music friday: alicia keys, “no one”
just how many minutes of fame am i up to?

what i watched last week

Singin’ in the Rain. #39 on my Facebook Fave Fifty list. #9 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the top 1000 films of all time. 10/10.

In the Mood for Love. #38 on my Facebook list. The #1 film on the TSPDT list of the Top films of the 21st century. 10/10.

Grace of My Heart. Jeff Pike listed this at #39 in our Facebook Fifty group. I hadn’t seen it before, which isn’t unusual … there have been a few on Jeff and Phil’s lists I have missed. This was the first one, though, that I had never even heard of. It’s one of the fun parts about doing these lists, getting to experience new movies, or old movies in a new light. So I immediately rented Grace of My Heart from Amazon. There is a lot to like, beginning with Ileanna Douglas in her first starring role as Denise Waverly. She’s always good, and it’s nice to see her get a leading part. The film, which covers the music industry from the late-50s until the early-70s (the story of Douglas’ character mirrors that of Carole King to some extent), shows affection for every period it covers. But there is too much … although it gets in at just under two hours, it feels much longer, as writer/director Allison Anders tries to stuff lengthy looks at several periods in music history. We get doo-wop and the beginnings of the Brill Building era, we get Girl Groups, we get socially-conscious pop, we get the story of “River Deep, Mountain High,” we get Brian Wilson, and eventually, we come back to Carole King. I would have liked the movie a lot more if it chose a period and stayed with it, so that I didn’t feel like I was watching a documentary. (I’m thinking of American Hot Wax, which stuck to the late-50s Alan Freed era, and also had a “Carole King” character.) Anders came up with an interesting idea for the actual music; instead of just playing the classics, she teams up writers from that period with writers of today, who produce fine songs that sound like the originals they mimic. (This is where Burt Bacharach and Elvis Costello began their work together.) But the film’s structure is repetitive … every song comes from Denise’s personal experience, and events in the film seem to exist solely to give Denise a chance to write another song. It’s like watching the singer/songwriter genre invent itself, so you might like this movie more than I did if you think singer/songwriters were a good thing. 6/10.

La Strada. I can see why it is considered a classic, and I liked it, too. It is, however, a film where my appreciation for it is greater than my love for it, or lack of same. Giulietta Masina’s performance is considered by many to be one of the greatest in film history, and there is something appealing about her mentally-challenged Gelsomina. She is never as sicky-sweet as, for instance, Chaplin can be. But none of the three main characters worked for me as people … they’re too clearly symbols. OK, that’s what they are supposed to be, I can’t criticize them because I wanted it to be something else. But that helps explain why my rating is lower than most people’s. La Strada is another one of those movies that I might like better the next time I see it. Winner of the first-ever Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. #52 on the TSPDT list of the Top 1000 films of all time. 7/10.

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