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Cameron H.

Musical Mondays-Week 5-Across the Universe

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"Is there anybody going to listen to my story..?" Well, sure, but if Rotten Tomatoes is to be believed, about half of us would really prefer not to...

 

We watched:

 

acrosstheuniverse-6.jpg

 

Now to figure out if "All You Need is Love" or if a coherent plot and compelling characters might be required too...

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excited.gif

 

Honestly, when I picked this movie, I did so knowing that it would be divisive, and that some people would hate it. Even watching it again last week, I (like tomspanks did a few weeks ago with Tommy) was surprised that it wasn't as good as I remember, but I still stick to my nostalgia factor from when I first saw it, years ago. Even so, I was surprised with how much everyone seemed to hate it - but hopefully this will engender some good discussion rather than simply dismissing it and saying it sucks. I really, really thought that we'd have a 50/50 split on like/hate, but it seems more like 20/80. That's cool!

 

If nothing else, Taylor Anne and I can circle the wagons and defend this film (and the casting of Jim Sturgess).

 

I'll try not to dominate conversation (yeah right). Have at it!

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I'm wondering if the people who like/love the movie shouldn't go first. I want to be respectful of CakeBug and his pick and don't want this to just become a flood of negativity.

 

CakeBug and Taylor Anne, what is it about this movie that resonates with you? What aren't we getting? Win us over!

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Oof! Okay... I'll say something positive.

 

I really liked the "I Want You"/ Max gets drafted sequence. It was, in my mind, one of the stand out moments --at least visually.

 

 

I do, however, think it wore out its welcome quickly and I wish that scene was a little shorter

 

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Ahh! Sorry, was out all morning and just got back. Not to leave you hanging...

 

Okay. So, I'll preface this by saying that I am an adaptation fiend. The first university course I ever taught was adaptation theory, and so much of what I've done in my academic work has been working on modes and means of adaptation. I published my first book last year on adaptation structure and theory (hey, shameless plug! https://www.amazon.ca/Adapting-War-Horse-Cognition-Spectator/dp/1137594748) so for me, the process of adaptation is always very interesting to me.

 

When i came across AtU, I didn't know the Beatles all that well (yeah, shut up). I mean, I knew the big hits and some of the more pervasive things, but I had no real relationship with the group or their music. The music I knew was good, but I didn't really appreciate its brilliance. So, when I saw 'AtU', a few tracks ('Mr Kite', 'Girl', 'Across the Universe') were fairly newish to me. I remember years ago my old buddy Tim Minchin did a comedy song called 'Inflatable You', which he includes the lines 'Don't Let Me Down' at the end, and when I saw 'AtU', I was surprised when I heard Sadie sing 'Don't Let Me Down' that Tim was parodying the Beatles. That's how shitty my Beatles knowledge was.

 

For me, the achievement of this glorious mess is that they have tried really hard to adapt this work into a cohesive whole, which includes the reorchestration of nearly every track. There's not many songs in here which are as-is (and why should they be, given that we're essentially seeing a Liverpool where the Beatles never existed), so the adaptation was something I really dug. I know there's already been comment on 'I Wanna Hold Your Hand' as 'dirge' but I appreciated the flip. What this film was not, was Mamma Mia, and I think it's all the better for it.

 

The visuals are beautiful if sometimes heavy handed. The love story is spotty but the 'All You Need Is Love' moment always gets a tear from me. I love the friendship between Max and Jude. The psychedelic sequences later on with Bonobos and Izzard are less interesting to me, but I like how they skirt the history of the Beatles career, and that's part of the track. In fact, I really do like how the film starts in the Cavern Club and ends with a live show on a rooftop, just like the band's career.

 

I love Joe Cocker's 'Come Together'. I will fight you.

 

I also love 'Let It Be'. Anyone not? Come on.

 

The film is heavy-handed in many ways (Sadie as Joplin, JoJo as Hendrix, Prudence's closet scene), which is why I don't love it. But I do like it a lot.

 

Bottom line: this film made me want to listen to the Beatles. And now I know the Beatles much better, appreciate their songwriting, and their place in our culture. There's a joy in much of this film that helps me forgive the shit that gets old fast. And if you check your cynicism about the names (Lucy, Jude, Maxwell with his Silver Hammer), I find a lot to love here.

 

Also: Julie Taymor is INSANE.

