Review – Bohemian Rhapsody

Short Review

Bohemian Rhapsody is a celebration of Queen’s music featuring a loving tribute to Freddie Mercury. Don’t expect a documentary or a traditional biography. This is a perfectly cast love letter to Queen fans around the world. And if you ever liked any Queen songs, you’ll enjoy this movie. I give it two thumbs up!

(Really) Long Review

Spoilers below the trailer

***

The first Queen song I ever heard was “Another One Bites the Dust.” I was 9 and my Mormon best friend warned me that we shouldn’t listen to it because it was about drugs. Not being one to just blindly ban music, I listened carefully to the lyrics and decided that it was about gangsters, and the more I listened, the more I liked it. How could something with such a slick bass line be bad?

I wouldn’t consider myself a Queen fan, but Queen was definitely part of the soundtrack of my life. I know most of the songs, but they are interspersed among Big-Hair-Bands of the 1980s, the oldies played by 94.5 KATS FM, the new and shiny videos on MTV back in the day when they played music 24/7, and British New Wave Bands.

Queen showed up again at my high school pep rallies. Stomp. Stomp. Clap. Stomp. Stomp. Clap. As we shook the bleachers, we solemnly vowed to rock our opponents. And when we won, we were the champions with no time for losers. We were the champions of the world!

It was Wayne’s World that finally brought “Bohemian Rhapsody” into my consciousness.

Even now, when I finish a big project, I play “We are the Champions!” and march around the living room with my fists in the air. When I’m frustrated and need some inspiration, “I Want to Break Free!” When a series of projects gets finished, “Another One Bites the Dust.”

I saw Bohemian Rhapsody on opening night. It wasn’t my plan, it just worked out that way. Almost every Israeli I’ve spoken to is a big Queen fan, which explains why the movie is playing on three screens in one theater.

This movie is a celebration of Queen’s music and a way to introduce it to a new generation of fans. Interspersed with the story of the music is the story of Freddie Mercury, a complex person who was much more than the stage persona. The movie is called Bohemian Rhapsody and when you put all the pieces together you can understand why.

Definition of rhapsody 

4a musical composition of irregular form having an improvisatory character

Every role in this film is perfectly cast. Rami Malek plays Freddie – well, he doesn’t just play him, he becomes him. Brian May’s wife came on set and was apparently shocked by how much Gwilym Lee looked like Brian at that age. Joe Mazzello called his mother to confirm his parentage because he looked so much like John Deacon. And Roger Taylor could be Ben Hardy’s uncle.

queen-1989-billboard-1548BH actorsIn case you’re confused, the bottom picture is from the film. 🙂

Somewhere along the way, you are perfectly cast in the film too. You aren’t an observer of the film, you’re a participant in the story. Two notes and one chord in, you know the song. You laugh along with the band and their jokes. You hang out at the parties. You’re in the audience when the spectacle of Queen is on stage.

More than that, we are with Freddie at his highs and his lows. The saddest moment in the film, and one of the most powerful, is when Freddie gets his diagnosis. He goes alone to the clinic and we see the doctor reflected in Freddie’s mirrored sunglasses. We don’t hear what he’s saying, but we know. And then the reflection shows the floor. That split second was probably more devastating than hearing the diagnosis and seeing a reaction. As Freddie walks out, a fan – obviously sick – recognizes him and softly sings: “Ey Oh!” And Freddie answers back: “Ey Oh!” He was alone and yet we were all there with him.

Superfans will rankle at the fact that Freddie didn’t actually get his diagnosis until 1987 and this is meant to be 1985. Superfans might be annoyed by many details in this movie. (Rami’s eyes aren’t brown!)

But we have to acknowledge that this movie is not a lot of things.

It’s not a Hero’s Journey. Disney is the master for heroes on a journey. Freddie was Freddie and nothing more or less.

It’s not a documentary. There’s plenty of footage on Youtube if you want that.

It’s not a biography. Freddie didn’t write all the songs and he wasn’t alone in the band. He was larger than life on stage, but this story is not exactly about him. He is interwoven in the music.

