TOP 7 Singing Performances by an Actor/Actress

We start the Top 7. You finish the Top 10.

With Country Strong, Gwyneth Paltrow’s first true singing test, expanding to theaters nationwide this Friday, we at The Scorecard Review thought it appropriate to have this week’s TOP 7 center around those brave and talented thespians whom have actually sung, have actually used their own voices, in a major motion picture. In a time ruled by technology, where professional singers could have easily been hired, rendering these thespians Ashlee Simpsonian, those on this list instead opted to “do it for real,” and in the end, successfully proved to the world that they were genuinely talented singers themselves.

For this TOP 7, I’m only picking my one favorite from a film, no double dipping. So John C. Reilly, Richard Gere and Catherine Zeta-Jones — you’re out!

I’ve also limited this list to 21st century performances, and only to actors-turned-singers, not singers-turned actors. So if you can’t believe I’ve left someone off this list, please reread the previous sentence to make sure it’s you, not me.

7. AMY ADAMS in Enchanted (2007)

Recap: In Disney’s Enchanted, Amy Adams plays Giselle, a princess sent to our world by an evil queen. Her Disney-princess optimism is surely tested through the many trials of this transition, but Giselle keeps her chin up, and belts out some really happy songs in the process.
Reason: If I’m entirely honest, I’ve not seen all of this film, but I’ve seen enough, and heard enough to know that Amy Adams deserves a spot on this list. “Happy Working Song” and “That’s How You Know,” two of the film’s songs in which Adams performed lead vocals, were nominated for the Oscar for “best original song.” Adams’ vocal performance in Enchanted sounds exactly like a singing Disney princess’ should.

6. JONATHAN RHYS MEYERS in August Rush (2007)

Recap: Jonathan Rhys Meyers plays rocker Louis Connelly, and hams it up, crooning some pretty good songs, but ultimately, his entire performance is overshadowed by the film’s beautiful crescendo: the Oscar-nominated “Raise It Up.”
Reason: JRM’s singing performance in August Rush was good, his voice is pure, and I enjoyed the sound of it. I thought his “rockstar” acting was a little bit overblown (JRM’s standard smolder reminds me of Flynn Rider’s in Tangled, and that’s not meant as a compliment) but when I close my eyes and just listen to him singing, yeah, it’s good stuff. I thought his vocal performance in Velvet Goldmine was even better, but alas that film is from the 20th century, so no dice.

5. RENEE ZELLWEGER in Chicago (2002)

Recap: In Chicago’s roaring 20′s, Renee Zellweger’s Roxie Hart is put on death row for murdering her boyfriend. She sings to keep the gallows at bay.
Reason: Up to this point, Renee Zellweger’s career had been centered on light dramas and silly comedies, and I doubt I’m speaking out of turn much when I assume that her performance in Chicago pleasantly surprised a great number of people. Her role was a vocally demanding one, and she performed it well enough to be nominated for “Best Actress in a Leading Role” that year at the Oscars.

4. JOHNNY DEPP in Sweeney Todd (2007)

Recap: Johnny Depp lends his vocal talents to demon-barber Sweeney Todd, in Tim Burton’s take on the 19th century character.
Reason: Depp’s always been great with his voice, and it’s common knowledge that when he was a youngster he wanted to be a rocker rather than an actor, so this role ended up fitting him perfectly. His vocal delivery is cryptic and sinister, with snarling, guttural raspy tones — perfect for the character — and through it all he still manages to hit all the right notes. I didn’t care too much for the violence in this film, or the story, or much about it at all really — but I did enjoy Depp’s singing performance a great deal. It was enjoyable to listen to. When Depp was originally asked by Tim Burton if he thought he could sing for Sweeney Todd, Depp answered sincerely, “I don’t know. I’ll try.” In the end, It’s a good thing he did, because he performed excellently.

3. JOAQUIN PHOENIX in Walk the Line (2005)

Recap: Joaquin Phoenix portrays Johnny Cash in this excellent biopic.
Reason: Phoenix absolutely killed it here, successfully tackling the daunting task of imitating the Man In Black’s wonderful voice and persona. Prior to filming, Phoenix had vocal training for about six months with the legendary music producer T-Bone Burnett. When Phoenix was learning how to sing and play guitar like Johnny Cash in the months preceding filming, his voice was too high and the band had to learn how to play Cash’s songs in a higher key. But then just before filming commenced, Joaquin’s voice dropped closer to Johnny’s level and the band had to re-learn the songs in their original key. Phoenix’s performance in Walk the Line was truly an amazing feat — imitating the uniquely beautiful singing voice of Mr. Johnny Cash is no small order.

2. JEFF BRIDGES in Crazy Heart (2009)

Recap: Jeff Bridges plays Bad Blake, a faded country musician reevaluating his dysfunctional life.

