December 6th, 2021

Tick Tick Boom: I have admitted as recently as last week in talking about Get Back with the Beatles that I am fascinated with the creative process. This is a movie brought forward by Lin-Manuel Miranda (of Hamilton fame) which tells the story of Jonathan Larson. Larson is played by Andrew Garfield. This movie is another reason to dislike Garfield, and I say that in jest of course. Amazingly Garfield admitted on Late Night television that he didn’t sing. Garfield shows that not only can he act, but he can sing and play the piano so it seems. Jonathan Larson is a young aspiring NY playwright and musical creator who was still looking for his big break. He struggled to make ends meet, living with various friends and other creative people. In his life he had always felt that he was in a race against time. As he was about to turn 30yo, he spoke about how he felt like a failure. He wrote a song about it, in fact. Writing music for musicals is different than songs in a band. The songs are telling the story, and moving the plot along. But it also needs to have an emotional punch, and be something that (in a perfect world) your audience wants to hum on the way home or listen by buying the soundtrack. Many musicals are like this. The story has Garfield telling his own one man story through song, which was a Broadway play in its own right (Tick Tick Boom) but told the story of his earlier musical that never really got off the ground. In the performances you can see a who’s who of Broadway (like Bernadette Peters, Judith Light, Lin-Manuel himself and many others). They are very good. All the while he is dealing in the story with his relationship. He and his girlfriend who cared deeply for each other were at odds because she wanted to move on. Start a new a career. But his life was living in NYC and Broadway. So there is an emotional underpinning to the story which is effective. If you know the history of Broadway, the Tonys and musicals then know that he went on to write Rent. So this I can encourage people to watch. Watch because you can see the absolute talent of Andrew Garfield. Watch because you can see a quality cast doing what Jonathan Larson was born to do, through and through. Watch because you can set aside some time and feel good about a story well told. I enjoyed this.

Belfast: This movie won the People’ Choice Award this year at TIFF. Usually that means that the Academy will come calling. Often this can mean a Best Picture award. But we will see. For me having been to Belfast back in 2019 and sitting through a guided tour through the locations where many stories of The Troubles are told, it brought back thoughts of how it would be to live during troubled times. Kenneth Branaugh directs and wrote the story. It is more or less autobiographical, as he was 9 years old in 1969 when the story is set. There are quality performances by Judi Dench, Jamie Dornan, Caitriona Balfe, Ciaran Hinds and a young boy, Jude Hill who is excellent. It is a story of a poor Protestant family living in Belfast where there is a move afoot to rid the neighborhood of the Catholics. This isn’t ancient history. The young boy at one point is playing with Hot Wheels kept in the plastic box with trays to keep the various cars. He is innocent. He likes a girl in his class. All the while Dad works near London and spends a lot of time away from home. He has grandparents that he is close to. The young and innocent ask direct questions. They want to understand. Events are happening around them that seem so foreign. Adults are angry and confused. I have never lived through strife. I have never lived in a war zone, and make no mistake that living in a barricaded block with a burned out car and cement slabs and armed soldiers nearby is a war zone. As an outsider, I didn’t and don’t understand. They speak the same language. They share in struggles, and have common history. And yet there is that religious chasm between the peoples, and ongoing discrimination that ensures that the issues continue. As a writer, you write what you know. That very line was delivered to a young Jonathan Larson by his agent. Branaugh has brought forward a poignant story that shows a place in time which even today, while there has been peace in recent years, still has some underlying tension. I wish that I had spent more time in Belfast. It doesn’t have the vibrancy and energy of Dublin, which is just a short drive away. This story personalizes it, in the eyes of a young boy with his parents trying to make difficult decisions on how to best serve the interests of the young boys. The Irish may be born for leaving, but is it best to have your population split and forced to make these decisions so very young. I am thankful that I have never had to endure any of these situations. I haven’t had to fear my life walking down the street. I have been safe with people who generally respect one another and allows for everyday tasks to take place. We’ll see about Academy Awards for this movie, but I won’t be surprised if there are more than a few levied here. I think Hinds as the Grandpa was excellent, and the work from the little boy. Another film worth checking out.

Get Back: I finished the first of the three episodes in this series by Peter Jackson. At the end, very casually George decides that it was time for him to leave the band. He casually walks off. The other three after lunch return to the studio and try and put in some work, but they didn’t manage much. Again in the creative process, you can hear Paul “putting in some piano work” while the others talk through an inane idea about where to hold the future concert. Remarkably, everyone seems quite alright with talking about the daily events, without pausing and listening to the piano and singing of “Let It Be” and later “The Long and Winding Road”. Paul doesn’t have all the words yet, but the structure is there. It is interesting too to see Paul and Ringo work away while the others roam in much later and try to catch up. However much we have read that it was Lennon and McCartney, you see that for these songs anyway, the documentary seems to show that it was more McCartney. You also see the real affection that these guys had for one another. Yes they had rows, and George was frustrated by being the third wheel with two musical geniuses, but they had one another. They were pretty tight for many many years. This is a really cool glimpse into some of that life, in pictures that aren’t grainy but rather vivid and you can see just how young that they are. It is fun to watch.

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