It’s not a story of coming to terms with one’s sexual orientation, or redemption, or a son finally earning the approval of his father. It’s all there, but none of that is the story.

It’s not a reenactment of a rock-and-roll lifestyle.
(Attention parents who want to share their love of Queen with their kids: It has a PG-13 rating; much of the darkness and hedonism is softened. There are hints, though.)

It’s not a finely crafted, manicured storyline. (See the definition of rhapsody above.) It’s kind of a mess that has a more or less linear timeline. Kind-of like life. And that’s what makes it feel real.

It’s not … well, true. Lots of things are accurate to the smallest detail, but a lot of things are written off to “poetic license.” If anyone believes that in the same afternoon Freddie found his final life partner after visiting every Jim Hutton in the whole London telephone book, introduced him to his family, reconciled with his father, and then played Live Aid, well, clearly that person lives in an awesome fantasyland.

Fun Points:

The Live Aid concert was filmed note for note, step for step. Watching the Live Aid footage afterwards, I was stunned at how accurate it was.

Mike Myers is in the movie playing the record exec refusing to promote “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Says he: “No one will ever be driving in their car banging their heads to this song.” HA!

In the press interviews, it’s clear that all the actors took their roles extremely seriously and will carry their characters with them. This was a special experience for them and you see it on the screen, and more importantly, you feel it. The actors also carry the burden of responsibility for the message that they want the movie to send:

Be who you are.

Embrace all your idiosyncrasies and imperfections.

You are not alone.

Listen to Queen

In answer to the question: Is this a good movie?

The answer is a resounding YES.

If a movie stays with you for days afterwards, if you are scouring the internet looking for more and more and more information, if you find yourself suddenly a Queen superfan, then there’s no question it’s a good movie.

Go see it!

Mourning in the Morning – Pt. 2

Cynics who think everything is random chaos and coincidence should stop reading right now.  This post is not for you.

Those of you who are a little bit cynical might think, well, you know, your mind is focusing on certain things right now, so of course you’d be attuned to them and you would see some kind of pattern.

Those of you who are religious might see the hand of God.

And those of you who are spiritual on any level might just see that there is a force bigger than ourselves (call it what you will) that gives us what we need when we need it.

Carl Jung called meaningful coincidences synchronicity.  And unsurprisingly, I recently saw an article on the science of Synchronicity.

In mourning my dad’s death, I feel as if the Universe has set up a safety net that I can fall into and is shining a light down a path that I can take to wrap my head around losing my dad and find a way to move forward.

Before my dad left this world, there were a few cultural icons from my youth who died after short, secret battles with cancer.  I’m specifically thinking of David Bowie and Alan Rickman who died within days of each other.  As I was thinking about their deaths in the following weeks, my dad faced his “terminal” diagnosis.

My dad, David, died on March 1, which is coincidentally St. David’s Day in Wales.

When my brother called to tell me the news, my pants suddenly tore.  One Jewish ritual is to rend garments when mourning – usually the tear is closer to the heart – but since my garments spontaneously rended, they didn’t have a lot of choice and chose a path of least resistance.

The morning after I got the news, I had planned to have oatmeal for breakfast, but I was out, so I had eggs instead.  What I didn’t know until later was that the first meal for mourners is traditionally eggs to symbolize life.  Coincidentally, Mom, on the other side of the world, also bought eggs.

I had already made an appointment with my acupuncturist.  I didn’t cancel it after Dad died because I knew that at that point I needed it more than ever.  I mentioned to her that I was waking up between 4am and 5am.  In Chinese medicine, 3am to 5am is the time the lung meridian is active.  The lung meridian holds grief.

A few days later, I got an email offering a free, 4-part series on yogic breathing exercises.

A few days after Dad died I had a dream that I was robbed.  My house had been ransacked and I felt so violated and angry that it had happened while I was asleep.  I woke with heart palpitations and in a total panic.  When I mentioned the dream to a friend, he said that, in fact, something valuable was suddenly taken from me.  Ah.  Indeed it was. (Thanks to BR.)