Reason: Bridges did all of his own singing in Crazy Heart, and he sang beautifully. Delivering well-crafted songs written by the aforementioned T-Bone Burnett in an entirely heartfelt manner, Bridges portrayal of the beat-down Bad Blake is very inspiring, and sad, based on the subject matter, but somehow it’s all uplifting at the same time. T-Bone Burnett was the musical archivist for The Big Lebowski (1998), and Bridges and Burnett are known to play music together, as they’re buddies.  Check ‘em out here.

1. EWAN McGREGOR in Moulin Rouge! (2001)

Recap: In Baz Luhrmann’s brilliant bohemian extravaganza, Ewan McGregor provides the voice of the film’s protagonist Christian.
Reason: Moulin Rouge might be my favorite film of all time — it’s definitely my favorite musical — so please pardon the heavy bias applied here. I do sincerely believe that the singing performance of Ewan McGregor in Moulin Rouge is the single best singing performance that 21st century Hollywood has produced to date. When he sings, he sings with unbridled passion, and his notes are hit purely and are accompanied with such immense force and pure loving energy. This is all entirely in cohesion with the general tone of the film; Ewan delivered a pitch perfect performance. It didn’t hurt that the songs were brilliant mash-ups of many 20th century classics, but had McGregor not sung so beautifully, the film’s songs could have easily fallen flat.

There’s the Top 7, now what should be in the Top 10?

38 Comments

  1. francis says:

    I’m with you on Jonathan Rhys Meyers. Didn’t see his performance as rock star or overblown at all but tender and sweet. His voice was truly authentic and soulful. It didn’t sound Hollywood in the least — and that’s a good thing.

  2. I agree with you Francis, his performance was great, I just think he’s sometimes guilty of holding the “model smolder” for a few frames too many. He sometimes comes across as self-aware, like he’s not really lost in the character, but is tied up thinking about how the camera is capturing his lovely visage. All that aside though, JRM rocks! Loved him in the Elvis biopic, and basically all he’s ever done.

  3. Jolly says:

    I Totaly agree with you on Moulin Rouge, without Ewan I don’t think the movie would ever succeeded.. the way he sings & acts is brilliant .. he is so talented
    & look at nicole kidman in this movie & in NINE with many superstars, she didn’t have the same success or even half of it.. so it’s obvious that Ewan is the man…
    He deserved an academy award for this role..

  4. janitt dott says:

    k. jonathan first. A second generation musician from an insanely musical irish clan he hasn’t found HIS voice yet…he will. Already awesome at nineteen in four faux glam anthems in velvet goldmine that he attacked with snarling puppy enthusiasm, by August Rush, TWO of jonny’s four hard rockin hits produced by legendary phil ramone made the top 59 cut for BEST SONG at the oscars. He SHOULD have been a contender. That Raise it Up knocked the film’s LEAD out of his oscar run had (face it!) less to do with it being a fairly standard rousing gospel number than it’s adorable gurl soloist in a year with a black guy running for president. As for the smolder…jonny can’t HELP being fatally glamorous and since WHEN for an actor was that…a bad thing?

  5. janitt dott says:

    Now Depp…you kinda break your rule here cause johnny WAS a musician before he was an actor. His band, The Kids, opened for Iggy Pop. Still…NO one had ANY Idea including either Burton or Depp himself that he was capable of carrying STEPHEN SONDHEIM’S Sweeney Todd, widely considered the most formidable musical ever written. But when he
    stepped forward and snarled “There’s no place like london…” I gasped…literally. OMG I thought, he can DO this!! And DO it he did. I’d say Johnny Depp in Sweeney Todd exceeds anything I have EVER seen a non musical theatre actor do with…a musical. And WHY he did NOT get an oscar for it is beyond me…

  6. janitt dott says:

    Rene in chicago…check I walked past the TV when she was singing that number just lately and my jaw dropped…again. That whole film, as you note here, is astonishing, Joaquin check…Jeff check…Amy check…
    But…Ewan in Moulin Rouge as number one??? Oh, my dear, you bias is not just showing
    it’s dragging on the ground! Had you said Ewan in goldmine and put him back in the pack with jonny I could have given you a pass…but compared to ALL these other films, the music in MR is an unfocused mash of lightweight pop songs not NEARLY big enough for the HIGH concept of that overblown film and I found ALL the singers embarrassing weak with the soul exception of the Roxanne number which only made me angry that the REST of it was so below that high threshold. Sorry…now you hate me.

  7. Hi Janitt, thanks for your input, and no, I don’t hate you. :)

    We can certainly agree to disagree on how entirely awesome ‘Moulin Rouge’ is, that’s cool, I don’t have a problem with that at all. I adore that film, through and through, and perhaps my bias is dragging me on the ground (great line), but nonetheless I’ll stand by my decision. I can’t think of another singing performance that moved me as much as Ewan’s did in ‘Moulin.’ I totally disagree about basically everything you wrote about the film, but that’s fine — the more artistic the enterprise the more open to subjectivity the enterprise becomes, right?

