Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Across The Universe

Finally got a chance to watch Across the Universe, the Julie Taymor Beatles/60's film.

I had avoided it when it came out for a number of reasons. First off, I don't really like Julie Taymor. I never saw the Broadway production of Lion King, but I did see numerous clips and thought it looked boring. And I felt the hoopla over the costumes was unfounded. Who cares? It's a dumb Disney thing. Parent dies, funny sidekicks, dangers...yawn.

And I absolutely hated her film Titus. I thought it was gross, disgusting and long.

The critics and Broadway crowd fall in love with certain people and productions that I find dull and unwatchable. I hate things like Les Miserables and anything by Andrew Lloyd Weber. I had put Taymor in this group, i.e., mediocre entertainment for people anxious to be entertained.

And while Broadway has had some wonderful songs and shows (I like the old stuff, like Guys and Dolls and Oklahoma!) they have produced a lot of crap and a lot of irritating stars, e.g., Ethel Merman.

Second, I generally don't like Beatles' stuff that isn't by the Beatles. Whether it's cover songs, copy bands or movies (e.g., the horrible Sgt. Pepper film), I'm just not that interested. Whereas, if the Beatles are involved (e.g., the Love show in Vegas), I find that I usually enjoy myself and can sense the unique magical quality they provide their fans.

So what did I think of Across the Universe? I thought it was great. The colors, the songs, the actors, the dancing, the story...I loved it all. I wasn't so sure on first viewing, but the next day, I couldn't get the darn thing out of me head. I had to watch it again.

The story is simple enough. A group of kids stuck in the madness of the 60's. The war in Vietnam, assassinations, civil rights, etc. On reflection, they do seem to cram about ten years worth of stuff into what actually seems like only a couple of years, but I didn't care.

It's a fabulous movie and they treat the music with a lot of respect. They don't try to do the Beatles. The arrangements are true to the originals (e.g., they don't do slow songs fast or fast songs slow), but they manage to give them a fresh vibe that never bugged me. And I like the fact that they leave the lyrics alone. If a girl is singing a song about a 'girl', they don't change it to a 'guy'. Nice touch. Changing 'guy' to 'girl' and vice versa always sounds weirder to me than just leaving it alone. The Beatles figured that out when they did 'Boys'.

If you haven't seen it, Netflix the thing. And watch out for the 'I Want You' sequence. By far the best thing in the movie. And the 'Mr. Kite' number is a lot of fun, too.


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