Sounds of Music

Songbook: Da Doo Ron Ron

I might have given you an impression that I only like songs with ponderous, complicated lyrics. Let’s talk this one then.

“Da Doo Ron Ron” by the Crystals

Year: 1963

Category: Golden oldies

Why it rocks:
It’s the best 60s music had to offer: fun, rhythm, a melody that makes you tap your foot and reflections on the modern world. Most of those anyway. It’s such an enjoyable song with a whole lot of instruments you wouldn’t necessarily expect there.

Favorite lyrics:
“And when he walked me home / Da doo ron-ron-ron, da doo ron-ron.”
I’m kidding, the lyrics don’t matter.

Favorite moment:
Intro! And the energy of the whole thing.

Best for: A dance party, baby.

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Rotten Tomatoes

Mildly Enthusiastic Review: Cruel Intentions

After the seriously impressive Dangerous Liaisons we discussed recently (well, I did, while you politely ignored me, as is our deal), it’s time to turn attention to its younger bizarro cousin:

er-cruelintentionsCruel Intentions

Category: Movies

Find it on: Amazon

What it is:
Imagine Dangerous Liaisons but among modern(-ish, it’s a 1999 movie) high schoolers. It’s exactly that.
It also stars Sarah Michelle Gellar, who was big in 1999 when Buffy was getting better, Reese Witherspoon and that third guy plus a plethora of allusions to its 1988 predecessor.

How I found it:
I saw it once or twice a couple of years earlier and quite liked it (you know me, throw a classic into a high school setting and I’m so in). This time I wanted to show it to R and boy, was he surprised.

Summary judgment:
It’s a… um… I guess it really depends on your expectations. It’s not good. But it’s not exactly bad.

Best things about it:
It’s a ballsy idea which actually makes sense. I mean, what’s the modern counterpart of the rotten pre-revolution French aristocracy? Spoilt prep-school brats with too much money. Someone was actually right to come up with the whole concept and they carried it out consistently.
And I loved the allusions to Stephen Frears’ movie: visual throwbacks and small plot details, like Cecile falling off the bed (though by itself it was so over the top) and even a wink like borrowing an actress just for the sake of it. I particularly liked the design of the interiors of Kathryn and Sebastian’s house with all the details that make them decadent pastiches. And those blue walls!

Worst things about it:
Well, the whole thing doesn’t entirely work. Watching the two movies one after another, you see the oceans that separate them, particularly in acting. I loved Buffy but Sarah Michelle Gellar is not Glenn Close and don’t even get me started on Sebastian.

Other pluses:
I prefer Witherspoon to Pfeiffer. Just me?

Other minuses:
I’m not sure if it’s a minus, more of an observation but the movie is so campy: from the humor to the way Sebastian dies (that’s hardly a spoiler, right?). So I guess it depends on whether you’re in the mood for camp.

How it enriched my life:
It probably didn’t enrich it a whole lot but it’s enjoyable enough.

Fun fact:
I dislike many things about Sebastian but one of them is his hair. Remember the 90s? When every boy looked like hair gel cistern exploded onto him? Man, I hated this hairstyle more than anything, including Back Street Boys. (Showing my age here, huh.)

Follow-up:
So did you know there were sequels? With completely different cast and, I’m guessing, mostly unrelated stories. I vow not to check them out though. And there seem to be other high-school-set adaptations of classics, like O – it was apparently a thing in the 90s and I missed it – but I think I need a break.

Recommended for:
People who like experimental adaptations – or just anything set among high school students. Researchers of the history of teen dramas – a few scenes are absolute classics.

Enjoyment:
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Next time: Back to Orphan Black Thor

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Sounds of Music

Songbook: Man of Constant Sorrow

Let’s get serious guys: we will be talking lots of Bob Dylan here. Lots. Here’s one less conventional song for a good start.

“Man of Constant Sorrow” by Bob Dylan

Album: No Direction Home: Bootleg Vol. 7

Year: 1962

Category: Best of Dylan

Why it rocks:
Dylan’s bests are rarely covers but this one he completely makes his own (up to and including serious lyrics changes). It’s such a young Dylan, when he was flaunting the bad boy persona like nobody’s business and it’s fun to see him shifting the focus of this story into a more juvenile place where it’s all about a mysterious heartbreak. Also, I’ve always liked Dylan’s early harmonica (I mean since I taught myself to like it but it was so long ago it’s like in a different lifetime).

Favorite lyrics:
“I’ll say goodbye to Colorado / Where I was born and partly raised.” The “partly” is such a fun Dylan-like little shift. And people say he didn’t deserve the Nobel Prize. Heh. Basically, the best part of this lyrics is all the differences he makes to the classic version.

Favorite moment:
The last verse. But also, points for the long notes.

Best for: Arguments with people who think that version from that movie is better.

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Rotten Tomatoes

Mildly Enthusiastic Review: Dangerous Liaisons

It’s time for a classic adaptation of an even more classic book,

er-dangerousliaisonsDangerous Liaisons 

Category: Movies

Find it on: Amazon

What it is:
An adaptation of an 18th-century epistolary novel by Chorderlos Laclos. It tells a story of the corrupt aristocratic elite and their immoral sexual lives. It focuses on the corruptest of the corrupt: Madame Merteuil and viscount de Valmont, who run the game – until they don’t. The movie was made in 1988 and stars pretty much only stars, including Glenn Close, Michelle Pfeiffer, young Uma Thurman and very young Keanu Reeves – all of them outshined by John Malkovich as Valmont.

