Insomnia File #37: Evita (dir by Alan Parker)


What’s an Insomnia File? You know how some times you just can’t get any sleep and, at about three in the morning, you’ll find yourself watching whatever you can find on cable? This feature is all about those insomnia-inspired discoveries!

Last night, if you were in a hotel room in Alabama and you discover that you couldn’t get to sleep despite having a busy day ahead of you, you could have always turned on the TV and watched the 1996 musical extravaganza, Evita.

That’s what I did!

Evita, of course, is based on the award-winning musical by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber.  Opening in 1952, with Argentina being thrown into mourning and chaos by the death of Eva Peron (Madonna), the film then flashes back to follow Eva as she goes from being a child of poverty to a well-known actress to eventually the wife of Argentina’s president, Juan Peron (Jonathan Pryce).  The majority of her story is told to us by Che (Antonio Banderas), a cynical observer who pops up in various disguises and who is always quick to accuse Eva of selling out the poor while, at the same time, professing to be as obsessed with her as everyone else.  Much as they did with the story of Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar, Rice and Lloyd Weber use the story of Eva Peron to explore what it means to be a celebrity in an unstable world.

(If anyone ever decides to produce a musical about the Kardashians, they would be fools not to approach Rice and Lloyd Webber to write it.)

Evita is kind of a strange film.  On the one hand, it’s a wonderful spectacle.  Director Alan Parker does a wonderful job visually interpreting the music.  The sets are huge and ornate.  The costumes are to die for.  There’s never a moment when you don’t want to look at the screen.  Parker keeps the action moving and, regardless of how cynical one may be about politics, it’s hard not to be impressed by the army of extras that march through the film, chanting “Peron.”  While both the musical and film undoubtedly took liberties with the actual story (and don’t watch this film expecting to see any acknowledgment of the countless number of Nazi war criminals that Peron welcomed to Argentina after the fall of the Third Reich), it still does a great job of capturing the sweep of change and revolution.  You watch the film and you understand why the citizens of an unstable country would put their faith in messianic leaders like the Perons.  Jonathan Pryce does a good job playing Peron and Antonio Banderas is absolutely on fire as Che.

(In some stage productions, Che is specifically portrayed as being a young Che Guevara.  Guevara, of course, was a racist mass murderer who became an icon because he was photogenic.  Fortunately, the film is content to portray Che as simply being a politically active citizen of Argentina.)

And yet, there is an emptiness at the center of this adaptation of Evita and that emptiness is named Madonna.  Strangely, for someone who has been a star longer than I’ve been alive, Madonna has absolutely zero screen presence.  She looks glamorous enough for the part and she’s got a good enough voice for the songs but, whenever she actually has to act, Madonna’s performance feels awkward and forced.  Her performance is too obviously calculated, and, as a result, there’s nothing natural about her or her interpretation of Evita.  To put it simply, she tries too hard.  She comes across as the type of performer who doesn’t so much smile as she acts the process of smiling.  When Madonna performs opposite Pryce and Banderas, they’re both good enough to carry her through their shared scenes.  But whenever Madonna has to hold the screen on her own, the film falls strangely flat.

The end result is a strangely uneven film, one that leaves little doubt that Eva Person was loved while, at the same time, never seeming to understand why.

Previous Insomnia Files:

  1. Story of Mankind
  2. Stag
  3. Love Is A Gun
  4. Nina Takes A Lover
  5. Black Ice
  6. Frogs For Snakes
  7. Fair Game
  8. From The Hip
  9. Born Killers
  10. Eye For An Eye
  11. Summer Catch
  12. Beyond the Law
  13. Spring Broke
  14. Promise
  15. George Wallace
  16. Kill The Messenger
  17. The Suburbans
  18. Only The Strong
  19. Great Expectations
  20. Casual Sex?
  21. Truth
  22. Insomina
  23. Death Do Us Part
  24. A Star is Born
  25. The Winning Season
  26. Rabbit Run
  27. Remember My Name
  28. The Arrangement
  29. Day of the Animals
  30. Still of The Night
  31. Arsenal
  32. Smooth Talk
  33. The Comedian
  34. The Minus Man
  35. Donnie Brasco
  36. Punchline

Music Video of the Day: Dear Jessie by Madonna (1989, dir. Derek Hayes)


Wow! I waited a whole 92 music videos of the day to do a Madonna video.

