Thursday, March 24, 2016

Thursday Movie Picks: Music Biopics


Welcome back to Thursday, as if you needed me to remind you what day it was. You know perfectly well that it's one step from Friday. That's good enough reason to sing. Trust me, I'm singing as I type this. I have a melodious voice. Just take my word for it. To hell with what Mrs. Dell has to say on this matter. I sing like a little birdie.

Speaking of singing that's kinda-sorta the topic for this week's Thursday Movie Picks hosted by Wandering Through the Shelves. To be more specific, the theme is Music Biopics.

The sad face is for the fact that the topic forces me to yet again play it straight. I might explode soon, but I think I can keep it together for another couple weeks. To amuse myself and make playing nice just a bit more fun, I'm going theme within a theme...within a theme this week. I'm hitting you with only films about Latin artists and, well, none of them are with us due to some rather tragic circumstances. Sorry about that. But hey, at least tomorrow is Friday! Not working? Sorry. Let's just get on with the picks. Drums, please...


La Bamba
(1987)
The Life and Times of Ritchie Valens
Remember when Lou Diamond Phillips was legit? Here, takes on the role of Ritchie Valens who became an overnight sensation with the first non-English song to become a major hit on U.S. soil, the one that has the same title as the film. Unfortunately for Mr. Valens he died in a plane accident at age 17 along with fellow stars Buddy Holly and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson. Valens turns in what still might be his best performance as the ill-fated teen. The one drawback to watching this film is that you won't be able to stop singing "La Bamba" for days.


Selena
(1997)
The Life and Times of Selena Quintanilla-Pérez
Remember when J-Lo was legit? I think she still is. Sue me. Anyhoo, she plays Selena, a young woman who became a superstar in Mexico. She was actually named Billboard magazine's Top Latin Artist of the 90s. She was all set to crossover into American fame when tragedy struck. She was shot and killed by the president of her fan club. Yup, you read that right. Like Lou Diamond Phillips in La Bamba, Jennifer Lopez gives a career defining performance. We can't see anyone else possibly playing Selena.


El Cantante
(2006)
The Life and Times of Héctor Lavoe
Remember when Marc Anthony was legit? No? Me neither. Regardless, he is tasked with playing salsa music legend Héctor Lavoe. We watch as Lavoe becomes a star and succumbs to those familiar demons, drugs and alcohol. He would eventually die from AIDS in 1993 at age 46. A lot of it is framed as a love story between Lavoe and wife Puchi Roman, played by Marc Anthony's then real life wife Jennifer Lopez. Hmm,..where have I seen her before? This is the most maligned of these three films by a wide margin. I suspect because it was yet another project from J-Lo and the current man in her life, the first being Gigli. Whatever. I liked it.


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22 comments:

  1. La Bamba and Selena were damn good films. El Cantante wasn't at all. In fact, my parents who are big salsa fans were appalled by it. They have friends who were also die-hard salsa fans and they HATED this film. It wasn't the fact that it played with a lot of dramatic liberties with Hector Lavoe's life but the fact that J-Lo did a lot of the narration and injected too much of herself into the film is what really pissed them off. That was a bad vanity project for her and Marc as it's an example of how not to do a bio-pic.

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    1. Yeah, everybody hates El Cantante, but me. Then again, I'm a J-Lo apologist so it's par for the course.

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  2. I can't speak to El Cantante being ignorant of its existence until now but I LOVE musical bio-pics so I might just have to give it a look even with the forewarning. Now for me La Bamba was the much better of the other two and it probably is Lou Diamond Phillips best work. Selena was fine as well but I can't say that it really engaged me.

    As I said this is a genre that I'm a sucker for and I watch pretty much every one that comes down the pike so it was hard to chose just three until I decided like you to do a theme within the theme. My three are about performers who fought their way back from a major physical challenge at some point in their lives.

    Sweet Dreams (1985)-Tale of Patsy Cline’s ascension from honkytonk singer to queen of the Grand Ole Opry and beyond as well as her messy personal life, including a near fatal car wreck, until her death in a plane crash. Jessica Lange was Oscar nominated for her turn as Patsy, she’s given strong support by Ed Harris as Cline’s difficult husband and Ann Wedgeworth in a beautiful performance as her mother.