    Ewan was awesome in ‘Velvet Goldmine’ too, I agree. The scene when he strips down on stage always cracks me up. Such a great actor. Curt Wild and Christian couldn’t be more different, huh? Good segue here into your comments on JRM. I loved his performance in both ‘Velvet’ and ‘August Rush.’ I don’t really have too big of a problem with his “fatally glamorous” pout, or his self-awareness as an actor, I just find it obvious that he could be categorized as a model first, and an actor second. He rocks though. You’ll recall ‘Velvet’ didn’t make the list because it came out in the 20th century, and this list here was for 21st century performances.

    As far as Depp is concerned, I’m aware of his musical history, but he wasn’t a professional musician turned actor, he was an amateur. Sweet accolade for sure, to open for Iggy Pop, but Depp was no professional. “The rule” was introduced so as to eliminate from this list any professional musicians who tried their hand at Hollywood. Therefore, I would argue, I broke no rules. :)

  8. janitt dott says:

    Fair enough, Aaron, as you are most fair.
    And thanks for a chance to clarify my strident points.

    Just teasing you about Depp…his career HAS been as an actor (he did not sing in Crybaby though his musical skill is displayed in Chocolat) I do feel you slight lurid Sweeney Todd, the most ambitious attempt on your list (even with ALL those millions Baz dumped into Moulin Rouge) To bring a heinous fiend in a GREAT Broadway musical to screen was a coup on Burton & Depp’s part, their most mature collaboration to date. I’ll give you the morbidity of the piece, but that’s intrinsic to the tale itself which hails from the sensational gory melodramas of the mid 1800s. I mean, can’t be helped can it, the guy cooked people into pies…

    Also I concede fans are SO divided about Moulin Rouge, I’m in the camp that equates it to nails on a blackboard. Yet I RAN to see it on screen, watched it four times on DVD trying to raise my opinion of it. Still I find it a self indulgent high budget high concept mess! Sad, cause I LOVE Baz’s Romeo & Juliet, admire Nicole and see anything Ewan makes, (my fav singing of his is in a documentary about polar bears!) but I truly was put off by MR’s flimsy musicality (held up to the ingenious REinvention of glamrock in disqualified Goldmine which DOES raise the bar) and we agree to disagree for I did not think the embarrassed stars, including Ewan (fab as trainspotting is!) had BIG enough voices or the classical chops required to pull off SUCH a flagrantly theatrical enterprise as Moulin Rouge.

    That would take a pale whippet thin androgynous irishman who could MAKE a cynical cable audience believe he IS the robust rotund rutting KING of England. As a reviewer astutely described Henry8 in The Tudors, “Rhys Meyers makes it look easy…and it’s not.”

    Admittedly, jonathan is MY bias, but he EARNED my regard over ten years in three dozen daunting indy and mainstream projects including in the LEAD in three acclaimed miniseries (one got him a globe for convincing us he was Elvis!) Then he helmed a torrid four year historical drama where he AGES decades! Ewan hasn’t…done that.

    (that said, I am not SO smitten that I can’t be content to see jonny at…number six.)

    And no doubt he IS a world class model who’s been shot by Richard Avedon and David Bailey (who holds Jonny up as visually equal to Jagger and Nureyev and supermodels that HE created…in The Sixties) but I’d point out that many of JRM’s projects REQUIRE a stunning model of his stature to pull off the gorgeous costumes the BEST designers in film clamor to dress jonny up in (like those 27 utterly different oscar nominated “looks” he achieved in velvet goldmine) That, too, Aaron, IS a formidable…talent.

    And you may see him as a model turned actor, but Woody Allan, Ang Lee, Julie Taymor, Todd Haynes, Oliver Stone, Neil Jordan, Michael Radford, Mike Figgis, Mike Hodges and a couple dozen up and coming directors…disagree. Including Jim Sheridan’s daughter who cast jonny as her dreamboat rocker (that’s the ROLE not the actor) in her lovely musical fable…august rush.

    Cause, as your list suggests, the guy can also…sing.

  9. Fun to read your reply. You’re quite knowledgeable, and have done a brilliant job at selling JRM. I need to check out ‘The Tudors’ — I’ve seen most of his stuff, but have yet to check that out. I agree, JRM’s a great actor, and is getting better and better. STILL, in ‘August Rush’…his sexy pouting, his eye squinting, his “check me out, i’m hot,” just seemed forced to me. I am a heterosexual male though, and that might have something to do with it. :)

  10. janitt dott says:

    hahaha! oh well, THAT explains it, aaron!

    And I agree, you do hit the nail on the head about Rhys Meyers as a work in progress.
    Jonathan was dragged out of a poolhall two years before he was thrown on the screen in Velvet Goldmine without ever having had an acting dancing or singing lesson. He’s had to learn it ALL the hard way…on screen. As raw talent goes he’s got quite a lot of equipment to master, I don’t think he’ll have ALL his notes in tune till he’s forty.

    At the same time he’s been plastered all over the fashion rags since he was a kid so,
    in his case, the acting and modeling inform each other, an interesting hybrid.

    Then, too, he’s destined to be a classical actor and if you think about the great ones; Sir Larry, Sir Tony, O’Toole, they’re SO fey and strange in their roles (that’s what we LIKE about them) and they certainly are AWARE of themselves…then the smoldering ones, Burton, Oliver Reed…see, if you look at it…that way.