This is one of the oddball songs in Madonna’s catalog, but it’s one of my favorites.

The background story is pretty simple. One of her producers at the time named Patrick Leonard had to bring his daughter Jessie to the studio, Madonna took a liking to her, Leonard gave Madonna a song he had written for Jessie, she changed the lyrics a bit, and the rest is history.

There isn’t much to say about the music video itself either. It’s a very literal interpretation of the lyrics filled with animated characters you would expect from 70s-80s Disney. Madonna appears animated as Tinker Bell. I love that there appears to be some sort of cross between Tigger and Chester Cheetah during the marches of animated characters.

There are quite a few people that I was able to find who worked on the music video. Oddly, the little girl herself is not one of them.

Derek Hayes directed the music video. He seems to have only directed three music videos. I couldn’t find him for sure on IMDb, but there does appear to be two Derek Hayes that worked in animation.

Edit: According to Stephan in the comments section, Hayes is currently teaching animation at Falmouth University in the UK.

Nigel Hadley was the editor. I found a Nigel Hadley on IMDb who seems to have only worked as an editor on Derek Jarman’s The Garden (1990). If that is him, then that’s rather amazing seeing as Tilda Swinton played the Madonna in that movie.

Maddy Sparrow was the producer. She produced at least one other music video for Elton John’s Club at the End of the Street. I imagine she worked on other music videos as well.

There were numerous animators, which included Derek Hayes himself. The other ones I could find are as follows: Jimmy Farrington, Andy Goff, Alison Snowden, Neville Astley, Malcolm Hartley, and Erica Russell. I’ll just talk about a few noteworthy ones.

Jimmy Farrington appears to have worked on a bunch of big films from Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) to Harry Potter to Marvel.

Alison Snowden went on to do more work in animation that included winning an Oscar for the film Bob’s Birthday (1994).

Neville Hartley appears to have had great success–going on to be a writer for the British TV Show Peppa Pig. He also co-created the show.

John Stevenson was the Character Technical Director, or Character TD for short. He seems to have been the most successful–going on to direct Kung Fu Panda (2008).

Enjoy!

27 Days of Old School: #19 “You’ll See” (by Madonna)


Madonna-You-Ll-See

“I have truth on my side,
You only have deceit”

For #18 on the KTSL Old School charts I had Madonna’s “Take A Bow” and what better way to follow it up but with it’s sequel which arrived as a single for her 1995 compilation album, Something to Remember.

“You’ll See” is another ballad that brings to conclusion the story of the mistress (Madonna) from “Take A Bow” and the Spanish bullfighter (Emilio Muñoz) with the tables now turned as the former takes control of her life and moves on while the latter sees his mistakes though too late.

This song has a Spanish musical influence to it’s production from the use of a Spanish guitar that begins the track and returns throughout the length of the song. While “Take A Bow” strained Madonna’s vocal skills to their limits it is the opposite for “You’ll See” where the song’s composition works to take advantage of Madonna’s vocal range and not trying to go beyond what she’s capable of.

27 Days of Old School: #18 “Take A Bow” (by Madonna)


Take a bow 2

“No more masquerade, you’re one lonely star”

Pushing the line of what constitutes old school for me would be when the 1990’s started to move into the mid-1990’s. I was still young enough to remember high school, but already a couple years from having graduated from it in 1994. One of the last few old school songs that made the cut for this list was the one song where I fully bought into Madonna as an artist and not just a great performer.

“Take A Bow” was a single off of her Bedtime Stories album and it couldn’t be more opposite from her previous work. For one thing, it was written by R&B producer extraordinaire Babyface.