    The Joker is Wild (1957)-Crooner Joe E. Lewis (Frank Sinatra) works his way up through the racket run nightclubs of Chicago mob boss Georgie Parker. Once successful he tries to move on only to have his throat slashed in retaliation. His voice ruined he slides into alcoholism but his former accompanist and friend helps him reestablish himself as a successful stand-up comic. The road still has many rough patches ahead though. One of Sinatra’s better lesser known performances. The film features one of Sinatra’s signature songs the Oscar winning “All the Way”.

    With a Song in My Heart (1952)-Young singer Jane Froman (Susan Hayward) rises from staff artist on a small radio station in the Midwest quickly climbing the ladder of success to become a top radio and stage star. Along the way she enters into a marriage of convenience with her manager which soon hits the rocks, then America enters WWII. Like many performers she volunteers to entertain the troops and is on her way to do so when her seaplane crashes into the Tagus River off the Lisbon coast. She is one of the few survivors but is severely injured, most perilously her leg is nearly amputated. The remainder of the film follows her grueling treatment, difficult recovery and return to finish the job she started. Grim in parts but overall a story of someone with tremendous fortitude in the face of huge adversity. Loaded with great music both Hayward (whose lip-syncing to Froman’s vocals is impressively realistic) and Thelma Ritter, as her steadfast nurse, were Oscar nominated.

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    1. The more I think about it, La Bamba is easily LDP's best work. Haven't seen any of your picks. They all sound really good, though

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  3. I haven't seen any of these, but whenever I hear "La Bamba" I think of middle school band because we played that song SO MANY TIMES.

    #trigger lol

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  4. Selena was a good movie from what I remember. JLo is really not bad and has given some really good performances, but she seems to be more a celebrity these days than actually doing something worth while

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    1. I agree with everything you just said.

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  5. I love the theme within a theme within a theme! I haven't seen any of these, but now I'm going to have "La Bamba" stuck in my head for the rest of the afternoon. Curse you, Dell!

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    1. That song might be with you the reat of the week. It has a way of burying itself in there and being stubborn about coming out.

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  6. Love everything about this post. And I'm kicking myself for not at least mentioning Selena in my picks. I've seen that flick a dozen times. Very well-made biopic. I LOVE La Bamba. Phillips was straight "legit" in that one. Even more legit is the great Esai Morales as Richie's brother, Bob. That dude is great. Haven't seen El Catante. Probably won't. Not familiar with the dude, nor do I want to see Marc Anthony in anything.

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    1. Thanks! Yes to Esai Morales. And I completely understand not wanting to watch a Marc Anthony flick.

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  7. Thank you as I now have La Bamba in my head:) the movie was great and poor Lou is now in movies that are shown straight to TV. Selena was quite good and really showcases Lopez as Selena...what a shame this poor girl was killed by that nut of a woman. I just saw the last film you chose last year. I was flicking the channels and came across it. My hubby and I both thought it was quite good even with the creepy 50 lb Marc Antony. I thought it was quite good.

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    1. It is catchy, ain't it? Yay, someone else like El Cantante!

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  8. Oh, La Bamba! I really can't believe I've never seen it. Selena, though. LOVE. I remember seeing it and thinking that Jennifer Lopez was going to win an Oscar some day.

    I'm still waiting for that to happen. I really thought she had a chance again recently but sadly, her masterful performance in The Boy Next Door was yet another victim of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy. #JusticeForJLo!

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    1. You should check out La Bamba. I really believe J-Lo has that kind of talent, but she picks some awful projects. I mean, The Boy Next Door was both awful and great, so there's that.

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  9. I'm not a J-Lo fan at all but I was really interested in Selena's story. I had read about the film before as the trailer popped up randomly when I was going through some youtube videos, like you do you know and I watched it. After reading through everyone's picks I've made a list of films I need to watch - your first two are on it.

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    1. Thanks! I really hope you enjoy it. Looking forward to hearing about it.

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  10. Yes on 1 & 2, 3 I haven't seen and will look for it. And yes J-Lo is still legit!

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    1. Glad to see someone agrees with me on J-Lo!

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  11. I used to watch La Bamba quite a lot as kid, just one of those movies that gets played a lot on TV.

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    1. For sure. It used to be on TV all the time.

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