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Also, speaking of Julie Taymor (inSANE), I urge you all, if you haven't already, to get Glen Berger's INCREDIBLE book 'Song of Spider-Man', which chronicles his dysfunctional years writing the Spider-Man musical with Taymor (inSANE). It's a must for anyone who loves musicals, theatre, or things that are crap.

 

https://www.amazon.ca/Song-Spider-Man-Controversial-Musical-Broadway/dp/1451684568

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If nothing else, Taylor Anne and I can circle the wagons and defend this film (and the casting of Jim Sturgess).

I have a lot to say about this movie, but today is a busy day at work, so I'm just going to say...

 

Jim Sturgess was only cast because he looks like Bobo Paul McCartney, right?

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I have a lot to say about this movie, but today is a busy day at work, so I'm just going to say...

 

Jim Sturgess was only cast because he looks like Bobo Paul McCartney, right?

Probably. But he was briefly the 'it' guy around that time - he also did the awful 'The Other Boleyn Girl' (good lord, now THERE is a shitty adaptation) and that Las Vegas card cheating movie with Kevin Spacey ('21', Ive just remembered), as was Evan Rachel Wood. I think for a little bit they were trying to make the both of them a thing but I'm not sure it took.

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It's interesting to me that you enjoy this movie from an adaptation perspective, because that's where, musically, it fails for me. I don't mind what are essentially a bunch of covers, but they never really felt cohesive. They would shoehorn moments simply because they mentioned in a song, or include lyrics with little regard as to why those words are there in the first place. For one example, in "Come Together" the lyrics are "he bag production/ he got Ono sideboard." Obviously, these are very Lennon specific references ("Bag Production" is in reference to one of his peace protests where he and Ono did an interview in a bag), but they mean absolutely nothing in context of "JoJo." Yet the movie insists on using these lines. It ends up just being gibberish and does nothing to forward the plot or tell me who this character is.

 

Also, from an adaptation perspective, for someone doing a Beatles jukebox musical, she seems to have done very little in terms of Beatles research.

 

They do things like recite "I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together" like it's some kind of spiritual mantra, but "I Am the Walrus" was written specifically to be the antithesis of this kind of thinking. You see, Lennon was annoyed that colleges were starting to teach classes on Beatles lyrics and trying to decipher their "meaning." So one day, as he was sitting in his garden tripping on acid, he heard a police siren go by and wrote a bit of doggerel around the tone he was hearing ("DUH-na, DUH-na"). Afterward, he was quoted as saying something along the lines of "Let's see the fuckers figure that one out." He wrote the song specifically to mock the type of academics that would interpret his lyrics as some kind of hippie gospel, or precisely what the characters in this movie do.

 

Then there are simpler moments like "I've Just Seen a Face." Of all the songs in the movie, I actually think I like this one the most, but in terms of "plot" it makes no sense to me where it falls. "I've Just Seen a Face" is an upbeat song about the joy of love at first sight, so it would make sense for Jude to sing it when he sees Lucy for the first time. Instead the movie has them be introduced (where he shows no sign of interest), have dinner at Lucy and Max's house (where he shows little or no interest), they have a conversation outside (where they have a nice-ish conversation), and then they go bowling--Yay! It's love at 19th sight!

 

I think what happened here is Taymor wanted to do a movie about "the sixties" and decided that The Beatles epitomized that decade. However, by limiting her music selection to just the one band, it forced the movie to move in odd directions. She should have music from all over the decade and it would have given her a broader pallet to work with.

 

Ultimately, I think AtU could needed a more economic storyline. It jumps from person to person and place to place with little rhyme or reason. By omitting some characters or combining them, I think it would have helped the movie as a whole. As it stands, the movie is trying to do too much with too little.

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Excellent points, all. I doubt the content of lyrics were particularly important in the adaptive process here - it was more about using the tone of the songs to illustrate a moment (hence the very good 'I've Just Seen a Face' moment being more to do with the fact that he's 'Falling' and less to do with 'I've just seen' in this context). The recontextualisation of 'Walrus' lyrics bothers me less, to be honest, because the original context aside, the religious mantra side of it is relevant in the fact that even though Lennon didn't want people to gain insight into his lyrics that he didn't write there, it's inevitable that we will. As a race, we're excellent at ferreting out meaning, most often meaning that wasn't intentionally placed there. (I mean, shit, 'Helter Skelter' is in this movie twice and that's a track that - er - has been misinterpreted)

 

I think if you look at the songs from a title perspective ONLY (i.e not lyrics), then you can see how they fit together on the running sheet as they put the film together. They are shoehorned in to help them move from moment to moment. Once you introduce the content of the lyrics, though, that's where the trouble starts, I agree. The other option here would have been to change the lyrics to the moment, but I doubt the Ghost of Michael Jackson would have let them do that. So, they try to work with the songs on the strength of their timelessness, and hope that we'll enjoy these familiar songs strung together by its plot.