The video for this song was a nice touch in using the bullring in Antequera, Spain as the set with Madonna channeling golden age glam. Definitely not the sort of look her fans have been used to for years before this album.

It works as a ballad and the video itself turned out to be a nice short film that help tell the story behind the lyrics.

James Bond Review: Die Another Day


Leading up to the North American release of the latest James Bond feature film, Skyfall, The Shattered Lens is reviewing each and every James Bond film in the history of the franchise. Today’s film is the controversial Die Another Day, the twentieth film in the James Bond franchise, and the final such film to feature Pierce Brosnan in the titular role as 00-agent James Bond. Despite launching to mixed reviews – particularly overseas, where it generated significantly negative reaction in North and South Korea – it was at the time the highest grossing Bond film of all time.

Our cold open for this film has us in North Korea. There, 007 is assuming the identity of a diamond smuggler who is assisting a North Korean Colonel, Tan-Sun Moon, in laundering blood diamonds as part of an ongoing search for advanced military hardware. In order to bypass the landmines of the Korean Demilitarized Zone, the good Colonel has constructed an entire army of hover vehicles which can cross the region without triggering the mines, allowing for a land invasion of South Korea. Bond proceeds with the exchange, but is identified by Zao (Rick Yune), Colonel Moon’s right hand man. Bond triggers an explosion which badly disfigures Zao’s face, which becomes embedded with dozens of diamonds. Colonel Moon attempts to escape on a hovercraft, and Bond pursues him, eventually chasing the Colonel off the edge of a waterfall, apparently killing him. Afterward, Bond is captured by General Moon, the Colonel’s father, and is imprisoned.

After over a year of imprisonment and torture, Bond is traded during a prisoner exchange for Zao. Upon returning to MI6, M (Dame Judi Dench) tells Bond that his 00-status has been suspended. Both she and the Americans believe that Bond cracked under torture and revealed classified information, necessitating the prisoner exchange that brought him back. However, the release of Zao leaves both M and Bond extremely bitter. Determined to recapture Zao, Bond evades MI6’s security and disappears. He travels to Hong Kong, seeking a way back into North Korea, but his contact there informs him that Zao has attempted to disappear in Cuba and provides him with the necessaries to travel there instead.

After he arrives in Havana, Cuba, Bond investigates a clinic there which specializes in gene therapy that is virtually unknown in the first world. Bond’s local contact describes it as prolonging the lives of their leading citizens, and the richest folks in the West, but Bond also learns that the gene therapy would allow a person to totally restructure their appearance and assume a whole new identity. During his investigation, he meets a woman who introduces herself as Jinx (Halle Berry) who, initially unknown to Bond, is an NSA agent on a similar investigation, albeit one with presumably very different goals. Bond locates Zao inside the clinic, and a chase ensues. Although Zao ultimately manages to escape by helicopter (and Jinx in dramatic fashion by diving off the sea wall and boarding a waiting boat which drives her off), Bond recovers a pendant left behind by Zao. Upon unscrewing it, Bond discovers a cache of diamonds. Upon inspection, the diamonds are chemically identical to diamonds found in Sierra Leone, but they bear the identifying mark of a diamond mine owned by a British billionaire and thrill seeker, Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens). Bond is determined to investigate.

This forms the basis of the remaining plot. Our set pieces this time aren’t quite so varied, as much of the remaining story plays out in Iceland, where Graves’ diamond mine is situated, and where he has constructed a special ice hotel for the purpose of a technology convention. Eventually, we return to Korea, for a final showdown that seems somehow empty, despite the increasingly high stakes in terms of both explosions and technology.

