Romy Shiller

Archive for February, 2012|Monthly archive page

Whitney Houston

In Music on February 14, 2012 at 11:53 am


A commentary

I was trying to figure out why I was SO sad hearing about Whitney Houston’s death.Whitney Elizabeth Houston (August 9, 1963 – February 11, 2012) was an American recording artist, actress, producer, and model… Her awards include 2 Emmy Awards, 6 Grammy Awards, 30 Billboard Music Awards, and 22 American Music Awards, among a total of 415 career awards in her lifetime. Houston was also one of the world’s best-selling music artists, having sold over 170 million albums, singles and videos worldwide.

Houston’s body was found by a member of her entourage in the bathtub of her room at the Beverly Hills Hilton on Saturday afternoon. She had been due to attend a pre-Grammy awards party at the hotel hosted by Clive Davis, the record producer and music industry executive credited with discovering her in a New York nightclub in 1983. Attempts to resuscitate her failed and she was pronounced dead at 3.55pm.

Look, I made jokes about her dysfunctional ways and although her songs are not my style and I’ve never seen her in concert, there was never in my mind a doubt that she had a phenomenal voice. I watch the television show, American Idol, and the judges often warn the contestants not to attempt a Whitney Houston song because a comparison would ensue and be unfair. Pop-culture is my thing. Yes, in addition to many things she is a pop-culture icon.

I remember Houston’s first acting role as the star of the film The Bodyguard (1992). The film‘s original soundtrack won the 1994 Grammy Award for Album of the Year. Its lead single “I Will Always Love You” [With “I Will Always Love You” Houston recorded a defining song of the decade, one that meshed her soulful chops, extraordinary voice, and the R&B-inflected mainstream appeal that had already made her a breakout star across genre lines. ], became the best-selling single by a female artist in music history. With the album, Houston became the first act (solo or group, male or female) to sell more than a million copies of an album within a single week period. The album makes her the only female act in the top 10 list of the best-selling albums of all time, at number four. Houston continued to star in movies and contribute to their soundtracks, including the films Waiting to Exhale (1995) and The Preacher’s Wife (1996). The Preacher’s Wife soundtrack became the best-selling gospel album in history.

I just want to mention that many films and fairytales have a similar formula as The Bodyguard. In Titanic the rich girl falls for the poor boy. In Beauty and the Beast the beauty falls for the beast. In The Bodyguard the famous singer falls for her unfamous paid-protector. You get the point.

Despite having acted in only a handful of movies before her death on Saturday at the age of 48, Whitney Houston left a lasting legacy with the few film projects she did release during her reign as arguably the best-known female pop singer of her generation. 1995′s Waiting to Exhale earned her a NAACP Image Award nomination, and 1996′s The Preacher’s Wife won her the award (and made her the highest-earning African American actress in Hollywood at the time); this year’s Sparkle [The late singer was due to make an acting comeback in a remake of the 1976 film inspired by the Supremes ] was set to be Houston’s comeback after a well-documented and public period of substance abuse and personal decline.

Whitney Houston was one of the background music scores to my life. I know her songs; they are recognizable like she was. Her stuff reminded me of a different time and her loss reminded me that, that time had passed. I think her death was about many, many things for me. Of course the greatest loss is of the person.

We Bought A Zoo: Or, Roarrrrrr

In Film, review on February 2, 2012 at 11:21 am

If you wait to do everything until you’re sure it’s right, you’ll probably never do much of anything.

Win Borden

Set in Southern California, a father moves his young family to the countryside to renovate and re-open a struggling zoo.

Director: Cameron Crowe

Writers: Aline Brosh McKenna, Cameron Crowe

Stars: Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson, Thomas Haden Church

This is primarily a movie for kids but adults have gone… Acclaimed filmmaker Cameron Crowe’s latest film, We Bought A Zoo, is based on the inspiring true story of Benjamin Mee (Matt Damon), an adventure-seeking journalist and single dad, who is looking to give his family a much-needed fresh start and ends up moving to a home situated in the middle of a zoo.

I looked at this film in two separate ways. First, the elements of nature and animals thrill me – this is just great to me. So I liked the theme and setting. Then I looked at the film as a film. In this respect, it was a very standard, straightforward story. Sure, the aspect of moving to live at a zoo is unique but that’s it. It was a sweet movie and I’d bring young kids to see it but unlike Diary of a Wimpy Kid [review ], it lacked pizzazz. The film was fine but kind of flat .The acting was good. I mean, really it was okay, but…

It is very interesting that Cameron Crowe is the director. He says,I loved that it was the human adventure, in great detail, and I felt like I could collaborate with that story.

He hasn’t done anything for several years, since Elizabethtown (2005). That film is considered a flop. I really liked his work on Almost Famous. (2000). I hate to pigeonhole but maybe he should stick to rock movies – he seems to lack focus now.

The elements like cinematography and editing are fine but nothing pushes the envelope. The vast expanse of the wild and the photography of the animals were well-done. If a straightforward kid’s movie appeals to you, I don’t have a problem recommending this film. If, however, you want kids to think outside the box – you might want to re-think seeing this film. On second thought, the aspects of nature, animals and unorthodox living are valuable and it would be up to parents to provide a disclaimer if they so desire.

So, the story here regards two young kids and a man (Matt Damon as Benjamin) who lost his wife, the mother of the children. His son gets expelled from his school and draws dark images – the daughter who is brought along on a house-hunting trip, is enamored by the idea of buying a zoo. Benjamin who knows nothing about caring for animals decides to spend his inheritance on a dilapidated zoo currently run by the state. His son is far from pleased. The issue here is reconciling son and father. I liked the kid as macabre but that’s just me. See, to me, the young boy rebelling is fine but the story champions those who play ball. I wanted Neo but got Preppy-Boy.

Johansson/Kelly plays the zoo-keeper who has a crush on Damon/Benjamin. Elle Fanning is wasted here. She will show us that she is a great actress – trust me! She plays smiley Lily the niece of Scarlett Johansson/Kelly. Ho-Hum.

Scarlett Johansson needs a meaty role. She is okay here but playing a good-looking zoo-keeper isn’t really a stretch for her. She seems to believe otherwise. Too bad for her: Turns out, Scarlett was thrilled to take on a role that’s totally opposite her image of the sultry, sexy leading lady.

Maybe I saw the potential for a different kind of story – set in nature with animals. I believe that most people deserve an alternative to the dish they’re served.

Anyhow, the conflict resides in whether or not the zoo will pass inspection. The inspector is played as evil incarnate or a guy with a chip on his shoulder. Everyone dislikes him and he holds the future in his hands. So the story boils down to his visit and the outcome of that visit.

Damon is believable here and probably wanted to make a film that he could bring his kids to see – something not Bournesque. In an interview about his daughters he said, they were particularly enamored with Crystal, the capuchin monkey. I have a lot of pictures of them with Crystal on their shoulder — which took them a while, to have the courage to let Crystal get on their shoulder. Crystal’s, like, their size, so…  [Laughs

I like Damon but his choice to do this role is obviously motivated. I mean really, he wants validation for being a good dad in this film. This is not a bad thing – it just is what it is.

Critic David Denby of the New Yorker says, Nothing that happens in this movie is in the least surprising, but it’s all quite pleasant and even, at times, moving.

I agree but maybe kids need to be challenged.