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!

Friday Night at the Movies – Crazy Rich Asians

Given my earlier post, nobody should have been surprised that I went to go see Crazy Rich Asians at my first opportunity.

I love to go to the movies in Jerusalem on Friday nights. The timing has to be just right in order to get as few people in the theater as possible. If the movie screens over sunset, all the people who keep Shabbat won’t be there. The secular people who wouldn’t miss Shabbat dinner with their families are also at home; they’ll head out around 10pm for evening entertainment. So I check to find the movie that’s been playing for a while and is playing right at sunset. Result: Nearly private screening! Crazy Rich Asians just came out, so there was a “crowd” of about 40 people in a 300-seat theater.

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Friday night at the movies in Jerusalem, 9pm

Short review: Two thumbs up! Go see it! Here’s the trailer.

Long review: Below the trailer. Spoilers abound!

As an avid Korean drama fan (let’s not go so far as to say addict; I never binge watch, I marathon watch, so I feel I’ve accomplished something…), I was ready for this film. Or at least I thought I was. So many of the deeper nuances were lost on me. Plus, Asia is a big place. These Crazy Rich Asians aren’t Korean.

If you want to dip your toe into the K-drama (or Chinese drama or Taiwan drama) world, this movie is a good place to start. This is a 16 to 20 episode rom-com crushed into a 2-hour movie. And it has a lot of the tropes.

  • Independent girl – succeeds on her own merits
  • Semi-clueless boy – master of industry probably, but has been in his isolated world
  • Future mother-in-law hates the girl
  • Catty girls trying to tear down the independent girl
  • Birth secrets
  • Pointless shower scenes to provide “fan service” for the ladies
  • Everything is over the top
  • Independent girl wins and brings everyone up with her (We are all Independent Girl!)

The future mother-in-law is brilliantly played, but in comparison to K-dramas, this lady is a marshmallow. She has one great scene and then they have to move on. If she had taken a note from a K-drama mama, the viciousness and intrigues to get rid of this girl would have gone on for a few episodes (may I suggest Secret Garden or Boys over Flowers? Or in Chinese, Meteor Garden 2018). But this is also a Hollywood movie, we wouldn’t see as much of the deeper conflict between getting what you want (love) and family loyalty and honoring elders. Our clueless guy has spent too much time in New York and is ready to give up his family in a second (so he says).

A huge gutted fish in someone’s bed does send a message, even if you don’t write nasty comments using fish blood on the windows. Yeah, I’d have to say the catty girls tormenting our heroine were K-drama level.

Think of the most over-the-top wedding you’ve ever been too. Did they flood the church to create a mermaid-themed wedding with everything glittering and each person waving a lit flower while standing in what appears to be tall reeds? Yeah, I didn’t think so. Had it been another genre, flooding the wedding would have been the start of the tsunami plot line.

It was fun to watch and I enjoyed every minute. But I missed stuff.

At the beginning of the movie, we see our heroine playing cards. Her opponent has 2 pair. Even if you are not a poker player per se, you might have enough cultural knowledge to know that this is a good hand. At the end, we have a mahjong scene between our heroine and the future mother-in-law. The point isn’t the game, but the symbols in the game are obviously important to the scene. We understand that our heroine thinks really hard and lays down a tile that’s good for the future mother-in-law’s hand and it seems that m-i-l wins, but then our heroine shows her tiles. She gets up from the table and leaves with her own mom. Future mother-in-law is left at the table with an expression of acknowledgement? Respect? But what are the symbols within the game? Think how much more interesting the scene would be if you have cultural context. Luckily, my friend SHC is an excellent resource and sent me a great article all about that scene!

This morning I was scrolling through Instagram (the algorithm seems to think I have an interest in Asia, I wonder why that is?) and I found a letter that the director of Crazy Rich Asians wrote to Coldplay for use of their song. When I was watching the movie, I heard the song and enjoyed the fact that it was a cover sung in Mandarin. The song, of course, is “Yellow.” That’s nice, I thought. But I didn’t understand until I read the post this morning that: The. Song. Is. Called. “Yel-low.” Wow. I can be so dense sometimes.

Not a translation of “Yellow,” but lovely nonetheless

On my path to global citizenship, there is one thing I know for sure: I know nothing. But acknowledging it is a fine place to start.

In the meantime, go see Crazy Rich Asians and watch a few K-dramas while you’re at it.

Jerusalem scenes

Sunday, May 13, is Jerusalem Day marking 51 years since the city was reunified.  When I lived in the center of town, I could look over my balcony and enjoy the parade marching by.

Now that I’ve moved, I see a different Jerusalem, the one that real people live in day to day, not the one that is on the news or the politically charged one on the internet.

***

Cat-astrophe

Last week I didn’t write because I had a cat situation. Long story short: my vet makes house calls and came to my apartment at 2am. It was his last call of the day. He ended up doing oral surgery on my cat on the coffee table.

Sport disco

I returned home on Wednesday (aka the day after Trump announced he was pulling the US out of the Iran deal) to hear my neighbor getting psyched up for the Beitar Jerusalem soccer match that night. His method? Opening his window, placing the speaker on the ledge, and turning it up to 11 to play songs like this:

 

Ani ohev otach Betar – I love you Beitar!