The truth, ultimately, is that Die Another Day is a bit of a mess. It has a seemingly incessant procession of action sequences, but they raise the stakes primarily through CGI and improbable wizardry, in a way that threatens our suspend disbelief. I know that this is Bond, and that in 80s-early 00s Bond very much fell into the trap (who didn’t?) of ‘bigger and better’. However, this film takes things a bit too far in my estimation. Its villains aren’t quite as fun as the ones in the past two films (well, Mr. Stamper is kind of a drag I suppose), and don’t really fit the Bond mold. The story is pretty straightforward, but probably doesn’t receive quite the treatment that it deserves to get us established in it. The interactions between Bond and M are a bit too stiff, and I say that even keeping in mind tomorrow’s review piece, Casino Royale. There’s something about Die Another Day that made me think everyone involved was just going through the motions, like a sense of fatigue just hung over the proceedings. It was a bit of a bummer.

As for the women of Bond, Die Another Day actually has a lot to recommend. Breaking convention, this section is heavy with spoilers, but I’m going to risk it just this once. Don’t read on if you’re new to this film and planning to watch it!

Die Another Day continues to feature Dame Judi Dench as a pleasantly strong and uncompromising intelligence chief (I probably haven’t made enough of how much I enjoy her in the role of M in my reviews up to this point). In addition, we’re treated to Halle Berry as Jinx, an ass-kicking NSA agent who seems to do a lot of getting outmaneuvered and captured for being so adept. I didn’t care for Berry’s performance in this film, and I’d be lying if I said she stacked up well against Tomorrow Never Dies’ Michelle Yeoh as a Chinese intelligence agent. Still, compared to some of the other Bond girls, Berry is definitely a warrior. The other major female character, however, is Miranda Frost (Rosamund Pike), a frigid and beautiful MI6 agent… actually, a double agent, who betrayed Bond in the cold open. Pike’s character definitely gives off the edge of competence and deadliness that I, for one, am rooting for in female characters in any Bond movie, and she sells it well. Unfortunately, she’s not nearly as fun as Elektra King, as her motivations are completely unexplored and she just feels like an add-on to the existing plot surrounding some dangerous North Koreans.

Overall, this is probably not one of the better Bond films, though I’d argue that it doesn’t deserve the bad rap that some have given it either. It’s not a terrible film, just overwrought in a kind of Michael Bay way that undermines the characters and concepts. This is a common complaint of all four Pierce Brosnan films, especially, as well as some of the Roger Moore and Timothy Dalton efforts. However, this is the one that I most agree with that assessment of. This film really gets out of control with effects and gadgetry.

That’s it for today’s review. I leave you with the theme from Die Another Day, performed by Madonna. Tomorrow’s review will be of 2006’s Casino Royale.

What Lisa Marie Watched Last Night: The 69th Annual Golden Globe Awards


Last night, I watched the 69th Annual Golden Globe Awards.  I also got on twitter and made a lot of snarky comments.  People seemed to enjoy it and for that reason, I say, “Yay!”

Why Was I Watching It?

Because I am an awards show junkie!  Seriously, those glue sniffers on Intervention don’t have anything on me when it comes to craving the excess, glamour, and foolishness of a big, silly Hollywood awards show!  Add to that, this is still a fairly wide open Oscar season and the Golden Globes are, as they always say on E!, a “precursor to the Oscars.”  Winning a Golden Globe usually guarantees at least an Oscar nomination.  Plus — Ricky Gervais was back to host and like a lot of people last night, I spent the minutes before the ceremony asking myself, “What ever will he say!?” in feverish anticipation.

What Was It About?

For the past 69 years, the members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association have thrown a big banquet in January and given out a lot of awards to various TV and movie stars.  Nobody’s really sure who the members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association are and, to be honest, the Golden Globes always have a slightly unsavory air to them.  There’s always more than a few nominations that mostly seem to be designed to get famous people to show up at the ceremony,  Last year, they nominated the Tourist, this year they nominated The Ides of March.  Anyway, the Golden Globes are distinguished by the Oscars by the fact that they serve alcohol during the show and, in the past, someone’s always ended up giving a drunken acceptance speech or launching into an incoherent political rant and, for the past few weeks, we’ve been told that with Ricky Gervais returning to host the 69th annual banquet, anything could happen and probably would!  Yay!

