When I saw Monster or The Queen, I felt like I had seen movies where the actors (in these cases, Charlize Theron and Helen Mirren respectively) embodied the persona of a real-life person. In La Vie en Rose Marion Cotillard takes it one step forward…she embodies the persona and the SOUL of the Edith Piaf. When I was watching this, I just became immersed with Piaf and this movie. I was in a trance…mesmerized in the performance. I had seen Cotillard in A Good Year, a romantic comedy in which she played the love interest to Russell Crowe. She was a striking, tall, stunningly beautiful woman with close-to-perfect features and almost an ethereal quality. In La Vie en Rose, she is truly Piaf…hunched over, small, course, and beautiful only the eyes of a few select people. What is beautiful, mostly, about Piaf, is her voice. Watching Cotillard, though, makes this short, awkward woman a striking person without an overabundance of physical beauty. Without adding any physical attributes to her, Cotillard brings out the inner beauty of Piaf…in both the depth of the fabulous performance and with the sparkle always shining through Piaf’s eye whenever Cotillard is shown. The movie, itself, is a good deal too long and would be quite tedious if I were not memorized with the performance. I’m sure it could have benefited with some serious time in the editing room…as long as no scenes featuring Piaf were cut out. She’s way too good to leave on the cutting room floor.

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Blake Edwards’ directs this comedy about a destitute singer (Julie Andrews) who meets up with a gay, out of work nightclub performer, Toddy. He comes up with a plan for them both to be successful involving her changing her image from a woman to a man to a woman. Complications set in when she falls in love with a mobster (James Garner) who is homophobic and convinced she is a woman. Alex Karris steals all of the scenes he is in as Garner’s bodyguard who is coming to terms with his own sexuality in the midst of this whole mess. Definitely the best film from the husband and wife team of Edwards/Andrews.

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Are the hills alive? Well, if they weren’t before this movie, they sure are now. Take the premise from Maria von Trapp’s life story and add songs and dancing and what do you have—magic! That’s what Rodgers and Hammerstein must have discovered when they began adapting this story for the stage. And, shortly after its success on Broadway, Hollywood came calling and Rodgers and Hammerstein answered, taking director Robert Wise and writer Ernest Lehman along for the ride. If you don’t like musicals, you might be advised to be especially leery of this one. The Sound of Music takes the sappiness and melodrama you normally find (in small amounts) in musicals to new heights. But, in this film with this story and with these characters, it just seems to work and I love it. Julie Andrews (never better) plays Maria, a young, fledging novice nun who just can’t seem to make her convent life work with her rebellious and free-spirited personality. Christopher Plummer plays stern and ill-tempered Captain von Trapp, the head of a family for whom she governesses. Since I already said it was sappy, you can assume that a love story between these two unlikely people develops. Now seen as more of a children’s film, this movie is very much for everyone. Sure, children like the singing and the fact that there are six kids in the cast. But, adults should also appreciate that this film, though a bit overdone, is one of the best examples of the Hollywood musical ever produced.

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Good old Eliza Doolittle with her flowers in Covert Garden Market…she’s so seemingly content in her existence on the steps of the famed London opera house. Then, along comes Professor Henry Higgins and turns her simple world upside down. From the classic play Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw and then adapted into a musical production by Lerner and Loewe, director George Cukor masterly takes hold of the big screen version, making Eliza, Professor Higgins, and all of the rest seem as fresh as the day Shaw originally penned them. Audrey Hepburn as Eliza caused quite a bit of controversy in the day. Julie Andrews, who originated Ms. Doolittle on the stage, was seen by Hollywood execs not to be “Hollywood” enough for the starring role. So, very Hollywood Hepburn was brought in as a replacement, along with professional-dubber Marni Nixon singing the songs for her. Rex Harrison was able to reprise his stage role of Professor Higgins (I guess he was “Hollywood” enough, or at least would not take no for an answer) and he did manage to “sing” his own songs. As in the stage productions, Harrison got away with his lack of singing talent by doing more of a “melodic talking” to music. Regardless of all of the hoops that were leapt through along the way, the end result is one fabulous film. And, even though I’m sure Andrews would have been great in the movie, Hepburn just shines here, as if Audrey and Eliza were one in the same. Isn’t it Loverly???