    Musically…I think it’s a head issue. Like I said, his whole family are amazing musicians
    and he claims he pales by comparison. Here’s a fact you may find fun. Jonny got his three little brothers (they were all in their teens at the time) to do some bowie covers to convince Todd to LET him sing in Goldmine, Tragedy! it seems those videos are lost…

    And NOW, (drat!) I will HAVE to go watch Molin Rouge…again…since I am clearly…
    missing something!

  11. So do you think JRM would have outdone Ewan, had he been cast in ‘Moulin Rouge’ instead?

    “And now (drat!) I will have to go watch it again” <– LOL, that's hilarious.

    Funny, 'cause I feel the same way about 'August Rush' now, and 'Velvet Goldmine' too. Though, for me, I'd omit the "drat," as I enjoyed both AR and VG a lot. :)

  12. janitt dott says:

    Do I LOOK like a fool, aaron! ;)

    Would jonny outdo Ewan in Moulin Rouge?
    I am NOT going to answer that! (but…oooh…I WANT to!)

    To be at all fair, I’d HAVE to watch MR again. (let’s see, twice in the theater and a third DVD rental) Now I wish I’d just BOUGHT the thing!

    Because, when he was nineteen, jonny shared a sound stage and a HOT kiss with Ewan (one of the most passionate kisses ever filmed!) they get thrown together, compared, which is not really fair, they are NOT the same sort of actor.

    Jonny could not do justice to Trainspotting, Ewan couldn’t pull off…Elvis.

    but…to answer you…they could BOTH play Christian just…differently. And, given jon’s tendency to torque his roles, Moulin Rouge would have been a different film with him in it…no doubt.

  13. janitt dott says:

    And don’t GET me started on Velvet Goldmine!

    I once wrote a 16 page thesis on it, “Take a Left at Lebrea” in which I posit that glamrock is a glorious glittery tarpit best stayed OUT of if at all possible.

    A lumbering prehistoric boomer, I say this from…experience.

    Leaping to a new metaphor, Indy spelunker Todd Haynes dug himself a GOLDEN tunnel of love that caved in the last 15 minutes (some wonderful movies simply don’t…work) not cause Haynes failed as it’s director (he nailed that!) but as writer/directors tend to do, he mislaid the map and took a wrong turn on his Citizen Kane storyline.

    David Bowie, who is…no fool…declined to grace Goldmine with his glam anthems for reasons I can glean, But jonathan, cast to emulate him, has lamented that he, and the film, would have faired better with Bowie’s tunes. I don’t agree for high heeled boys of the era along with pretty young things joined forces to create the Goldmine soundtrack and did a fabulous job of reinvention (but thats…another thread!)

    Ewan rocks as Iggy/colbain hybrid, Curt Wild but I must say his straighter path was cleared for him. Unlike Brian Slade, I think that role was stacked AGAINST jonathan from his first flagrant frame. NO way could jonny win as Maxwell Demon, not AS it’s written.

    (HINT TO JONNY: never agree to play a character your director doesn’t really like no matter HOW much they like…you)

    Jonny truly WAS perfection in his part and Todd gave him many moments to shine, but, in the end, he was set up IN the script to fail in a number of ways. In turn, the shiny new star was so untried that no one guessed how brightly he’d shine (they had to don their rhinestone ray bans early on) Miscast in the role AS it is written, jonny, sabotaged Todd’s intent by being TOO hot, TOO talented and TOO TOO appealing for Todd’s plot!

    ( HINT TO TODD: frigid posing ice gods don’t KISS like that febrile Rhys Meyers boy)

    A cautionary tale for all. That’s how I see it.

    Where jonny did NOT fail was in the MEDIA blitz for Todd Hayne’s wildly anticipated glamrock flick. Ewan, by then well into Star Wars, did not set a platformed heel near THAT naughty little non-family film. The publicity fell on jonny who was all of twenty at the time. I trained in journalism and I’ve not seen any actor play the press as well as he did, never failing to deliver a GORGEOUS photo layout with curious copy and sincere saucy quotes. Naturally, the media, particularly the fashionistas, were simply silly for jonny.

    Not HIS fault the film didn’t fulfill the promise of his kiss craving pout.

  14. janitt dott says:

    Sadly…jonny and the press have since had a…falling out…that started around the time of August Rush, a film that, unlike Goldmine, shot itself in the foot, publicity wise.

    By appearing to apologize for it’s psychic premise, billing itself instead as a light musical “fairy tale” for kids, August Rush seems to deny that it has as LOT to say in profound ways about the creative weave, our cosmic connections and the ultimate faith that binds us. As you point out, Rush has a…particular appeal…to women and special significance to mothers. It’s a VERY sweet story but not…just for kids.

    Above all, musically, Rush is hearty fare! The varied courses of the 18 song soundtrack, from inspiring Raise it Up to virtuoso street guitar riffs with a gravy of catching closing credit songs are audibly nourishing. And the lush cello symphonies seamlessly joined with Jonny’s phil ramone produced rock songs are savory stuff.