What Worked

Last night, I mentioned on twitter that if nothing interesting happened on the Globes or if Ricky somehow failed to deliver the expected amount of snark then I would devote this section of my review to talking about my boobs. 

With that in mind, what can I say except that they’re a little big and heavy and they pretty much ended my dreams of being a ballerina but I like my boobs, or as I call them Pride and Joy.  They go great with every outfit I own and I’m pretty sure that they’re also the reason why I’ve never had to pay a speeding ticket.  Plus, they allowed me to say stuff like, “I should be Ms. Golden Globes!” while I was watching the show last night…

Actually, I’m being a little bit unfair to the Golden Globes (the awards ceremony, not my boobs).  The tribute to Morgan Freeman was well-done and was probably the high point of the ceremony but then again, how can you go wrong with Morgan Freeman?  Seriously, when I’m on the verge of doing something silly (like using a review of the Golden Globes to show off my boobs) , I imagine Morgan Freeman saying, “Now, do you really think that’s a good idea?”

Fashion-wise, I saw a lot of red dresses last night and that made me happy because I look really good in red.

Among the winners, Christopher Plummer (Best Supporting Actor for Beginners), Jean Dujardin (Best Actor In A Comedy Motion Picture for The Artist), Martin Scorsese (Best Director for Hugo), and Claire Danes (Best Actress In A Dramatic TV Show for Homeland) all gave good and classy acceptance speeches that made me feel good to be alive.  And Uggie the dog was so adorable up there on stage when The Artist won Best Motion Picture Comedy.  Actually, speaking of The Artist, it was kinda nice to see so many French people accepting awards last night.  (Oh, stop it!  I love France!)

I enjoyed it when Madonna won for best song because she was so shocked that she forgot to speak in her fake accent. 

On an admittedly petty note, Rooney Mara did not win Best Actress for David Fincher’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and that amused me greatly because I knew that all the little AwardsDaily Fincherites were torn about how to whine about Mara losing with coming across as if they were criticizing Meryl Streep for winning.

What Did Not Work

So, let’s start with the main problem.  Last night’s Golden Globes ceremony was so respectable and predictable and slow that it might as well have just been the Oscars.  Ricky Gervais started out the ceremony by telling us that he had signed an agreement to not make any offensive or outrageous statements and then he did just that.  What’s especially annoying is that Ricky didn’t seem to be neutering himself as an act of protest or anything of the sort.  Instead, he just came across like he was too smug and sure-of-himself to realize that he was bombing.  It was as if he just expected his reputation to convince us that he was being funny and outrageous without actually being funny and outrageous.  Last year, Ricky Gervais skewered Hollywood phonies.  This year, Ricky Gervais was a Hollywood phony.  I sat there waiting for him to say just one thing that could potentially end his career and he refused to do it.

But Ricky wasn’t alone.  Seriously, where were the drunk winners launching into incoherent politically themed rants.  I mean, it’s an election year for God’s sake.  People on twitter were using the occasion to make all sorts of silly and naive political statements but the actual celebrities — the people who we depend on to act like a bunch of dumbasses — just sat there in this sort of placid anxiety like they were waiting for someone to show up for an intervention.

BLEH!

The majority of the night’s acceptance speeches were neither good nor bad.  They were just boring.  Listen, Meryl Streep is a great actress and I have no problem with her being recognized and awarded for her talent but oh my God, I nearly fell asleep trying to listen to her.  Now, if Meryl (or any other winner) had gotten up on stage and started slurring her words or making dirty jokes or something like that, it would have made for great television.  (Though I do have to give Meryl some credit for being the only winner to get bleeped.) 

The Descendants won Best Motion Picture Drama but seriously, it’s hard for me to accept that this well-made but essentially unchallenging and rather forgettable film is now the Oscar front-runner.  Seriously.  Much as with every other award it has won, The Descendants felt like something of a compromise choice and, considering that Scorsese won best director, it’s hard to gauge just how much momentum the Descendants is going to get from this victory. 

