding musicians have for their band even when they are just playing and it is “not a band”, you will appreciate and be moved by this film Director Brett Haley handled his cast quite well and especially brought out the musical talents of teenager Kiersey Clemons. The supporting cast was topnotch and included Ted Danson, Toni Collette, Sasha Lane, and Blythe Danner. This musical trip should appeal to teenagers as well as those of us who can remember how we felt about the music that moved us when we were young. (2018)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Uncategorized

Amy

December 22nd, 2016 — 5:35am

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Amy – nf

As you may know, Amy Winehouse came from a Jewish middle class family in England and became a world famous singer. She died of alcohol and drug use at the age of 27. This documentary film directed by Asif Kapala uses archival film and narrations by people who knew her. We see her as a four or five-year-old girl seemingly independent with a mind of her own which was characteristic of her as she got older. She was confident in her singing as well as in her writing lyrics and she brought to life the words that she wrote which described her life and world around her.

We really were not shown enough to understand her family dynamics. Her parents divorced when she was 10 years old and her father was shown trying to control her career and her mother seemed to be a loving woman in the background. While her music was meaningful to a very large audience, her personal relationships seemed quite troubled. Blake, her boyfriend, then husband and then ex-husband who also spent a few years in jail, brought her deeper into drugs as she got older. Amy was an interesting young woman who had a meteoric rise and then fall. However, we are not really provided with in-depth interviews of the significant players in her life. Perhaps some future biography will provide this. The film, of course, was mostly in a foreign language (British English). Subtitles were frequently provided especially when she sang but not all the time. So occasionally, we would not know what was being said on the screen.

The highlight of the movie was a video segment showing Amy and Tony Bennett working in the studio to produce a recording of their duet by them. Bennett said that he thought Amy Winehouse was one of the greatest jazz singers of all time alongside of Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan. (2015)

 

Comment » | 2 Stars, Documentary, Musical

What Happened, Miss Simone?

March 13th, 2016 — 9:37pm

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What Happened, Miss Simone? -nf

This Oscar nominated documentary biography will grab you and hold your attention and your emotions. You will re-experience the meaning that the Civil Rights Movement may have had to you and how you understand its significance in this country. Music as it always does, creates and brings out deep-rooted feelings and the haunting music and lyrics of this gifted singer and musician will do just that. You will come to understand who Nina Simone was and where she came from and what she was trying to do. But this film will also raise questions about Miss Simone, as a wife, mother, and troubled soul that will remain unanswered although undoubtedly you will share our admiration for her.

Nina Simone grew up as the preacher’s daughter in North Carolina. She was noted to have musical talent and as a young girl she played the piano in church. She went on to get formal music lessons and she had a lifelong unfulfilled wish to be the first black classical concert pianist. She also , clearly, experienced the pain of the Jim Crow South and multiple occasions of blatant discrimination because she was black.

This film documents what she did become and that is a widely acclaimed blues singer with a very distinctive style. When the Civil Rights Movement burst upon the scene, her music and words became part of its anthem alongside of Martin Luther King and others. This was symbolized by the controversial song Mississippi Goddamn”( click to hear this great song) which was embraced by the movement but apparently ultimately marginalized Miss Simone’s ability to work in the musical industry.

The details of Miss Simone’s journey were very well documented with film clips and interviews with people who were very close to her including lifelong friends, fellow musicians, her husband, and her now grown daughter. One of the most fascinating and convincing parts of this documentary film was the showing of the handwritten pages of her own diary. These scribbled words with printed subtitles at the bottom of the screen, documented her love and dependency on her husband, a former New York City policeman who guided a good part of her successful career but also apparently viciously beat her according to her own words. We do not really understand why and how she tolerated him so long before divorcing him. Nor do we understand how she could suddenly leave her loved only young daughter with her good friend and abruptly go off to Europe to try to revive her career.