    This is no actor…faking it. jonny IS and always has been a rock star.

    That Bach/Break, the signature of a film about finding lost musical parents, was NOT up for an Oscar is just…wrong. But to GET there the public had to HEAR it! Like Patrick Swayze’s legitimate hit She’s Like the Wind from Dirty Dancing STILL is, jonny’s This Time SHOULD have been playing…on the radio. And, of course jonny would have had to…perform…on Leno and Letterman. Perhaps, in the end, shaken by the hard learned lessons of Velvet Goldmine, it might have been as basic for him as paralyzing performance fears. Which is why I don’t dispute sixth place for jonny, not cause he is not better but because he’s not…ready.

    The assumption got made that Raise it Up was a more showstopping contender, rousing gospel choirs and adorable toothy precocious kids play well on the political correct stage of the Oscars. But when I recall that Falling Slowly, that faint little tune from the buskers of Once (on the radio ALL the time) beat out both Disney’s Enchanted and the tuneful August Rush…I LONGED for that on stage Oscar match up between two Irish Thoroughbreds, Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Glen Hansard,

    See, to me THAT would have been…a horse race.

  15. Your writing on ‘Velvet Goldmine’ was fascinating. All well said. I don’t disagree with any of that, and I’m not qualified to go any deeper into the Goldmine, as I’ve only seen it once really. I loved it though, and want to see it again sometime. If I were attracted to men, in…that…way, I’m sure I would have watched it many times over, but as it stands I’m too distracted by the likes of Milla J and her schlocky video-game films, LOL. Everyone has their favorite poison.

    My favorite line of yours of the past few posts was, “Jonny could not do justice to Trainspotting, Ewan couldn’t pull off Elvis.” I agree 100%.

  16. and btw…

    Happy Birthday to Elvis!

    He would have been 76 today.

  17. janitt dott says:

    We tend to forget what a treasure Elvis was.

    I rarely think of him without regret for it’s just so sad, as jonathan’s in touch portrayal of The King makes agonizingly clear, that most of his projects were SO unworthy of his untried skills. Nowhere more clear than in his career as the reverse of this list, singer turned actor.

    The mini Elvis filmfest honoring him yesterday on my local old movie station started with Kid Galihad and ended with Franky & Jonny which both play into our stereotypes of Elvis in his film vehicles. Talk about smoldering stares…snappy tunes and sexism.

    But between them was Follow that Dream, a gently legitimate skrewball comedy I had not seen and it was…delightful! Slight plotwise but not predictable, wittily penned and Elvis was hilariously GOOD in it! His deadpan self deprecating comic timing as a brilliantly “dumb” hillbilly was AS sure as Jimmy Stewart in Harvey or Cary Grant in Bringing Up Baby. It really was a charming little flick that has held up surprisingly well.

    a guiltfree pleasure.

  18. Awesome. I adore Elvis films, my collection is huge. Whenever I feel down, I throw one of ‘em in for an instant pick-me-up. Elvis, I believe, was the most charismatic person of the entire 20th century. He is pure goodness. I agree with all you wrote, and echo such sentiment through and through. Truly a guiltfree pleasure. Hang the critics! :)

  19. janitt dott says:

    Thanks for your kind comments Aaron,
    I’ve…thunk…on velvet goldmine

    (which is NOT on this list but I can never (can you?) pass up a good comment convo just to stay…on topic!)

    I’m a fan of Christine Vachon’s Killer Films and the back story of Velvet Goldmine is a testimony to indy filmmaking at it’s 90′s zenith. She and Todd Haynes brought in what looks like a 40 million dollar costume musical for a measly 8 million bucks and the unexpected wonders they GOT out of those actors designers and musicians is a miracle!

    I can’t talk to Todd’s acclaimed directing cause I’m not a director but I am a playwright and dramaturg and it was clear to me WHERE Todd lost objectivity and went astray with his VG script in a relatively short (but it proved fatal) detour. That said, I know he’s a superb screenwriter, [safe] is a flawless script, so, no doubt, Todd WOULD have cleaned VG up if he got the chance. But, a victim of the indy crunch, Velvet Goldmine, a GREAT effort by a great team of talents, simply ran out of…time.

    For Ewan it was another role to wow us but for unknown jonathan it’s his revelation. (it’s too bad he doesn’t have a higher opinion of himself in it). Fun story: when jonny was filming Bruno in Michael Radford’s B Monkey (the boy with the oceanic eyes!) he went to producer Stephen Wooley for advice. He’d been offered a part he told him. Wooley asked what part. jonny said “velvet–” Wooley said “TAKE IT!”

    Thing is, and you’ll understand this, jonny had been cast for his wilde childe LOOK which was all Todd thought he needed for his vain visage of pretender and posterboy, Brian Slade. But Jim Lyons (co credited for the VG storyline) has said they took one look at their shimmery star ON set and went…oh!oh! Seems they’d snared…a unicorn. Since casting is 90% of a film, that brings up a VERY interesting dilemma. What do you DO with an actor who gives you MORE than you asked for? Do you replace him for the sake of your script or rewrite on the fly to embrace your blessings.