He played other songs in a similar style. (Mizrachi music will have to get a separate blog post as I learn more. Though to be honest I closed all my windows to try to shut it out, but it didn’t help.)

Beitar Jerusalem publicity video (Is that music from Gladiator in the background?)

Later in the evening, I heard cheering from Teddy Stadium. I don’t live that close to the stadium, or at least I didn’t think I did. I’m not sure what was being cheered since Beitar lost to Haifa in a shocking upset (so say the news articles).

And Bruce Lee too?

As part of the International Writer’s Festival this week in Jerusalem, one of the writers was asked to speak and choose a movie that was meaningful to him. He chose Enter the Dragon. Before the film, he had a conversation with an Israeli writer and it was interesting – although not exactly what I had expected.

Enter the Dragon trailer

Anyway, try to imagine who might have been in the audience at a 9pm screening. Is your first thought little old ladies who bring snacks in small noisy bags?  One sat behind me making comments in Hebrew during the English conversation (loud enough to be heard on the stage) and then gasped and oohed and ahed during the movie. At some point her companion told her to be quiet because people were giving her looks. The guy sitting in front of me who had a bird’s nest hairstyle took his shoes off and put his feet on the seats in front. The rest of the audience seemed more or less normal from my observational post, but interestingly, it seemed that there were more women than men or perhaps more accurately, there were not as many men as I would have expected.

Sure, we heard news this week about attacks on Iranian targets in Syria. I saw that the door to the bomb shelter in my local park was open.

And yet.

People live here. They don’t cower in fear and pause their lives (unless they absolutely have to) here.

Next Sunday, Jerusalem will celebrate its reunification and the people of Jerusalem will dance in the streets because we choose life and freedom (and American Israelis will call their mothers. Happy Mother’s Day!).

And the day after that, Monday, May 14, we’ll open the US Embassy in Jerusalem. That should be exciting!

According to Plan

Yesterday I woke up with a plan.  I was going to leave work a little bit early and see a matinee double feature (Spiderman and Baby Driver).  Why?  Why not?  I’m stressed and it a little escapism wouldn’t hurt.

But that’s not at all what happened.  Moreover, everything that did happen served a better purpose.

First, I found out that my perfect scheduling was not working out.  The second movie was suddenly not playing at the expected time.  Every other day, yes.  Today, no.  Ok.  I’ll roll with it.  Maybe I’ll just see one movie and maybe, if I’m lucky, it was just a mistake in the schedule.

I’m working along, in the flow, and suddenly it’s past the time I planned to leave.  One last email to answer and I have to make a stop to pick up a book.  Oof!  Maybe I’ll take a taxi.

No, I decide to wait for the bus.  Maybe I’m not supposed to go to these movies today.  What about a later movie?  Hey, Dunkirk is playing a bit later.  Let’s see.  The bus comes within minutes and I’m on the way.  I get to the office to pick up the book and if I get in and out quickly, I can take a taxi.

Nope.  I meet with the person who has the book I need and I meet other members of my virtual editing team, which is really nice since we are only in contact online and this is real human contact in a relaxed, non-work-focused conversation.  Dunkirk starts without me.

Now I’ve given up the double feature plan and I remember that there is a good shawarma place a block away.  I buy one and get back to the bus stop just as my bus pulls up.  Home, Jeeves!

hero-schawarma-laffa

Illustrative picture of shawarma, food of the gods

While I’m stuffing my face with shawarma at home, I turn on my computer to get started on work and find that my mouse is broken.  My beloved cat swatted it off the couch in the morning and it was apparently one time too many.  I cannot work without a mouse, so after the shawarma lands in my tummy I decide to go out a get a new mouse.  And then I remember I should go to the bank (the tangent about banking in Israel can be summed up in a word: annoying!) and it just so happens that the timing is perfect.

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Oh, she looks innocent, but her spirit name is Mouse Killer

I get to the office supply store and they don’t have my snazzy mouse, but I got one that’s half the price and a spare that was even cheaper. After a miraculously quick stop at the bank, I’m standing at a light deciding which way to go; my decision is made when the light turns green directing me down Ben Yehuda Street.

And I stroll to the odd radio that I missed in previous walks in the area.

IMG_20170720_164448

I don’t know.  Your guess is as good as mine

And I meander along walking off the heavy shawarma.

I get home and I feel … good.  I hadn’t run away to a dark movie theater to hide from my stress, but instead made positive real-life connections, got a new mouse, went to the bank, and got some exercise. Every step along this path was made exceptionally easy and every time I tried to invoke my hiding plan, there was an obstacle. Clearly, letting go of my own plan and allowing this better plan to play out was better for me.

This isn’t quite on the level of “Woman plans, God laughs,” but sometimes we all have to accept that once in a while there are unexplainable forces pushing and pulling us in various directions.  We are, of course, all masters and mistresses of our own destinies and there are times to strive against obstacles and go for what you want.  But then there are other times when the choice is simply to say “Yes” and let the rest flow.

Epilogue: Remember when I bought two mouses?  That seemed odd at the time.  I mean, who buys two mouses for themselves? But it turned out that the half-price mouse isn’t sensitive enough and I actually ended up using the even cheaper spare.

“I love it when a plan comes together.”