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Thursday, March 28, 2013

I'm Rather a Horrible Person

My husband went out to get Bioshock 3, the sequel to a couple of really awesome X-Box games that he loves. He was so excited to play it that he left the house to buy it as soon as he found out it had come out. When he got home, I was half an hour into watching Les Miserables with tears streaming down my face.
That's right. I'd been making myself weep for half an hour just to mess with him.
He saw the tears and told me to go ahead. He wasn't even bluffing. He is a far better husband than I deserve. Sucker.
Did I plan that whole scene out just to use it as a segue into this blog post? It's possible. As we've seen, I'm kind of a calculating bitch. 
In honor of the fairly recent DVD release of Les Mis, I have something to say about singing over one's head.
When I talked about Hugh Jackman's musical/mutton chops, I failed to mention one fairly insignificant detail - the fact that Jean Valjean is a very high tenor role and Hugh Jackman is not a tenor at all. And it shows. There are times when you can almost feel him straining for the high notes, and the suspense of not knowing how in the hell he was going to hit the high F at the end of Bring Him Home had me on the edge of my seat. 
So WTF? Why didn't they just have him do it in a lower key? They moved Stars down for Russel Crowe and Master of the House down for Sasha Baron Cohen. Hell, why not just lower the key for everything Jackman sings?
How does a guy who sings like this:
My mom used to sing this to me.
She and her voice are even prettier than Jackman.
turn in such a strained performance?
A film professor once told a class that every second of a major motion picture costs thousands of dollars to make (although this film had a surprisingly modest budget at $61 million - were all the actors working pro-bono?). Nothing is an accident. When an Oscar-winning director and a Tony winning actor collaborate, they don't just decide that a sub-par performance is good enough and walk away. The stretch and strain in Jackman's voice was deliberate. Especially when you consider the fact that my Janice pointed out, which is that Jackman almost never used his falsetto, singing all of those high notes in full voice. 
The thing is that Jean Valjean lives his life in a constant state of uncertainty, always a moment away from being discovered and losing everything. During Bring Him Home, Valjean is trying to protect the man his daughter loves in a nearly hopeless fight, knowing that if he saves the man, he will give up his daughter to him. Fail to save him and his daughter's heart breaks. Win or lose, life as he knows it is over forever. His singing is the sound of a tired heart breaking. 
I've heard a million golden-voiced performances of this song, and never one that brought me to tears (although at that point, I'd been crying so long, who can really say whether it was the song or inertia).
Does anybody else think that Colm Wilkinson kind of 
looks like a mule eating an apple when he sings?

Julie Taymore used this strategy to great effect in Across the Universe. In this scene, Lucy's life has been thrown into chaos. She lost her first boyfriend in the war, another has been deported, and her brother comes home from the war so depressed that he has to stare at water all day. The pitch of the song is at the very tippy top of Evan Rachel Wood's vocal range. When you listen to the high note a minute in, you can practically hear all the hours she spent with her vocal coach working to hit it.
Look at him just staring at the water. Just staring. Tragic. 
Also, sorry mom, this gentleman is prettier than you.


Jackman wasn't the only one accused of a weak performance. Oddly enough, Russel Crowe does have a decent singing voice - I think his performance was meant to serve his interpretation of the character he played (granted, I think his interpretation of the character was completely wrong, but it was cool he played Javert as something other than the comic book super-villain that every other Javert has gone with). Or it's possible, as one of my coworkers has suggested, that Russel Crowe can't sing and act at the same time. Long story short, I didn't like his performance, but I don't think it was a bad performance, if that makes any sense.
I can offer no excuses for Sasha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter. Why was Cohen's Thenardier (spelled right on the first try) the only character who sang with a French accent? I mean, other than the fact that Cohen's only acting skill is talking with a funny accent. I'm not even sure Helena Bonham Carter was fully conscious for most of her scenes. She seemed to be in the throes of terminal boredom. She even seemed bored when she performed at the Oscars. 
So has  anybody actually read this far? Because there are a whole lot of words up there...

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