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A riotous, toe-tapping adaptation of the Kander-Ebb Broadway musical that will keep you dancing and singing along from start to finish. Told through the eyes of wannabe star Roxie Hart, the movie’s tone is much lighter and more fun than the Broadway musical, which spends more time on the dark side of Roxie. Great performances by Renee Zellweger as Roxie and Catherine Zeta-Jones as Roxie’s nemesis Velma Kelly but that stand-out performance is by Richard Gere, who is just phenomenal as the conniving lawyer Billy Flynn. If you’re not still humming the songs of this Best Picture winner a day later, there’s something wrong with you!

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Not knowing anything more about Maria Callas than that she was an internationally renowned opera sensation, I was particularly interested to see this one. Not really a biographical film, this movie, as it states in the blurb on the back of the DVD case, is director Franco Zeffirelli’s interpretation of what Callas’ last months might have been like if things had gone differently. But, I wondered differently how? After watching the film, I got the impression that even though Zeffirelli worked often with Callas, the film is more about what he personally would have liked Callas to do with her last days, instead of apparently what she did do…which was pretty much…well, nothing. The film is a glorious tribute to Callas as a singer and as a “diva.” French actress Fanny Ardent does a great job of capturing both Callas’ torment at the lost of her voice and the admiration she thrives off once she becomes “famous” again. This film is not especially for someone who does not like or have even a mild appreciate for opera since much of the movie revolves around Callas doing a film production of Bizet’s Carmen. Of course, since Zeffirelli has directed many, many opera productions, he knows how to stage, light and shoot the musical parts. But even if you think you don’t like opera, between Zeffirelli’s beautiful direction and the sound of Callas’ voice in its prime, you might just find that opera is one of your hidden loves. If any film can bring that passion out in you, this one can.

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When you hear about gangs in New York, do you automatically think of the Sharks and the Jets? When is the last time you heard someone say that they feel or look pretty when you didn’t think of West Side Story and the infamous song I Feel Pretty… “I feel pretty…oh, so pretty, I feel pretty and witty and bright…” If you don’t know that song, you might want to watch or even re-watch this film and I promise that soon, you will humming at least one of its many catchy, timeless tunes. Trust me, this film is contagious. More than most musicals of its era, this one is filled with songs and characters that are actually memorable. True, there is some corny stuff here but it wouldn’t be a 1960s musical with some sentiment. Part of the “difference” of West Side Story comes from the music itself…a score and songs written by Leonard Bernstein with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Both men perfectly capture the rhythm and energy of New York, but without forgetting about the grime and grit that goes along with any urban setting. Speaking of New York, this one is actually FILMED there…on the streets themselves…not on a set, like most musicals (and even many non-musical movies) of the day. So, the Jets and the Sharks are fighting about territory we REALLY see and can REALLY feel. The story, for the few who do not know, is really a modern day re-telling of Romeo and Juliet, star-crossed who were doomed from the get-go. Whereas Shakespeare’s couple had feuding Italian families to hinder their romance, here it’s rival gangs and, more importantly, different cultures that get in the way of the young lovers’ happiness (Tony is in a White gang…The Jets…and Maria’s brother, Bernardo, is leader of the Puerto Rican gang, The Sharks). The real draw to this one, though, is the music…which is good since this is a musical, right? I promise after you hear a few bars of America, you will be singing along for weeks…“I like to be in America…OK by me in a America…”

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After watching this film, saying “good morning” to folks takes on a whole new meaning. You say it and then just want to burst into song… “Good mornin’, good mo-o-ornin’… We’ve talked the whole night through…” etc. OK – maybe that’s just me. Maybe you won’t feel compelled to dance and sing around but I sure did after seeing this classic for the first time…and even subsequent times. Singin’ in the Rain is addictive. Yes, it is corny and hokey, but name a musical from the first part of the 20th Century that wasn’t. At least this one is poking fun at the movie industry and, in turn, itself. Unlike most of the Lerner/Loewe and Rogers/Hammerstein musicals of this same period, Singin’ in the Rain is more of a comedy than a drama. Well, OK, it does get pretty melodramatic but add Donald O’Conner to anything and comedy usually ensues. So, if you haven’t seen this one…or even if it has been a long time…check it out. When you walk into work tapping your toes, just sing “Good mornin’” to your co-workers and they will understand!

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