How I found it:
Well, it’s one of the classics. You don’t really have to look for those. The first time I saw it, probably in high school, it was on TV. This time I watched it after Cruel Intentions to compare the two movies.

Summary judgment:
It’s one of my favorite adaptations, managing not to ruin the book – which is great – at all.

Best things about it:
It captures the book perfectly, even managing to manoeuver around its epistolarity, which is never a good thing for a movie. The movie looks great, with the costumes and the interiors building the lavish, outlandish world of the 18th-century French aristocracy. The actors, unsurprisingly, deliver amazing performances, managing to be both dramatic and funny, when needed.
Malkovich deserves an entirely separate paragraph in this. When I watched the movie for the first time, he surprised me with his sex appeal, despite his looks. But this time I was more impressed with how sinister he is and how every sentence he says reminds the viewer that Valmont is acting all the time: all his lines are declamations.

Worst things about it:
That is hardly the movie’s fault but it’s very difficult to root for any of the protagonists. This is only an actual problem with Pfeiffer, whose character starts as an irritating prig and ends as an irritating doormat, while she should make us feel sorry for her.

Other pluses:
✤ Glenn Close. Malkovich gets perhaps a more showy part and manages to steal the show sometimes but they play off each other beautifully. The Marquise impersonates hypocrisy and deception but still remains a human being, even with a thin layer of feminism somewhere there. Her failure at the end (spoiler?) does not feel entirely triumphant for the viewer.
✤ Keanu Reeves. He comes as close as the movie has to a likeable character, even if he remains in the background.

Other minuses:
The ending leaves a bit to desire, with the somewhat heavy-handed montage and Valmont’s theatrical death (spoiler?).

How it enriched my life:
This is undoubtedly where great cinema meets viewers’ actual enjoyment and there are way too few such movies.

Fun fact:
Is it possible to watch this story or read the book and not wonder how many characters had syphilis? I’m betting all of them.

Follow-up:
I will probably re-watch it but now I feel I should return to my snaily read of the book in French, which I started a few years ago and then dropped because life.

Recommended for:
People who like period dramas and large décolletages. Fans of the original. Lovers of Rococo. Cynics with ideals still there at the bottom of their hearts.

Enjoyment:
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Next time: Cruel Intentions

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Sounds of Music

Songbook: Cleopatra

I think the Lumineers are a great band, one of my favorites among the current performers, but with this song they outshone themselves. I doubt I will even do it justice.

“Cleopatra” by the Lumineers

Album: Cleopatra

Year: 2016

Category: Recent-years favorites

Why it rocks:
For its incredible, heart-breaking humanism. Apparently, the lead singer listened to a Georgian taxi driver and wrote her story in a song. It’s small-scale and grandiose at the same time, random and feels so true to life, both tragic and commonplace. I love the imprecise rhyming pattern which makes the story feel even truer. I also love how simple and direct the song is despite all this emotional burden.

Favorite lyrics:
“I was Cleopatra, I was taller than the rafters.” I mean, come on.

Favorite moment:
This one: “So I drive a taxi / And the traffic distracts me / From the strangers in my backseat / They remind me of you.” But others are close.

Best for: Getting emotional.

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Sounds of Music

Songbook: King of the World

This song by a Swedish (but-they-could-totally-be-American) band was, appropriately, suggested to me by Spotify a while ago.

“King of the World” by First Aid Kit

Album: The Lion’s Roar

Year: 2012

Category: Recent-years favorite

Why it rocks:
I like the tempo and the upbeat rebelliousness of this song. It’s such a good, light – and yet introspective – thing. It talks cheerfully of inner unrest and that’s always interesting.

Favorite lyrics:
“And once you asked me what was my biggest fear / That things would always remain so unclear / That one day I’d wake up all alone / With a big family and emptiness deep in my bones / That I would be so blinded, turn a deaf ear / And that my fake laugh would suddenly sound sincere.”

Favorite moment:
I love the bit with the waitress: so simple and so human at the same time and you can’t help but see the whole scene.

Best for: Swaying happily and feeling like you want to go on a roadtrip. Or maybe for having an existential crisis.

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Sounds of Music

Songbook: River Waltz

I’m a sucker for triple meter, as you will have many occasions to see, I’m sure. This little pearl I found, like so many songs I like, in a movie.

“River Waltz” by Cowboy Junkies

Album: Rarities, B-Sides and Slow, Sad Waltzes

Year: 1999

Category: Recent-years favorite

Why it rocks:
It’s such an atmospheric, simple song with many things floating there, never fully realized: a bit of ecological thought, a bit of white-trashy romance, quite a bit of myth. It’s a song (and a voice) to get lost in.

Favorite lyrics:
I prefer the melody to the lyrics in this song but take the opening, for instance: “I’m going to find me a dying river / And strike a deal with her, I’ll say: / I’ll fold you in two and I’ll carry you away.”

Favorite moment:
The third verse in which the story and the melody change and it’s suddenly an imperfect love story more than a myth. Such a beautiful moment.

Best for: Imagining yourself waltzing at a very sad ball.

Side note: Cowboy Junkies is such a good band name.

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