Friday, January 26, 2007

Moving Pictures: Dreamgirls

So me and Banana had nothing to do this Thursday evening so we decided to see a movie like back in the old days, i.e. like two months ago before me moved into the house. So down to a late show of Dreamgirls which worked out in our favor because the weather resembled the North Pole. That coupled with the fact that everyone else has seen this movie meant that we had the whole theater for ourselves. I can't say how much that accentuates the experience. Being able to talk and laugh as loud as we wanted like we were home but having the same movie experience was amazing. I don't think I can say I had ever been in a movie theater alone like that before. Truly phenomenal.

Oh yeah the movie. Well it starts with a cowbell. From this point on, I think that there should be an initiative to increase the use of cowbells in general life, especially entertainment. When do cowbells not bring about a sense of optimism and excitement? It's pretty great. So Dreamgirls tracks the rise and fall of a Motown-like girls group from about the 60s. Originally it was a Broadway musical and in the wake of Chicago, maybe Hollywood has decided to mine that landscape for bonafide hits in the theaters. Well with Dreamgirls they succeeded.

The movie stars Jamie Foxx as the Berry Gordy like record lael impresario, Beyonce Knowles as the Diana Ross lead-usurping diva, Eddie Murphy as the sensational soul crooner also addled with a drug addiction, and the amazing Jennifer Hudson (American Idol cast-off) as the true talent who is sidestepped due to her appearance and attitude. The strength of the movie actually lies in the supporting cast, specifically Hudson and Murphy.

Now Hudson plays Effie, the diva with the talent and a couple of extra pounds. When told that she won't be lead, her face contorts to the point that you think that death might be imminent. And I cannot speak enough about her voice. Her voice could change the course of rivers if she put her mind to it. When she sings the Tony Award winning "And I'm Telling You" I was ready to leave. But there was still half a movie to go.

Murphy is also pretty surprising. His character is an amalgam of James Brown, Marvin Gaye, and David Ruffin. The Brown gives the character his early flashy performance style, Gaye gives him that conflict when he wants to do "message" songs, and Ruffin gives the character his problems with drug use and the Motown connection since Ruffin was lead singer for the Temptations. Wait Gaye was on Motown too so scratch that. Anyway, his singing lacks a little but he brings a weight to the character that is hard to express. When Foxx's character lets him know that he won't be releasing a song, the disappointment is palpable even in your seat.

Foxx and Knowles technically are the leads but in this movie I think they were asked to not mess anything up. Foxx comes off a bit dry throughout the movie. He sems detached. THe intensity he is capable of just isn't there. It feels shallow. Beyonce has decided that she wants to be white. The glued on weave and wigs are getting to be too much, she losing her melanin inspired curves and most of the time she was in makeup that looked like she was trying to be Michael Jackson's long lost baby sister. She's tolerable enough since she's never been a great actress anyway.

But I recommend everyone see it. I'm not sure what the big hubbub is over the denial of a Best Picture nomination for the Oscars is about. It's pretty great and all but nothing I would have imagined as a Best Picture contender. Still if Hudson is robbed of that statue, it would be criminal. And it would be nice for Dr. Doolittle to get one too.

A 4 Beanie picture if there ever was one.

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