Tuesday, October 1, 2019

"Biopic Reflux"

Preamble:  We have a very expensive remote in our bedroom that has developed – or always had but nobody told us – a willful mind of its own. Either that, or it is secretly in the pay of a major streaming service, shuttling unwitting viewers in its exclusive direction.  

Here’s what happens. Or at least has begun happening recently, indicating a remote with “clean hands” that has subsequently “gone bad.”

For our convenience, the window on our very expensive remote provides icons we can click on to carry us alternately to cable TV, DVD playing, or to the two streaming services we subscribe to:  Netflixand Amazon Prime.

Sounds simple, no? You “click” and you go.

Except, recently…

When we click on the icon for Netflix, our remote ignores Netflix, and takes us directly to Amazon Prime.

A technological “glitch”?  Perhaps.  But maybe, just maybe, we are in the hands of the same cyber-“Smarties” who drowned me in unsolicited Altoids andKind Bars. (But not Smarties, the Canadian M & M’s.)

Anyway, whatever it is,

Last night, headed for Netflix, we found ourselves “Shanghaied” helplessly to Amazon Prime.

What could we do?

We watched something on Amazon Prime.

(“We got‘em!”)

We selected a film from the hardly exclusive categoryof film, “We thought of seeing it in the theater but we didn’t.”  Worth a look… if you don’t have to go out.

What we watched was Rocketman(1919), the biopic musical of Elton John. (Elton’s John’s actual involvement, restricted to “still” pictures at the end of the movie.)

Playing the celebrated Sir Elton is actor Taron Egerton.

My – I don’t know, this is snarky – but my strongest reaction to Rocketmanwas that I reallywanted to watch Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.  (On Netflix.)
Here’s the problem.

To me, all musical “biopics” are the same.

Writing them’s like “Paint By Numbers”

It’s the same movie.  

But about somebody else.

– Hank Williams.

– Ray Charles.

– Johnny Cash.

– Dewey Cox. (I believe he was fictional.  But parodies follow the same trajectory; otherwise, they’re not parodies.)

– A successful rock star whose name I don’t know played by last year’s Best Actor Oscarwinner whose name I don’t know in a mainstream movie whose name I also don’t know.

– And… wait for it, because it didn’t come out yet – 

Judy Garland.  (I wonder if she’llhave things easy.)

Different genres of music, but the same movie, with optional endings.  (Not really, because they actually happened.)

There is a desperate struggle to make it.  Then they make it.  There is a desperate strugglewith making it.  Then they, optionally, get through it – with the help of a good woman, the Lord or group therapy – or they die.

Compare that with (random example):

Young Man from Toronto – The Earl Pomerantz Story

Logline:  “Unknown Earl comes to Los Angeles, works consistently for thirty years rising successfully to the middle, marries a woman with a great daughter and fathers a wonderful daughter of his own, and he almost never drank or took drugs.”

Which, for obvious reasons, they neglected to make.  (They were unable to cast “me.”)

True, that would probably be boring.

But “the same story over again” isn’t?

(I do not dismiss the prominent “gay element” in Rocketman, which is clearly distinguishing.  To me, though, people are people, and struggle, however personally packaged – black, gay, woman, black and blind– is struggle.  Rocketmanis a standard story, told with same-sex accessories.)

There was only only one “biopic” I ever truly enjoyed.

The Jolson Story.  

That one was great.

Only partly because Al Jolson was Jewish.  (So his “crisis of the soul” was not drugs, but the more identifiable missing Kol Nidreservices on Yom Kippur.)

More importantly, Al Jolson himself sang on the soundtrack.

Jamie Foxx performed skillfully as Ray Charles.

But nobody belts out a tune like “Jolie.”

Giving Rocketman two problems – a shopworn scenario, with notthe real guy.

A star’s a star for a reason.

Their glittering absence reflects what that is.

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