    What I SO admire about Todd Haynes as the consumate artist his is, was the brave self defeating choice he made about…The Kiss. For THE gay director (darling of The New Queer Cinema who, along with Robert Mapplethorpe, bucked off Jerry Fawell in the National Endowment for the Arts flack) what it came down to was cut or keep that Oh So Gay Moment. It was ALL wrong for Todd’s plot cause, see, we CAN’T call Brian frigid or unloving or unworthy of our love–we can’t dismiss or despise Maxwell–not after That Kiss.

    So I praise Todd Haynes as an honest honorable filmmaker because, noting that fact in the rushes, he chose to…Let it Be…knowing he can always make another movie…but we will NEVER see a kiss like that again.

    Julie Taymor was faced with the SAME dilemma (one jonny seems to inspire) when, in a mad moment typical of his genius, Anthony Hopkins, improvised a shocking kiss n klutch with Jonny’s character Chiron (his daughter’s rapist!!!) in Titus. Julie is also SUPPPOSED to be a great artist. But one of many reasons Titus fails for me is that SHE stuck to her self penned adaptation of Shakespeare’s lurid shocker and…cut that kiss.

    I’d KILL to see it! (wouldn’t you?)

    And I bet the Bard would also have said “yes!”
    and written Titus snogging Rapine into his next revision of Titus Andronicus
    which, to come full circle with your engaging list,

    is about a guy who…cooks people into pies.

    my work is done here
    ;)

  20. LOL. Enjoyed reading again, and I find myself lamenting my inability to write as swiftly as you. I could take all day writing about this stuff, but with VG, I’m afraid I’ll have to see it again soon, before I address any of your interesting comments. I’m out of my league here, in terms of speaking on Haynes, or Velvet, or JRM. You are very knowledgeable. Nice to meet you!

  21. janitt dott says:

    MY pleasure entirely, Aaron!
    What FUN this was, this is my like my new BFF review site!
    I will check out the rest of it for sure!

    and if you EVER start a Rouge vs. Goldmine blog…
    (hey, I’ll research if you will…)

    I see we’re even BOTH snowed in here in wisconsin
    I’m on the wild west Guthrie side with the deer hunters
    and lots of interesting stuff in Milwaukee Rep land lately

    If I can get OUT of my 1/4 mile driveway any time soon
    I’ll dutifully head straight to the video store for a baz fix)
    (I’d do amazon…but the mailbox is SO far away on the farm)

  22. Wow, of all the places we could be in the world, both in snowy Wisconsin. Never would have guessed that. Yeah, I just bought ‘Moulin Rouge’ and ‘Romeo + Juliet’ on Bluray, two of my all time faves, easy!

    I’m going to check out ‘Velvet Goldmine’ again sometime real soon.

    Btw, my cousin and I quote Ewan a lot, from that last scene, “make a weesh.”

    I’m listening to ‘The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars’ as I type this. Perfect. :)

  23. janitt dott says:

    ( from the this is another fine mess you’ve gotten me into dept:)

    k, aaron
    found a copy of moulin rouge at the video trader today…
    Going to go…try it again now…(wish me luck!)
    I hope it doesn’t make me…cranky!

    Say, this would be ANOTHER interesting discussion…
    (parentheses mine)

    Baz’s Romeo & Juliet (brilliant!) and Moulin Rouge (bad!)
    vs
    Julie Taymor’s Titus (bad!) and Frida (Brilliant!)

    talk about the two high concept kids!
    And I know not everyone agrees with me but, as you’ve seen
    I’m pretty good at making my case…

    I also grabbed another copy of august rush (I can’t find mine)
    Course I have…plenty…of copies of Velvet Goldmine
    (I’ve worn out a few and had a couple stolen…)

    Say we haven’t even TOUCHED on 2001s…Hedwig and the Angry Inch!

    Surely, john cameron mitchell belongs on your list…talk about a CREAT performance! He wasn’t a professional singer–not on film and not before he developed his drag show character hedwig into an off off broadway phenomenon, then a kick ass film with the killers of vachon.

    The Killers (Killer Films) are ALSO blogworthy when you consider WHAT landmark indy films they are responsible for developing and producing including;

    I Shot Andy Warhol, Boys Don’t Cry, Far From Heaven, [safe], Kids, One Hour Photo, I’m Not There, The Notorious Betty Page, Infamous, Party Monster, Savage Grace, Mrs Harris, Happiness, Wonderland, The Safety of Objects, Home at the End of the World, Storytelling, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and, of course, Velvet Goldmine.

    Quite a track record…isn’t it.

  24. janitt dott says:

    k. aaron,
    I’ve dutifully watched Moulin Rouge 2+ MORE times now…

    and while on the third viewing last night…I began…to like it a bit more (the first fifteen minutes I have ALWAYS admired) it still confirms much of what I’ve already said about it…at least for me.

