Sunday, April 1, 2012

My Favorite Movies about Angels

Movies about angels are a varied lot. There are sweet, kind angles, goofball angels and deadly, menacing angels. Whatever your preference, there’s an angel movie here to suit your tastes. These are some of my favorite films featuring celestial beings.

Nicholas Cage & Meg Ryan in 'City of Angels'

Angel Movie #10: Constantine -  2005 – Tilda Swinton plays one of several angels in this movie filled with half angels and half-demons, waging a battle for control of Earth. Her portrayal of Gabriel is androgynous and she guides the main character in his efforts to set things right before his imminent death from lung cancer. More sci-fi than religious, this film is based on the comic book series Hellblazer

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Film Career of Whitney Houston

We are all saddened by the passing of Whitney Houston. I was particularly stunned because she was just 2 years younger than I. In a way, we grew up together. I watched her career as a songstress skyrocket and I danced to her music whenever I heard it. Her talent was a gift, a treasure and it will be sorely missed.
Whitney’s film career was limited. She made only three films in her short life, all made during the peak of her singing career. The first and arguably the best of the three was 1992’s “The Bodyguard” in which she appeared opposite Kevin Costner.  The film chronicles the life of a beloved pop diva (Houston) who is receiving death threats. The handlers hire a bodyguard (Costner) and the two are at odd almost immediately even though the chemistry is evident.
The film is a vehicle for singing talents and launched one of the most successful soundtracks of all time. Her single “I Will Always Love You” was the number one song of the year as was the soundtrack. As for her acting, there were moments when her inexperience showed but overall lit was respectable debut film which paved the way for the other two.
Determined to demonstrate she could act without relying on her vocals, Houston’s next film was 1995’s “Waiting to Exhale,” an ensemble piece about the lives of four affluent African-American women. The focus of the film was on the relationships they each had with the men in their lives and with one another.  Houston played Savannah Jackson, a television producer who lives under the delusion that her married lover will one day leave his wife for her. Co-starring Angela Bassett, Lela Rochon and Loretta Devine, the film was directed by Forest Whitaker and was another box office smash hit.
Houston’s third venture into acting was 1996’s “The Preacher’s Wife,” a remake of the 1947 hit “The Bishop’s Wife” with Cary Grant, David Niven and Loretta Young in the role of the wife. In this updated version, Houston played Julia, wife of Baptist preacher Rev. Henry Biggs (Courtney B. Vance). The strain of running the church and dealing with its financial problems put a strain on the couple’s marriage. Enter Denzel Washington as the angel Dudley sent to answer Biggs’s prayer for help. The trouble begins when Dudley begins to fall for Julia. Houston gets to share her vocal talents in several gospel numbers in the film.
Critics were not overly impressed with the performances of Houston & Washington but the film still did reasonably well. For fans of Houston, it is definitely worth seeing, maybe even annually.
Houston’s musical career continued to thrive for a few more years but she made no more movies. Her tumultuous marriage to R&B singer Bobbi Brown, which began in 1992 and involved a domestic dispute charge along the way, ended in 2006. Her drug and alcohol use grew increasingly worse and may have contributed to ending her film career. The abuses are blamed for the ravages her once spectacular singing voice underwent as could be heard in her performances over the last few years.
Whatever the cause of Houston’s death is determined to be, her life was cut far too short as she was a woman who had a lot to give, onscreen and off.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Artist - A Simple Title for a Not-So-Simple Film.

In today’s cinema, we’ve grown accustomed to seamless CGI, jaw-dropping stunts and Dolby sound with ear-splitting effects and movie scores that tell us when to laugh and cry. The Artist takes a visionary step backward to the days of silent, black and white films. It tells the tale of George Valentin, a middle-aged silent film star who fears the demise of his career as “talkies” emerge and gain popularity. Intertwined in the story is Peppy Miller, a youthful newcomer whose star is on the rise.’
The comedy has dared to tread where few films have in the last 90+ years. Silent films, by and large have gone the way of the LP, the 8-track and the laser disc. For the most part, the advancement in film have been positive and audiences have approved. So taking a giant step backward was a major risk for filmmakers. A risk, that it would seem, has paid off.
The Artist, nominated for 10 Academy Awards including Best Picture, has already won numerous awards and accolades. It has taken home the Best Picture award from both the Critics Choice Awards and the Golden Globes. Now it has also won the Producers Guild Award for Best Produced Picture. This is significant because for the last four years running, the winner of this award has also won the Best Picture award at the Oscars. Watch for this one to score big come February 26th.