The usual emails came in from various lists I subscribe to and they all had something to offer.  Like, a book advertisement for The Mourning After or a book recommendation for Cry, Heart, but Never Break.  An article on the new moon led to a site on mourning.

IMG_20160309_165720I mentioned in my earlier post that I didn’t sit shiva in the usual way, but I felt that I should do something similar and meaningful to me.  Luckily, since this is Israel, my local grocery store has a stock of memorial candles, including a special 7-day memorial candle.

As it happened, the candle burned for almost 9 days.  That allowed time for my friend to take me to lunch at a plant nursery and buy new plants for my sadly neglected boxes.  I planted the new plants while the candle still burned, so now when I look at the flowers, I feel that there is bridge between mourning my dad and the inevitable continuation of life after. (Thanks to MR.)

 

A few days after Dad passed away, Nancy Reagan died and the US consulate next door flew the flag at half mast.  I knew it was for Nancy Reagan, but it felt like it was for Dad too.

IMG_20160324_131728 (1)

Then there was the marathon (see my earlier post).

Once Upon a Time, one of several shows I watch, has taken all their characters down to the Underworld.

Even with all the coincidences, there was one thing I did on purpose.  I listened to a lecture series on Death, Dying and the Afterlife.  I didn’t buy it because I’m morbid or needed the intellectual stimulation.  I had suggested buying it for my dad because I thought it might help him get through his last months or weeks, though it turned out to be only days. As advertised it did celebrate life, after all, and I wondered how Dad would have responded to some of the lectures.  So as I listened and questioned and wondered, I felt that I was listening with Dad.

Little by little, day by day, I’m moving forward.  I am comforted by the synchronicity, the meaningful coincidences, that buoy me as I find my way in the world without my dad.

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David Brown z”l

O Jerusalem

4:30am

I awoke from a pleasant funny dream.  One cat curled behind my knees and another cat giving me what she considers a “massage.”  All the lights were on.  I had fallen asleep on the couch again.

I put myself to bed, but I couldn’t sleep.  One siren. Two sirens.  Lots more sirens.  I learned in my first years living in Israel that one or two sirens was probably an accident, but three signaled the likelihood of a terrorist attack.  Suddenly I was AWAKE.  What was going on?

Voices shouting on my street.  Subtle sirens.  Light honking.  I got up and went out onto my porch.  It looked like a brawl in the park.  I used my phone to Google current events.  Stabbings, more stabbings, brawls, violence.

Soon the crowd dispersed from my street.  And eventually, I fell asleep.  How I wanted to be back in my pleasant funny dream again.

Just another glorious day in paradise.

Just another glorious day in paradise.

4:30pm

Sirens all day.  Helicopters patrolling. Peeks at the news.  Why is there one terrible story after another?  Violence. Idiotic international media.  Funerals.  Sadness.  Hatred.  It’s just a vortex of negativity.  I understand the benefits of a “news fast,” but how else will I know what’s happening on my own street, in my own neighborhood, in my city?  I sure as hell don’t want to investigate it myself.

There were a lot of great and joyful things that happened in the past week and they will all be overshadowed by the violence.

I’m sad, but I’m not anxious.  I won’t throw myself in the middle of any dangerous situations, but I am not afraid.  Jerusalem is still my city.  It’s the eternal city and we’ll get through this too.

*Normally I write a Friday post, but today isn’t Friday.  It feels like Friday though because it’s the evening before a holiday.

A few words about the weather

Yuck. Blech. Dusty. Hot.

This is Jerusalem today.

Woke up to this.

Woke up to this.

This is not a cool autumnal fog.  It’s a dust cloud.

Here comes the sun?

Here comes the sun?

Visibility compromised.

Visibility compromised.

The worst part is that I left my window open for a while.  There’s no breeze and yet here’s what the lid of my laptop looked like.

Not the dust of generations, just a morning with the window open.

Not the dust of generations, just a morning with the window open.

The one nice thing is that the city is very, very quiet.  No one wants to go out in this mess.