Stardust: Is a new film that refers to Ziggy Stardust and not to be confused with the fantasy Claire Danes and Robert De Niro project from a few years back, which was surprisingly good. Sadly, this movie isn’t nearly as enjoyable. I suppose that it was inevitable with the success at the box office for Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody that more similar stories would come out. You can hear the other bands thinking this is another way to cash in on their fame. First there was Elton John’s Rocketman, which was “M’eh” for me, and now this. Add in the odd Moley Crue film The Dirt on Netflix which was more sorbid and comedic. Of course there are others like Johnny Cash (Walk the Line) and Ray Charles’ Ray and many others. But anyway, I had thought when I heard that a David Bowie film was being considered that it should show Bowie in his full out glory, and strangeness. For me, Bohemian Rhapsody was a PG version of the Freddie Mercury story; the band’s take on cleaning up a sex and drugs and rock n roll image. This genre of film engages me when I see the creative process at work, and the inspiration for the songs. It’s a fascinating process of creating something so memorable and iconic with these songs. The setting for Stardust is the early 1970s and David Bowie has just had his first smash hit with Space Oddity in 1969. Two years later he is looking to conquer America. Unfortunately he has an unreliable manager and not much support from his label. He embarks upon the journey with little planning in a disorganized fashion. He arrives at the airport with a case of strange outfits and his guitar and no immigration working Visa. The reserved and quiet Bowie from what we see, played with uncertainty by Johnny Flynn shows him to have lackluster enthusiasm as it unfolds and a great deal of uncertainty about himself. He is picked up at the airport by a guy in a woodie station wagon as they search for things that he can do. There is no hints about the creative process. There are no suggestions of what the genesis for hits of Changes or Oh You Pretty Things are from the next album Hunky Dory after The Man Who Sold The World. Jena Malone plays an angry Angie who is looking to push David into the spotlight. To her credit, she sees his genius and pushes him with the glam rock look that shapes him going forward. There is a theme throughout with Bowie’s half brother which didn’t hit the mark for me. For a man who personified a number of his characters in his songs, like Ziggy Stardust or The Thin White Duke, in mind this was him entertaining audiences visually while singing to them. His was a performance not just of music with a man with a band on a stage. The movie suggests otherwise. I saw Bowie in the 80s in the Serious Moonlight tour in his bright yellow hair and suit.
The movie and the acting portraying him just don’t provide enough respect for the man and who he would become. His antics away from the stage are only hinted at briefly. I recognize that in 1971 he isn’t yet the icon that he became, but I guess the journey seems a little disjointed. In the end I cannot recommend this because it was slow and boring. For a life of a man who really did live the sex and drugs and rock n roll lifestyle, he isn’t shown for his musical talent nor his outrageousness. He deserves a much better film about his life. Adding in a picture from Miami of this incredible talent.
Tina: From one iconic musical giant to the next we move to the HBO Documentary on Tina Turner. Turner who is now in her early 80s is shown from the early days of boundless energy with the Ike & Tina show to her blossoming out on her own, finding her own unique style. The impact of a musical documentary may be summed up in whether as a viewer the film encourages you to download songs that you had forgotten about, or were re-introduced to from watching. I can admit to downloading a couple of early Tina Turner songs from this viewing (River Deep, Mountain High, The Best and Proud Mary). The film addresses Tina, warts and all in her mind, where she still feels a great deal of shame about her staying in the abusive relationship with Ike. Angela Bassett is shown because she portrayed Tina in the 1993 movie What’s Love Got to Do With It. Tina wanted to put that all behind her as past and stop being asked about it. It was a wound that could never heal. Incidentally I liked the insight that she didn’t even like that song at first, because she felt it was “too poppy”. She viewed herself as a rock n roll star. One of the first women of rock. She was from a poor family and met Ike Turner attending a concert, and she pursued him to show that she could sing. She was right and he saw it. The path that she took has been well documented, also within her own successful book I, Tina which addressed it. I enjoyed this, and it was good to see this woman who could dance in high heels as well as anyone. She shaped many lives. She is resilient. She is a true performer, meant to be on stage. In the end you can see why she has done what she did. You can see her motivation for going through this one more time, reliving her past. Thanks Tina for sharing your passions and talents with us.
News of the World: Slow, plodding western story of a man (Tom Hanks) who goes from town to town and reads news clippings and tells stories to the locals. Along the way he comes across a young girl in need of some assistance, which isn’t forthcoming from anyone. She is a bit of a wild child. This movie reminds me of many other Clint Eastwood films where the lone rider with no name enters a town and then has to deal with problems that weren’t initially his own. In this case, the problems aren’t nearly as engaging nor exciting. There were some pretty outdoor scenes. I gather that Tom Hanks felt the need to do a western, smell like horses and have some time outdoors. He has the power and clout to do so. This was one of the earlier films to be impacted by Covid and the theatre shut downs. I can’t say I feel as though much was lost in the translation. A slow moving film on the big screen is just as slow moving on the little. Maybe moreso, since you can’t really get up ans walk around, and grab some snacks to occupy your mind in the theatre as much (well without disturbing others anyway). Although there would unlikely be many to disturb in the theatre for this one anyway. Pass.
Finally, Bill Maher had this to say about the Oscars last night and I couldn’t agree more. He wants to rename them “The Debbies” as in Debbie Downer. All the Best Picture films, are rightfully pointed out to be slow and down. No feel good stories there. I still have one to go, but this was what made me laugh more than ANY of these nominated films.