    I DO recognize the blazing directorial TALENT of Baz Lurhman (though he tends to favor the Ken Russell school of cinematic excess) and I can’t deny Moulin Rouge is thrilling (to a frenzied fault) I also realize my complaints are somewhat…academic in nature…and may not matter that much to casual viewers of the film.

    I laud the courage of Nichole Kidman to undertake a role that begs unkind comparison to Marilyn, Madonna, Hayworth and…Garbo…a level NO earthly woman can rise to. And I appreciate the utter appeal of Ewan MacGregor in anything he is seen in. As always, he’s lovely to look at and gladly game for whatever paces he’s put through. The rest of the cast and dancers are excellent. Lot’s to praise and many memorable moments and. of course, the thing LOOKS like…well…52 million bucks.

    But when a director can command the 52.5 milion BUDGET Baz got to do this movie (compared to the shoestrings the killers strung those indy pearls on) I hold him to a very high standard. I am still not as impressed as you are with the singing of the leads but that’s due primary to the fact that I truly dislike what they are…singing.

    I simply DON’T buy Luhrman’s premise of recycling pop songs.

    The LEAST I expected from a MUSICAL film AS groundbreaking as Moulin Rouge is to hear from “curtain to curtain” compelling original songs absolutely intrinsic to it’s period storyline. The LAST thing I want to sit through is stale pop tunes tossed in a musical mix master, their verses cookie cut to fit the (I fear weary) plot and baked to a “new” crunch. no matter HOW fancy he frosts them in his jaw dropping production numbers.

    When you consider the OTHER films on your list, gold standard Disney, the classic Fosse fare of Chicago and Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd, the authentic perfection of Walk the Line and capable counterfeits in Crazy Heart then add the able original soundtrack of August Rush and wildly creative glam hybrids of Velvet Goldmine plus the catchy tunes of my new contender, Hedwig and the Angry Inch…

    Then compare ALL of those striving musical movies to Lurhman’s lazily underpinning his film ABOUT a legendary 1900′s establishment with mashed medleys of tried n true disco anthems and asking his stars, Nicole and Ewan to emote like they MEAN it to hackneyed greatest hits.

    You start to see where my problem lies…

  25. I think we are back to where we started with the whole “agree to disagree” thing.

    We just have different taste when it comes to Moulin Rouge. Everything about Moulin hits me just right — the music hits my ears perfectly, the images hit my eyes perfectly, the story hits my heart perfectly. No amount of discourse can affect that, nor can I convince you that Moulin should hit you just right too, as it either does or it doesn’t.

    We’ve arrived at the old adage, “there’s no accounting for taste.”

    I did enjoy reading your analysis though, thanks for posting! :)

  26. janitt dott says:

    exactly, aaron.
    you’ve made the ONE argument for moulin rouge that I MUST concede.

    For you’ve just excellently described my ardent affinity to the films of …jonathan rhys meyers. I’m not saying he’s the best actor of his generation (I think he could get there) but he IS without any question whatsoever, the best actor there ever was or will be…for MY aesthetic.

    We actually do agree on your listed performers if not their order, and you HAVE succeeded admirably in getting a scoffer to take another look and grudgingly admit that I actually DO sorta love the first fifteen minutes of…moulin rouge

    thanks for the chat, aaron!

  27. Anne Allison says:

    Of course I am biased toward Jonathan Rhys Meyers. He is both a talented actor and singer who I believe has yet to do his best work.

  28. so Janitt, are you looking forward to ‘Rabbit Hole?’

  29. janitt dott says:

    I have a high opinion, aaron, of John Cameron Michell
    so I’m contentedly LOOSING money on rabbithole at my HSX.com account.
    (GOOD movies rarely do well at the Hollywood Stock Exchange)

    it’s in limited release so it may take a while to get this one to the sticks (if ever) and I’m not SO intrigued that I’ll brave wisconsin winter highways all the way to minneapolis to see it. But it IS a Nicole Kidman vehicle so it MAY get to a screen in hastings…and I wish john cameron well in all things…

    right now I’m twiddling my thumbs waiting for jonathan and Julliane’s horror flick…shelter…which opens at the end of next month. That I will brave a white out blizzard for…

  30. Yeah, I’m excited about ‘Rabbit Hole.’ It’s playing here now In MKE (yep, I’m bragging). But the roads here are treacherous too — tons of snow fell yesterday, pretty much shutting down the city — so it will be awhile until I get out to see it. Also playing is ‘I love you Phillip Morris.’ I want to see that too. Hopefully Ewan will say, “make a weeesh,” again. :)

  31. janitt dott says:

    neener neener big city (we get all the kewl movies) boy!

    I DO see that my neighbor has had his tractor out so if I shovel enough to turn my pickup AROUND (I just barely got in after that last snow!) I suppose I theoretically…could…get out to see a flick. Although you know, aaron, I drive past the red wing cineplex a couple times a week and drive off not having seen a poster that…lurs me in.