Oh!  And another thing that sucked — how did George Clooney win a Golden Globe for essentially playing the same character he always plays while Michael Fassbender’s brilliant work in Shame was ignored?  What type of game is that?

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

To quote Joan Crawford, “I’ll show you a pair of Golden Globes!”

Lessons Learned

This is shaping up to be one of the worst Oscar seasons in recent history.  Seriously, if just one deserving film or performance wins in February, I will be amazed.

15 Upcoming Films That Are Going To Suck


In just another few days, the summer movie season will end and we’ll enter the fall.  The fall movie season is when all of the prestigious, massively hyped “quality” films are released.  These are the films that everyone is expecting to see remembered at Oscar time.  We expect more out of films released in the Fall and therefore, when a film fails to live up to the expectation of perfection, we are far more quicker to simply damn the whole enterprise by exclaiming, “That sucked!”

Below are 15 upcoming fall films which I think are going to “suck.”  Quite a few of them are “prestige” films though a few of them most definitely are not.  However, they are all films that I fully expect to be disappointed with.

Quick disclaimer: This list is based on only two things, my gut instinct and the advice of my Parker Brothers Ouija Board.  These are my opinions and solely my opinions and they should not be taken as a reflection of the opinions of anyone else involved with this web site.  Got it?  Good, let’s move on to the fun part:

  1. Anonymous (10/28) — Roland Emmerich takes on the burning issue of whether or not Shakespeare actually wrote his plays.  Who cares?  I’m sure this will spark a lot of discussion among people who found The Da Vinci Code to be mind-blowing.
  2. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (12/21) — Deal with it, fanboys.
  3. The Ides of March (10/7) — It’s a political film directed by and starring George Clooney!  Watch out for the smug storm that will surely follow.
  4. Immortals (11/11) — Yes, it will suck but it will still probably be better than Clash of the Titans.
  5. The Iron Lady (12/16) — Bleh. This is one of those movies that they make solely because Meryl Streep needs another Oscar nomination.  Nobody will see the film but everyone will talk about how brilliant Meryl was in it.
  6. J. Edgar (TBA) — So, when was the last time that Clint Eastwood actually directed a movie that you didn’t have to make excuses for?
  7. Mission Impossible — Ghost Protocol (12/21) — Honestly, has there ever been a Mission Impossible film that didn’t suck in one way or another?
  8. Real Steel (10/7) — How do I know this film is going to suck?  Go look up the trailer on YouTube and you can see that little kid go, “You know everything about this fight game!” for yourself. 
  9. Red State (9/23) — A satirical horror film with a political subtext?  Well, let’s just hope they’ve got a great director…
  10. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (12/16)It’s the law of diminished returns.  The better the original, the worse the sequel.  That said, I really hope I’m wrong on this one.  I loved Sherlock Holmes.
  11. Straw Dogs (9/16) — It’s a remake of the old Peckinpah classic except now, it’s a Yankee Blue Stater getting attacked by a bunch of Redneck Red Staters.  Yankee paranoia is so freaking tedious.  Add to that, Straw Dogs has been remade a few million times and never as well as the original.  At least those remakes had the decency to come up with their own name instead of just trying to coast on the credibility of a better film.  This travesty was written, directed, and produced by Rod Lurie.  Shame on you, Rod Lurie.  (Of course, the toadsuckers over at AwardsDaily.com are madly enthused about this film.)
  12. The Three Musketeers (10/21) — Is anybody expecting otherwise?
  13. Tower Heist (11/4)Brett Ratner continues to encourage us to lower our standards with this action-comedy.  The film’s villain is played by Alan Alda and is supposed to be a Bernie Madoff-type so expect a lot of tedious pontificating from rich actors playing poor people.
  14. War Horse (12/28) — This might actually be a good film but, as a result of all of the hype, it’s going to have to be perfect or else it’s going to suck.
  15. W.E. (12/9)Madonna makes her directorial debut with … well, do I really need to go on?