 

Here's a big question then: I think arguably the Beatles are the only band that could be effectively adapted in this way - big enough, enough of a span, enough material - and the idea of a Beatles jukebox musical isn't a new one. So how might it have been more successful? What could have been added that would have helped?

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YO WHAT IS THIS? I've been gone so long, when did we start talking musicals!??!?!?!

 

I own both this DVD and the 2-disc soundtrack.

 

source.gif

 

I have opinions. I have feelings. I will likely make multiple double posts in this thread. #sorrynotsorry

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General Question: Are Sadie, Prudence and JoJo in a triad at the end of the movie? Because polyamory generally checks out in this world.

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What could have been added that would have helped?

 

Good God! Don't "add" anything. Simplify. It felt like the movie would spin out of control whenever they tried to work a new song in. I think what this movie lacked was a strong central narrative. Why not get rid of Max and have Jude be the one to go to Vietnam? Why does he have to have a girlfriend he leaves behind in Liverpool? Why does Sadie have to be here (Oh, right, because Janis Joplin...) and why should I care?

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YO WHAT IS THIS? I've been gone so long, when did we start talking musicals!??!?!?!

 

I own both this DVD and the 2-disc soundtrack.

 

source.gif

 

I have opinions. I have feelings. I will likely make multiple double posts in this thread. #sorrynotsorry

We started doing Musical Mondays right at the end of last year. Basically, we have a rotation where someone picks a movie during an ep week and we all watch it, and then we talk about it during the mini week. We realized a bunch of us really love musicals, so it's something fun for us to talk about while we wait on new episodes.

 

If you want to join the rotation and pick one soon, Cameron can add you in!

 

(And feel free to post as much as you like about the movie. That's why we do it!)

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Okay. Just as an exercise: here's every track and its function moving the plot along, ignoring lyrics.

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Why not get rid of Max and have Jude be the one to go to Vietnam? Why does he have to have a girlfriend he leaves behind in Liverpool? Why does Sadie have to be here (Oh, right, because Janis Joplin...) and why should I care?

 

1. Was England involved in Vietnam? Excuse my historical ignorance. Also what American at that time was named Jude?

2. Needed a girlfriend to mirror ERW

3. She needs to be there because who else would have asked why we didn't do in the road? I wouldn't have thought to ask it.

 

Why should you care? That I can't answer though...

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YO WHAT IS THIS? I've been gone so long, when did we start talking musicals!??!?!?!

 

I own both this DVD and the 2-disc soundtrack.

 

source.gif

 

I have opinions. I have feelings. I will likely make multiple double posts in this thread. #sorrynotsorry

 

I love that part where Eddie bumps into that one Blue Meanie.

 

And also, WELCOME to the MM thread Ellen. We haven't met yet, but we're fellow Canadians and I post a lot these days. Glad that I might have another AtU defender...

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Good God! Don't "add" anything. Simplify. It felt like the movie would spin out of control whenever they tried to work a new song in. I think what this movie lacked was a strong central narrative. Why not get rid of Max and have Jude be the one to go to Vietnam? Why does he have to have a girlfriend he leaves behind in Liverpool? Why does Sadie have to be here (Oh, right, because Janis Joplin...) and why should I care?

 

Okay, 'add' was the wrong term. More, what could we have done differently? Jude couldn't be drafted into the US Army, hence the need for Max - I think Max was reverse engineered into this when they realised they needed a character to go to Vietnam. He needs to leave the girl in Liverpool so he can sing 'All My Loving' and to parallel Lucy's boyfriend. Sadie's another reverse engineering that was invented the minute the writers said 'oh and then they rent an apartment in the east village'.

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1. Was England involved in Vietnam? Excuse my historical ignorance. Also what American at that time was named Jude?

2. Needed a girlfriend to mirror ERW

3. She needs to be there because who else would have asked why we didn't do in the road? I wouldn't have thought to ask it.

 

Why should you care? That I can't answer though...

1. Nope, England were out of Vietnam. And Jude in this movie is a Brit, so that checks out. Maybe.

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I love that part where Eddie bumps into that one Blue Meanie.

