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December 27, 2006


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Is that really one of your Christmas ornaments?



Patrick J. Mullins

Most of the high-toned notes I read when 'Dreamgirls' came out over a year ago were slightly more favorable than I had decided I expected it to be. But it's much better than they said--to my total surprise. And neither is A.O.Scott's review particularly sharp. Directed by Bill Condon, who wrote Chicago but also directed 'kinsey', this is a much better musical-movie entertainment than any of the big musical-movies that came out in the past few years--better than 'Chicago' because those people couldn't dance and these people can sing; and also, because the score has much merit despite the fact that in the middle there are a number of them that are quite similar. But it is inaccurate, as A.O.Scott kept harping, to say that they all sound alike, and 'And I tell You I'm Not Going' is not the only one. 'One Night Only' is catchy, where authentic by Hudson or stolen by the Dreams for their glitter-song, the title song is pleasant, 'Move On' is all right. Beyonce doing 'Listen' is quite nice and Jamie/Beyonce's song 'When I First Saw You' is as well, although that one is dramatically stupid, since they've got the various illegitimacies operating. But the sentimental moments do touch, it is not without soul even if it's not as good as Smoky Robinson or the old Platters or indeed the Supremes themselves, one is moved a number of times--which is more than I can ever say of 'Hairspray' (even though I thoroughly enjoyed it), of 'Chicago'(which I despise because it is a Bob Fosse dance show and his choreography was omitted so they could accommodate three big names, none of whom can dance. 'Rent' I coudn't stand on the screen or stage.

But 'Dreamgirls' was anticipated very feverishly and quickly consigned to minor status. It doesn't deserve this, because letting the music propel the plot which is purely 'singers from nowhere get breaks and make it big and some heartache and drugs are in evidence', so little dialogue is needed. I don't think this is a profound movie by any means, but it is a very good entertainment. Ms. Hudson sings marvelously and is touching in the part and so is Beyonce. Foxx is a bit wooden, but handsome. Murphy is super as Jimmy Early--I didn't even know who it was till the credits.

In any case, I had the hardest time finding where you'd put this, but I remembered the season, and in my usual eccentric way, I didn't see the film until tonight. I only saw 'The Devil Wears Prada' about 2 weeks ago, but that IMO is far worse than anybody has said, and ranks as easily one of the 10 worst films yet seen. I plan to skip 'Sweeney Todd' permanently, though, because hating the show as I do, I don't care what they did with it cinematically.

I thought it weren't hurt to have a FEATURES column while you are agonizing about Zizek's finessing of his dilemma...'Dreamgirls' was better than 'Why do Fools Fall in Love?' even though Halle Berry was divine in it, and it reminded me of some of the old black musicals of the 70s like 'Sparkle', and the fashion-montage of Deena/Beyonce was wonderfully nostalgic in its evocation of Diana Ross and Billy Dee Williams in 'Mahogany', which was corny, but a thousand times better about 'false fashion bullshit' than 'Prada', which even cleaned up the foul-mouths of 7th Avenue types so they could sell it PG. And Diana sounded wonderful in that song 'Do Ya Know Where You're Goin' to' all the way through it. Foxx resembles Billy Dee somewhat, I think.


Did you get the card?

I loved Dream Girls. I had loved the stage version (one of the few shows I got to see) and loved the movie. I thought Eddie Murphy was great.

I see what you mean about Chicago. But the number with the women prisoners singing that they didn't do it was fabulous. Renee Zellwegger is so odd looking. It's hard for me to get how she can be cast as someone supposed to be attractive. Her makeup didn't help.

I thought Devil Wears Prada was fun and was surprised that you hated it so much. Stanley Tucci is fun to watch and Adrian Grenier is great eye candy.

Last weekend I went on a Moms Mably search. Do you remember her? A history of stand up comedy on wikipedia credits Phyllis Diller with being the first important female stand up comedian; they forget completely about Mably, who did stand up at the Apollo in the late 30s.

patrick j. mullins

I did get the beautiful card indeed, and have been tardy in thanking you for it, and we'll definitely try to meet this year, since you are about the only blawger I'm not terrorized by by now... You are the 3rd person in 3 weeks who has been concerned with my karma--and at that point you hadn't known that 2 others were... The other one was another chanter, a charming girl who lives in my building, but said to me in the subway 'Do you still live in our building?' I was so annoyed that she implied that I was now living in the subway, but she's always been so sweet with her stoop sales--I got the 78's of Pearl Bailey in 'St. Louis Woman' from her, a real rarity.

I remember Jacky Moms Mably too, and thought she was wonderful, used to be on Ed Sullivan a lot. One of the greatest things I ever went to was the Jewel Box Revue at the Apollo in 1970. I thought they were always there, and only found out recently that this mostly drag show, very polished and attended by whole families and there was cigarette smoking all over the audience--was a legendary thing that had had only a very limited run. There was an emcee drag named Brandy Alexander who was especially clever, and I told a friend about her, who responded, 'What? Brandy ALEXANDER??? She. Is. POISON!!!!'

Yes, that scene with the women prisoners was good and did use real dancers as well, they had Chita Rivera and also Laura Dean, who used to have a dance company. Agree that Zellweger is easily the worst casting, and I could have tolerated Zeta-Jones and Gere if they'd gotten Roxy Hart right, although their dancing was pretty cheesey too. To think that Roxy was done in 1977 by Gwen Verdon, one of the greatest dancers in show biz history, and she was replaced by the very young and luscious-leggy Ann Reinking, whom I saw...

Wikis are often deficient in these histories. Also, it's hard to define precisely what stand-up comedy is. Could Fanny Brice be described as a stand-up comedienne? I'm not sure. She was a huge Ziegfeld Follies star and also radio comedienne (as Baby Snooks), so I'm not sure if 'stand-up' was a term that was used in vaudeville days or not, so theoretically I think there could be stand-up comedy going back to the early part of the 20th century. On film, there is stand-up comedy in 'Hollywood Revue of 1929', so it may have to do with the term, which might have even started in cabaret, I don't know.

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