Her own diary also documents her bouts of suicidal thoughts during this period. As a psychiatrist, one of us (MB) knows we can never properly make a diagnosis or understand the clinical issues in someone we have never seen in our consulting room. However, it should be stated that in her late years, we clearly see a very depressed woman. We are told in the words of her grown daughter and others that she had a diagnosis made of manic-depression and was prescribed “Trilafon” (a second generation antipsychotic medication – not usually the medicine of choice for this condition). We are also told that the medication helped her a little bit. It is also stated that she subsequently had certain symptoms of stiffness and twitching of her lip which are common side effects of this medication that was given to her. While we certainly don’t know all the details we can’t help wondering if she had the best treatment

Miss Simone died at the age of 70 and we do not know too much about her last few years. We have come away from this well-done documentary film by director and producer Liz Garbus with an appreciation how this talented woman was able to find her destiny at the same time that she was able to touch the emotions and express the voice of so many people during the Civil Rights Movement in this country. Through this film and her music, there is the opportunity for her work reach future generations. (2015)

 

Comment » | 4 Stars, Biography, Documentary

A Late Quartet

November 18th, 2012 — 9:37pm

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A Late Quartet-rm

 A famous successful string quartet makes great music together for twenty five years but their individual lives are now on the verge of producing some very bad notes. We are introduced to this group as we learn that Peter Mitchell (Christopher Walken) the older, most mature and stable member of the group learns that he has  the early stages of Parkinson’s Disease and will probably have to step down from the group. The possibility of change and perhaps a new member of the group creates a window for Writer /Director Yaron Zilberman to show the audience the vulnerabilities and weaknesses of the other 3 characters. Robert (played magnificently as usual by Phiilip Seymore Hoffman) decides he doesn’t want to play 2nd fiddle anymore and wants to in the future alternate first violin with  Daniel (Mark Ivenir) who now has that role. Robert is devastated when his wife Juliette (Catherine Keener) also a member of the quartet doesn’t agree and has actually talked it over with Daniel. He of course, doesn’t want to share the role of top banana with Robert. In fact Daniel who probably has been a repressed musical genius has an affair with Robert and Catherine’s daughter Alexandra (Imogene Potts) to whom he has been giving violin lessons and who had been flirting with him. He seems devastated when she ultimately rejects him.  In the course of this situation her mother comes down hard on Alexandra’s poor judgment which leads Alexandra to vehemently respond what a failure Juliette has been as a mother especially since she and her father were  not around 7 months of the year, always being on tour. We are led to believe if they can really get into the music especially Beethoven’s opus 131, all be ok. It almost works because the music really carries the movie. When you see them play together (the actors were taught to move their fingers in the correct manner) you believe that everything is going to be back in balance with a new equilibrium. That is the power of music and some very good acting. (2012)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Musical

Paul Williams Still Alive

June 15th, 2012 — 1:51am

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Paul Williams Still Alive- sp Filmmaker Stephen Kessler grew up and came of age in the 1970s and 80s and was a big fan of the music and of the personality of Paul Williams. He had thought that Williams had faded from the scene. Therefore he was quite surprised when a few years ago he found out that his music hero was alive and well.  He read that Williams was still writing and performing music. He tracked down 65-year-old Williams at a concert in Winnipeg, Canada where he was playing to an enthusiastic but older crowd. Kessler proposed that he would make a documentary film about the career of Williams. His proposal was politely turned down but Kessler persisted and ultimately made the film with William’s agreement. In an unorthodox documentary style, the film chronicles how Kessler gradually won over Williams to allow him to make this loving tribute. He used flashbacks, mainly in the form of film clips and videotapes of Williams and many others performing his songs. Early music such as the Carpenters singing We have Just Begun and Rainy Days and Mondays as well as many others such as Cried Like a Baby and Talk It Over In the Morning. He co wrote many songs including the music sung by Jim Hensen as Kermet the Frog. He wrote for TV shows such as Happy Days and wrote and sang the music for the TV movie The Boy in the Plastic Bubble that starred John Travolta. Williams was nominated for multiple Academy Awards for writing the best music in a motion picture and won the Oscar for Evergreen in the movie A Star is Born which was co-written and performed by Barbra Streisand. Williams’ status as a pop icon was confirmed by the fact that he was a guest 50 times on the Johnny Carson show. Although 5’2” he was giant in the music industry. Williams himself admits that his fame went to his head and he seemed embarrassed when Kessler showed him some of his old tapes. He came across in them as a self-centered person who was caught up with his own fame and success. Drugs and alcohol became a mainstay of his life. He subsequently had treatment and now has been sober for over 20 years. His wife Marianna is frequently shown at his side in the movie and it is obvious that she and his two children are very meaningful to him. He has evolved to where he clearly cares about people and is deeply passionate about music, not only his own but the music of other composers. He is now President of ASCAP (the American Society of Composers, which is a very powerful organization fighting for the rights of all songwriters. Paul Williams has come a long way and as the title states is “still alive” in every sense of the word.(2012)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Biography, Documentary, Musical

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