 

And also, WELCOME to the MM thread Ellen. We haven't met yet, but we're fellow Canadians and I post a lot these days. Glad that I might have another AtU defender...

I will say the one point where this movie lost me (the first time) was in the tent when Prudence was roller skating.

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Okay, 'add' was the wrong term. More, what could we have done differently? Jude couldn't be drafted into the US Army, hence the need for Max - I think Max was reverse engineered into this when they realised they needed a character to go to Vietnam. He needs to leave the girl in Liverpool so he can sing 'All My Loving' and to parallel Lucy's boyfriend. Sadie's another reverse engineering that was invented the minute the writers said 'oh and then they rent an apartment in the east village'.

 

"Reverse engineered" is exactly right. Things happen simply so they can make sense, but every time they try to "make sense" it gets away from them. I get where you and Ellenmc are coming from, but this isn't a documentary or a biopic. These are fictitious characters that only are as their writer says they are. There's no law that saw that Jude HAS to be from England.

 

"Oh, wait. It's based on the Beatles' music so I guess someone has to be from Liverpool. So we'll just create another character and he'll go to Vietnam."

 

"Hey, the Beatles have a song called "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window" someone should do that inexplicably in the movie and then we can say that...."

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And then of course there's the very curious process of hunting for Beatles Easter Eggs in a created world in which the Beatles clearly don't exist at all. No one in this world looks at the rooftop concert and says 'oh, hey, just like in 'Let It Be''! No one sees Maxwell with a silver hammer and says 'hey, like the song'. The Beatles are just gone (also in this world there is zero music that doesn't feature the Beatles, so there is no popular music at all?)

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Okay, 'add' was the wrong term. More, what could we have done differently? Jude couldn't be drafted into the US Army, hence the need for Max - I think Max was reverse engineered into this when they realised they needed a character to go to Vietnam. He needs to leave the girl in Liverpool so he can sing 'All My Loving' and to parallel Lucy's boyfriend. Sadie's another reverse engineering that was invented the minute the writers said 'oh and then they rent an apartment in the east village'.

 

The apartment is in WEST Village, not East Village (this ain't Rent, yo). IIRC, they live near and perform at "Cafe Huh?", which is a little joke referring to Cafe Wha? in the West Village.

 

Speaking of the apartment, the timeline makes little sense. Max and Jude are having Thanksgiving dinner, but after an argument between Max and his father, they go...bowling. On Thanksgiving. And it's crowded! THEN, after bowling, Max and Jude decide to go to NYC an get an apartment. They drive all night and see the ad for Sadie's apartment in Rat Magazine - presumably in the morning on the day after Thanksgiving?

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"Reverse engineered" is exactly right. Things happen simply so they can make sense, but every time they try to "make sense" it gets away from them. I get where you and Ellenmc are coming from, but this isn't a documentary or a biopic. These are fictitious characters that only are as their writer says they are. There's no law that saw that Jude HAS to be from England.

 

I disagree. Jude had to be from England so that he could make "British people have bad teeth" jokes with Lucy.

 

"Hey, the Beatles have a song called "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window" someone should do that inexplicably in the movie and then we can say that...."

 

I hated that.

 

Also, from an adaptation perspective, for someone doing a Beatles jukebox musical, she seems to have done very little in terms of Beatles research.

 

They do things like recite "I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together" like it's some kind of spiritual mantra, but "I Am the Walrus" was written specifically to be the antithesis of this kind of thinking. You see, Lennon was annoyed that colleges were starting to teach classes on Beatles lyrics and trying to decipher their "meaning." So one day, as he was sitting in his garden tripping on acid, he heard a police siren go by and wrote a bit of doggerel around the tone he was hearing ("DUH-na, DUH-na"). Afterward, he was quoted as saying something along the lines of "Let's see the fuckers figure that one out." He wrote the song specifically to mock the type of academics that would interpret his lyrics as some kind of hippie gospel, or precisely what the characters in this movie do.

 

I could not agree with you more on this. Another example is Strawberry Fields Forever. LITERAL strawberry fruit is used for this scene. Jude is LITERALLY hanging/pinning strawberries to the canvas as he sings the line "nothing to get hung about." HULK SMASH!

 

In addition, what record company commissions an illegal immigrant to come up with their logo?

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In addition, what record company commissions an illegal immigrant to come up with their logo?

 

Strawberry Jamz duh

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