    (just a thought: If cineplexs would dedicate ONE of their smaller screens to the obscure art stuff (like 2-3 indy films in rotation) they MIGHT get the boomers who LIKE to go to GOOD movies back in their theaters)

    And talk about taking a beating!
    I Love you Phillip Morris is sucking me dry as the film currently at the top on my HSX.com acct. I can’t figure out why it tanked…I mean jim carey and ewan as a prison romance HOW can this loose?

    And I finally broke even on Julie Taymor’s The Tempest but again, it’s
    not opening wide and I can’t imagine WHEN I might get to see it…
    which reminds me, aaron

    Care to offer an opinion on Taymor’s…Across the Universe?

  32. Actually, I have yet to see that one. Truth be told, I’ve had very little desire to check it out. The trailer made me nauseous. I am not a big fan of the Beatles, believe it or not, and Jim Sturgess annoys me (from time to time). Evan Rachel Wood is awesome, but…not awesome enough to entice me here. Too many great films out there competing for my attention. I’m sure I’ll see it someday though.

  33. janitt dott says:

    k, aaron, getting back to you on this
    (it’s been like three months but I’m not well focused in time)

    I really RESISTED across the universe the first time I saw it (on DVD) when it was new mostly cause all the gentexters were CRAZY for it and acting like they just INVENTED the beatles on their iphones…

    I was also being a bit cynical about the beatles at the time…

    Actually I had been since the eighties when I’d just finished the first draft of a script about a character named moonlight with a fixation on john lennon…a few weeks before he was assassinated. It sorta put me OFF the beatles for a couple of…decades.

    But then I bought a cheep copy of Universe at a blockbuster closing sale and it was laying around the house and I stuck it in the DVD and had what you, aaron, might call MY moulin rouge moment.

    It TOTALLY floored me!

  34. hi Jannitt! nice hearing from you again…

    yeah, i’m going to rent it for sure…

    will get back to you, after i’ve seen it and am fit to comment on it…

    i do think evan rachel wood is a great actress…

    i wish it was a film based on the Kinks instead of the Beatles though, LOL.

  35. janitt dott says:

    heya, aaron!
    looks like we can just take up where ever we left off.

    kewl.

    One of the things that has made this convo SO interesting to me
    is this whole swirling sixties Lurhmanescent Taymory mcgregorish rhysmeyerean VORTEX going on here

    it seems like these two film makers and those two actors are
    locked in a mortal contention of creative comparisons as
    inextricable as a first season episode of star trek!

    So yeah I’ll wait til you’ve seen Taymor’s Across the Universe
    (which I actually find sort of…Bazly…in the best way.)

    and…um…I’m…not sure if you want to trigger my kneejerk
    johnpaulgeorgeringo response cause THAT would be like my going
    OFF on velvet goldmine IF I had been pondering it since…1964.

    There could be…virtually…no end to it! =)

    I will say..quickly..that I’d been cynical on the subject myself,
    somehow LET that organic connection boomers have with the beatles
    grind gradually down for years like the RCA Victor gramophone at
    the summer cabin.

    but I’d become SO painfully bored with EVERYTHING else that I had a
    vulnerable moment a few months back when some sharp points of light
    rapidly converged, the terrific new bio on PBS LennonNYC, a replay
    of Paul’s Concert in Red Square and a long drive up to minneapolis with the playful(george martin unplugged) LET IT BE in the CD player
    on continuous loop.

    I think you go through four maybe five decades checking the world out
    to see what you can DO about it (turns out basically nothing of course)
    then one day it just…occurs…to you that’s not…a bad thing.
    You ARE the perfect product OF your time and place and that’s…kewl.

    But IF that is the case then I am truly so grateful that I am OF
    the time and place…of the beatles.

    I’m thinkin you’re younger than me, aaron, and I’m not really SURE
    if the whole beatle thing translates to The Next Generation.

    But WHEN you are watching paul play in red square with EVERY sylable
    being sung along to by laughing smiling ecstatic russians, old and
    young, who were NEVER allowed to own or even publically LISTEN to
    the beatles, it gives me pause…it does. And hear gorbachav SAYING
    it was NOT reagan who ended communism there…it was…the beatles?

    Young russians heard the beatles and they…wanted to sing along.
    dogma was no match for them like egypt is no match for facebook.

    At the height of his rockstar status, Putin is making his way into
    the front rows of the concert and when people in the crowd stare at
    their hip dude leader, Putin…points to the stage, smiling at paul
    as if to say…”no no, THAT is…The Man who Matters.”

    Because the beatles…did…change the world. They did.
    and they did it…kindly…with cleverness creativity compassion.

    Watching all…this…in my fifties, I realize back in the USofA
    WE thought that “Back in the USSR” was just some trippy tune to
    drive our cold war parents crazy but what it REALLY had been was
    a love letter to a whole lonely isolated country that was not even
    allowed to LISTEN to it.

    I mean, aaron, that is really pretty…extraordinary.

    .

  36. very interesting…i am soooo out of the loop when it comes to the Beatles

  37. Momi says:

    What about Gerard butler in phantom of the opera?

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